ALEXANDER STUBB, the presidential candidate of the National Coalition, remains the public favourite to succeed President Sauli Niinistö, reveals an opinion poll commissioned by YLE.
Support for Stubb decreased by four percentage points from the previous month to 27 per cent, but he remains ahead of his closest rival, Pekka Haavisto (Greens), who was the preferred candidate of 23 per cent of the poll respondents for the second month in succession.
Jussi Halla-aho (PS), the poll found, has made the most successful push in the final stretch of campaigning, with his popularity surging from 10 per cent in December to 18 per cent in January. Halla-aho consequently emerged as the third most popular candidate ahead of Olli Rehn (Centre), who registered a two-point up-tick in support to 14 per cent.
Halla-aho’s late surge is reflected also in the latest opinion poll by Helsingin Sanomat.
The results indicate that the presidential elections are shaping up to be very exciting particularly in regards to the three leading candidates, Jari Pajunen, the managing director of Taloustutkimus, stated to YLE on Thursday.
“Even major changes can happen in the final stretch. We’re set to have a very exciting Sunday evening,” he said.
A factor contributing to the excitement is that the share of uncertain voters has increased substantially from the previous month, by 10–15 points to nearly 25 per cent.
“The results will depend a lot on how the candidates are able to realise their potential support. Uncertain voters will play a central role there,” he reminded.
Pajunen said Halla-aho’s late surge is attributable largely to growing support from within the Finns Party. Rehn, in turn, has won over people who supported Paavo Väyrynen, a former chairperson of the Centre, in December. Väyrynen dropped out of the presidential race after failing to secure the 20,000 statements of support required to run as the candidate of a constituency association.
Stubb has not lost support in any particular direction, according to Pajunen. Although Halla-aho has been one beneficiary of his final-stretch difficulties, he has also lost the support of voters without fixed party affiliations.
“He’s still the National Coalition’s candidate,” summed up Pajunen.
Haavisto and Halla-aho establishing themselves as the most popular candidates among under 35-year-old voters ahead of Stubb is another noteworthy development, according to him.
Stubb, the poll revealed, would defeat all his rival candidates in the second round of voting, a run-off between the two most popular candidates in the first round. While Haavisto and Rehn would mount the most serious challenges, Stubb would beat them relatively soundly, winning 59 per cent of the vote.
His margin of victory would be greater against Halla-aho: 75 to 25 per cent. Halla-aho would lose the run-off also against Haavisto and Rehn, with the former projected to win 63 per cent and the latter 72 per cent of the vote against him.
A Haavisto-Rehn run-off would result in a narrow, two-point win for Rehn.
YLE on Thursday reported that Li Andersson (LA) has overtaken Jutta Urpilainen (SDP) as the fifth most popular candidate in the poll section representing the first round of voting. Support for Andersson has risen by two points to seven per cent from the previous month, whereas that for Urpilainen has declined by two points to five per cent.
“Andersson has managed to get the Left Alliance’s supporters more firmly behind her. Urpilainen is possibly in the reverse situation, with people leaving her to back Haavisto,” analysed Pajunen.
The finding, he added, is indicative of tactical voting. “Are people voting against someone or for someone?”
Support for Mika Aaltola has waned by a point to three per cent since December. Sari Essayah continues to poll at two per cent, while Harry Harkimo (MN) has seen his popularity diminish by a point to one per cent.
Taloustutkimus contacted 1,517 people by phone for the poll on 17–23 January. Pajunen highlighted to the public broadcasting company that phone polls have tended to reflect the ultimate election results more accurately than online ones.
More than two-thirds, or 1,149, of the people contacted were able and willing to disclose which candidate would receive their vote in the first round of the elections. The results have a margin of error of two points.
The first round of voting in the presidential elections is on Sunday, 28 January. The second round of voting, which will be held if no candidate wins more than 50 per cent of the votes cast in the first round, is scheduled to take place on Sunday, 11 February.
Aleksi Teivainen – HT