A three-dimensional linear instability analysis was carried out for an annular swirling viscous liquid jet with solid vortex swirl velocity profile. An analytical form of dispersion relation was derived and then solved by a direct numerical procedure. A parametric study was performed to explore the instability mechanisms that affect the maximum spatial growth rate. It is observed that the liquid swirl enhances the breakup of liquid sheet. The surface tension stabilizes the jet in the low velocity regime. The aerodynamic force intensifies the developing of disturbance and makes the jet unstable. Liquid viscous force holds back the growing of disturbance and the makes the jet stable, especially in high liquid velocity regime.