THE DIVERGENCE of party preferences among men and women has increased in Finland.
The Finnish Business and Policy Forum (Eva) on Friday reported that Finnish political parties can today be divided relatively clearly into men and women's parties based on the gender make-up of their support base.
While men make up about 70 per cent of the base for the Finns Party and 60 per cent for the National Coalition, women make up about two-thirds of the base for both the Green League and Left Alliance. The Centre and Social Democrats are the only two of the six largest parliamentary parties with a base that is split roughly evenly between men and women.
Gender correlating with political preferences is not a new phenomenon. Sami Metelinen, the managing editor at Eva, told Helsingin Sanomat that the phenomenon has become more pronounced since the parliamentary elections of 2019.
“If you go 10–20 years back in time, the Left Alliance had more blue-collar men among its supporters. It has moved in the direction of women and younger people,” he stated to the newspaper.
“The Finns Party is at the other end of the spectrum. Men make up 70 per cent of its supporters, and this figure has really risen.”
Underpinning the preferences are different priorities. Men place greater priority on security and sound public finances than women, whereas women place greater priority on welfare and environmental issues, reveals the latest value and attitude survey conducted by Eva. The survey is based on responses given by 2,043 people between 31 January and 13 February 2023.
Gender may be the primary but not the only factor that sets apart the support bases of parties. Also factors such as age, occupational group and sector of employment correlate with the party preferences of voters, according to Eva.
The Green League, for example, is popular not only among women but also among students. The National Coalition is popular among high-income earners. The Social Democratic Party is popular among pensioners and service-sector employees.
As the Green League is the party preferred by students, it is not a surprise that more than half of its supporters are highly educated. The share of highly-educated supporters is higher only for the National Coalition.
While the Left Alliance draws nearly 20 per cent of its support from students, it draws almost as much support from blue-collar workers and junior managerial staff.
The Finns Party and National Coalition are the two parties preferred by entrepreneurs, but differ in other respects: while managerial staff account for over half of the supporters of the latter, the former draws support from the unemployed, blue-collar workers and junior managerial staff. The Centre is the top choice for agricultural entrepreneurs but, given the small size of the group, draws most of its support from managerial staff.
“Differences in the backgrounds of parties’ supporters may indicate that the Finnish party political landscape is at a turning point. Occupational groups no longer divide parties’ voters into left-wing and right-wing voters, but the divisions are rather based on whether they work in manufacturing or services,” wrote Metelinen.
The Finns Party is the exception in terms of the geographical distribution of supporters. It is the only of the six parties with a higher number of supporters in localities with fewer than 30,000 residents than in those with over 80,000 residents.
Aleksi Teivainen – HT