Antti Lindtman, the chairperson of the Social Democrats, shed light on what the opposition party would do to narrow the budget deficit in a news conference in Helsinki on Tuesday, 7 May 2024. Support for the Social Democrats has surged to an almost 20-year high, with nearly a quarter of the public declaring their support for it in the latest opinion poll by YLE. (Markku Ulander – Lehtikuva)

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THE SOCIAL DEMOCRATS and the Finns Party are the two biggest movers in the latest opinion poll commissioned by YLE.

Support for the Social Democrats jumped by 2.7 percentage points from the previous poll to 24.4 per cent, representing an almost 20-year high for what is presently the largest opposition party in the Finnish Parliament.

The Finns Party, by contrast, saw its approval rating slip by 1.8 points to 15.6 per cent, marking the third consecutive month of waning support for the ruling right-wing populist party.

Taloustutkimus carried out the poll between 3 April and 7 May, a period that coincided with a parliamentary debate on restrictions on political and sympathy strikes, government decisions on additional cost-saving measures and the implementation of cuts in the general housing allowance.

Tuomo Turja, the research director at Taloustutkimus, told YLE on Thursday that the Social Democrats performed well throughout the polling period, winning over not only women but also blue-collar workers.

“The SDP is doing very well to hold on to its own voters. It’s additionally getting support from people who voted for the two other green-red parties. Also the Finns Party and National Coalition are parties that are losing support to it,” he revealed.

Its current approval rating marks a 4.5-point improvement from the parliamentary elections held last spring and a new high since the second half of 2006, according to the public broadcasting company.

Support for the Finns Party is presently 4.4 points lower than it was three months ago and 4.5 points lower than its share in the previous parliamentary elections. The populist right-wing party was the only member of the ruling coalition to lose support.

Turja, though, reminded that the populist right-wing party is no stranger to significant swings in support, be it up or down.

The latest losses stem from a growing share of its voters – especially men and blue-collar workers – either weighing up their options or shifting their support to one of the Centre, the National Coalition or Social Democrats. The development appears to have been driven by the public discussion about the capacity of Minister of Social Affairs and Health Kaisa Juuso (PS) and the incident involving Timo Vornanen (PS), a 54-year-old Member of the Parliament from Joensuu.

Turja said the party performed the worst during the week following the shooting outside a nightclub in Helsinki.

“It’s rare that things like that increase support,” he remarked, adding that one should not rush to attribute the decline entirely to the incident. “The other weeks weren’t particularly good either for the Finns Party. For example, this week wasn’t quite as bad as last week, but it wasn’t significantly better either.”

The National Coalition saw its approval rating rise by 0.7 points to 21.3 per cent, cementing its status as the second most popular party in Finland. Turja pointed out that such a rating is a solid result for the party with the premiership.

“The National Coalition was on a downward trajectory early in the year, but it stopped in this poll,” he added.

Elsewhere, the Centre saw its approval rating slide by 0.5 points to 11.5 per cent, the Left Alliance by 0.7 per cent to 8.8 per cent and the Green League by 0.6 points to 7.7 per cent. Support for the Christian Democrats crept up by 0.4 points to 4.0 per cent and support for Movement Now by 0.1 points to 1.8 per cent.

The Swedish People’s Party is polling at 3.4 per cent for the second consecutive month.

“When it comes to the Swedish People’s Party, it’s obvious that many of the people who’ve voted for it before are continuing to weigh up their options,” analysed Turja.

Taloustutkimus received responses from 1,820 of the 2,490 people it contacted for the poll. The results have a margin of error of 2.0 points.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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