Prime Minister Petteri Orpo (NCP) and Minister of Finance Riikka Purra (PS) attended a question-time debate in parliament on 29 February 2024. Neither the National Coalition nor the Finns Party has yet had to pay a significant political price for the labour market reforms and social security cuts they are pursuing, indicates the latest opinion poll by Helsingin Sanomat. (Markku Ulander – Lehtikuva)

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POPULAR SUPPORT has declined slightly for the two largest ruling parties in Finland, reveals the latest opinion poll conducted for Helsingin Sanomat by Verian.

Support for the National Coalition, the poll found, has declined by 0.6 percentage points since last month to 20.7 per cent, leaving the right-wing party with a roughly one-point advantage over the Social Democratic Party.

The Finns Party dropped from shared second to third as its popularity declined from 19.6 to 18.9 per cent. Support for the Social Democrats, the largest opposition party in the Finnish Parliament, stayed unchanged at 19.6 per cent.

While the National Coalition and Social Democrats are polling roughly at the level of their vote shares in last year’s parliamentary elections, the Finns Party has seen its approval rating decrease by roughly a point.

The Centre saw its popularity rise by 0.6 points to 11.7 per cent, a rating that is both low in historical comparison and a new high since September 2022, highlighted Helsingin Sanomat. Support for the Left Alliance crept up by 0.1 points to 9.0 per cent, while the Green League saw its popularity stay at 8.1 per cent.

The Swedish People’s Party and Christian Democrats, the two junior partners in the coalition government led by the National Coalition, are virtually neck and neck, with the former gaining 0.2 points to 3.8 per cent and the latter dropping 0.2 points to 3.9 per cent. Combined support for the four ruling parties stands at 47.3 per cent, marking a roughly one-point drop from February.

Movement Now saw its popularity rise by 0.6 points to 2.3 per cent.

The polling period coincided with public debate about both the political strikes organised in protest of a series of labour market reforms and social security cuts pursued by the government and the measures needed to respond to the weaponisation of migrants at the border between Finland and Russia.

Sakari Nurmela, the research director at Verian, stated that the changes in the approval ratings of the largest ruling parties are mostly due to their supporters withdrawing to the sidelines rather than shifting their support to other parties.

He also viewed that the policy plans that set off the political strikes may please some supporters of the National Coalition, but that the plans and strikes could have a greater impact on the Finns Party and Social Democrats. The Social Democrats, somewhat surprisingly, has been unable to seize the opportunity provided by public concerns about the social security cuts and the strained labour market situation.

“The reforms are still talk, and people aren’t yet feeling them in their pockets. That may be what you’d need for them to start having an impact on approval ratings,” Nurmela said to Helsingin Sanomat.

Also the end of presidential campaigning may have an impact on the poll results, albeit with some party-to-party variation. While Jussi Halla-aho’s campaign is no longer providing much of a boost to the Finns Party, Olli Rehn’s campaign appears to have had a longer-lasting lifting impact on the Centre, analysed Nurmela.

Verian contacted 2,426 people for the poll between 19 February and 15 March. The results have a margin of error of roughly two percentage points.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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