A Finns Party candidate at a campaign event in Hakaniemi, Helsinki, on 5 February 2023. The populist right-wing opposition party is the overwhelming favourite among people who are set to vote in the parliamentary elections for the first time this April, reveals a survey commissioned by Helsingin Sanomat. (Emmi Korhonen – Lehtikuva)

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THE FINNS PARTY is clearly the most popular party among people who have the opportunity to exercise their right to vote for the first time in the parliamentary elections organised on 2 April, reveals a survey commissioned by Helsingin Sanomat.

Over a quarter (28%) of the potential first-time voters surveyed expressed their intent to vote for the populist right-wing opposition party.

The Finns Party was the most popular party among both men and women, receiving the support of over a third of male respondents and around a fifth of female respondents. The party came in first across Finland, receiving particularly high approval ratings from youth in northern and eastern parts of the country.

Its popularity in population-wide polls is presently around 19 per cent.

The Social Democratic Party and Green League were the second and third most popular parties among the respondents, with approval ratings of 13 and 11 per cent, respectively. Almost a quarter (24%) of the respondents told that they will abstain from voting or that they are unable or unwilling to disclose their party of preference.

Aino Tiihonen, a post-doctoral researcher at Tampere University, told Helsingin Sanomat that the Finns Party is unlikely to see its popularity climb to 28 per cent as those possibly voting for the first time this spring become middle aged.

“I wouldn’t draw that kind of conclusions,” she stated.

Tiihonen, who has studied how young people identify with political parties, reminded that 18–22-year-olds are usually in a situation in life where their values and attitudes are taking shape and new ways of thinking are adopted more readily.

“Many at that age are studying and still in a way on their way from one place to another. Political values and attitudes can still change because they haven’t cemented their standing in society,” she explained.

She added that making predictions about the future is difficult also because the number of non-affiliated voters has increased and voter loyalty decreased in Finland. “All in all, the changing of political tides has become more unpredictable. Single issues are motivating voters more than before.”

The Finns Party being the most popular party among youth is not particularly surprising – even though the extent of its popularity is “interesting and somewhat unusual” – as young people have been identified internationally as an important source of support for populist movements.

Traditionally, the most popular parties among the youth have been the Finns Party, the Green League and the National Coalition. “The SDP hasn’t typically been a top party among young people,” told Tiihonen.

Political values and attitudes among youth vary substantially along the socio-cultural axis rather than the traditional left-to-right axis, according to her.

“We’ve known for a couple of years that the climate issue is something that mobilises young people, but it’s also a question that polarises young people,” she elaborated, naming immigration as similar issue.

Joakim Vigelius, the chairperson of the youth wing of the Finns Party, interpreted the survey results as an indication that nationalist ideas are not losing ground in Finland. Another reason for the results, he gauged, is that the opposition party represents values that are “simple and easy to digest”.

“If you tell a young person that a Finnish tax euro should be used primarily to the benefit of a Finn, I think many young people would understand that,” he elaborated.

Vigelius also suggested young people rely more on their common sense as it has not yet been “corrupted” by the world around them. “You learn to think differently as an adult, and that isn’t necessarily learning in the positive sense. People as social animals adopt thoughts from their environment.”

Kantar conducted 624 interviews for the survey between 20 January and 7 February. The respondents are representative of the age group who is eligible to vote in this year’s parliamentary elections but was ineligible in the 2019 elections.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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