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Yle poll: Support for Nato membership hits record high

Some 62 percent of respondents said they would favour Finland applying to join the Nato military alliance.

Naton lippu.
Public support for joining Nato has grown considerably in Finland. Image: Valda Kalnina / EPA
Yle News

An Yle poll suggests there is growing support for the country to join the Nato military alliance, with 62 percent of respondents saying they are in favour of such a move.

The result represents a nine percentage point increase from the last time an Yle poll asked the same question. That survey, which was published at the end of February, marked the first time a majority of respondents said yes to joining Nato in a Finnish poll.

Until Russia attacked Ukraine, polling on Nato membership had been stable for decades, with a clear majority opposed to joining the western military alliance.

Yle had last asked the question in 2017, when just 21 percent said they would back a move to join Nato.

Interviews for the latest survey took place between 9 and 11 March — just as Russia's war on Ukraine entered its third week — and the results suggest that only 16 percent of people in Finland would now oppose an application to join. This is down from 28 percent in the poll published two weeks ago.

Some 21 percent said they were unsure, up from 19 percent in the previous poll.

An application from Sweden would increase the positive proportion of responses to 77 percent, while a positive stance on Nato membership from Finland's political leadership would increase it to 74 percent.

Support for joining Nato grew among supporters of all political parties, with supporters of the Left Alliance least keen on joining. Left Alliance and Centre Party supporters have become more positive towards Nato, according to the poll.

"Left voters have changed tack clearly from their previous opposition toward supporting Nato membership," said Jari Pajunen, CEO of pollster Taloustutkimus.

The poll suggests that more leftists support Nato membership than oppose it at present, but a quarter of them gave 'don't know' as their response.

There was a majority in favour of Nato membership among supporters of all other parties elected to parliament in 2019.

A gender split that was evident in the previous poll was clear once again, with 71 percent of men — up from 64 percent previously — backing a Nato application compared to 53 percent of women.

While support for joining Nato has exploded among the public, politicians have been more cautious. Defence Minister Antti Kaikkonen (Cen) telling the media that now is not the right time to join.

A poll of MPs found a majority unwilling to reveal their stance, while President Sauli Niinistö and Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP) both declined to say whether they were for or against Nato membership.

Finland's Defence Ministry is preparing a report on the pros and cons of an application to join Nato, with parliament expected to form a view on the matter after that.

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