Minister of Finance Riikka Purra addressed lawmakers during a question-time debate in the Parliament House in Helsinki on 8 February 2024. Purra’s Finns Party has enjoyed a surge in popular support in the first few weeks of this year, reveals the latest opinion poll commissioned by YLE. (Heikki Saukkomaa – Lehtikuva)

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SUPPORT for the Finns Party surged amid the presidential campaigns and widespread political strikes witnessed in recent weeks in Finland.

YLE on Friday unveiled the results of its latest opinion poll, reporting that support for the populist right-wing party has surged by 2.4 percentage points to 20.0 per cent. Tuomo Turja, the research director at Taloustutkimus, viewed that the surge is evidence of the ruling party mobilising its core supporters.

“Support has risen the most among the youngest voters, meaning under 35-year-olds, but on the other hand also among pensioners,” he noted.

The polling period coincided with the first round of the newly concluded presidential elections. Jussi Halla-aho, the candidate of the Finns Party, performed well not only in the first round, coming in third with a 19.0-per-cent share of the vote, but also in the youth elections, coming in second with an almost 21.0-per-cent share of the vote.

Designed to encourage young people to acquaint themselves with the electoral system, political parties and candidates, the youth elections were held in primary schools, vocational schools, general upper-secondary schools and various youth activity sites nationwide on 8–12 January by the Finnish National Youth Council Allianssi.

The Finns Party, Turja pointed out, has traditionally performed better as elections edge closer.

“It’ll be interesting to see how the party’s support behaves in the months to come or whether [the poll result] is a spike caused by the election result of Halla-aho,” he commented to the public broadcasting company.

Along with the rise of the Finns Party, the second notable takeaway from the poll is the continuing decline of the Social Democrats.

The Social Democratic Party saw its popularity fall by 0.6 points to 20.4 per cent, representing the continuation of a downward trend that began in November 2023. Turja pointed out, though, that the opposition party continues to poll at around the level of its vote share in the most recent parliamentary elections.

Support for the National Coalition decreased by half a points to 22.4 per cent.

The polling period also coincided with widespread political strikes that, for example, caused severe disruptions in air travel and public transport services in a number of large cities in Finland. The strikes appear not to have had a significant impact on the popularity of either the ruling or opposition parties, according to Turja.

“In fact, the Social Democrats’ support was the lowest in the last two weeks of the polling period,” he said. “The Finns Party is currently, and has been for quite some time, clearly the most popular party among blue-collar people.”

Support for the Centre Party rose by 0.7 points to 10.8 per cent, possibly as a consequence of the presidential campaign of Olli Rehn, according to Turja. The Left Alliance saw its popularity fall by 0.1 points to 8.5 per cent, 0.3 points ahead of the Green League, which has witnessed a half-a-point increase in support since early January.

Both the Christian Democrats and Swedish People’s Party saw their approval rating deteriorate by 0.5 points, to 3.6 and 3.4 per cent, respectively. Movement Now, meanwhile, fell from 2.1 to 1.4 per cent.

Turja drew particular attention to the situation of the Swedish People’s Party, saying the party is haemorrhaging support to both the National Coalition and Social Democrats. The Christian Democrats’ decline, in turn, has primarily benefited the Finns Party.

Taloustutkimus interviewed 2,662 people for the poll between 3 January and 6 February. Around 70 per cent (1,881) of the respondents were able and willing to disclose which party they would vote for if the parliamentary elections were held now.

The results have a margin of error of up to 1.9 points.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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