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SDP and Centre lead in pre-local election poll, NCP stutters

Yle’s latest political poll suggests that staying in the headlines has bolstered approval ratings for the two parties in the lead, the opposition Social Democrats and Prime Minister Juha Sipilä’s Centre Party. The National Coalition Party has kept a relatively low profile and has paid for it by slipping in the survey.

Image: Yle Uutisgrafiikka

The results of Yle’s latest political barometer show that voters are for the most part still undecided, given that just 57.6 percent of respondents were willing to disclose who would get their ballot. Taloustutkimus said that the proportion of people willing to reveal their party affiliation has remained below 60 percent during the entire autumn.

This time around, the survey conducted for Yle by pollster Taloustutkimus tested support for the country’s main political parties by asking who electors would vote for in municipal elections due early next year.

Discussion around the election has so far been somewhat subdued, so the poll reveals more about general support for the parties than actual voter intentions, said the pollster.

SDP ends year on a high note

The largest opposition party, the Social Democrats cemented its place as the party with the highest approval rating in the year-end poll. The SDP surged into the lead in Yle polls in winter 2015, but support dipped slightly during the ensuing summer to below 20 percent.

The pollsters attributed that decline to the party’s support for one of the Sipilä administration’s flagship projects, the competitiveness deal that labour market organisations eventually endorsed.

However a number of public setbacks for the government during the autumn helped overshadow infighting within the SDP’s parliamentary group and allowed the opposition force to right its ship.

The latest poll puts their approval rating at 21.2 percent, compared to 19.6 percent ahead of the last municipal election in 2012.

Centre in hot pursuit

During the course of 2016, support for the Centre Party has hovered just above the 20-percent mark, only to dip below that boundary in October.

Party frontman and PM Juha Sipilä has seen his personal popularity plummet during the course of the year and at the end of October, Sipilä’s halo dimmed even within the party when his hand-picked choice, Mika Lintilä, edged out ministerial veteran Mauri Pekkarinen for the Economy Minister position that was up for grabs.

For the most part, Sipilä was responsible for carrying the Centre into government, so there are also negative risks associated with the party’s heavy dependence on his popularity. Moreover, cracks have appeared in the PM’s usually phlegmatic demeanour, and have been most evident in his volatile relations with the media, particularly Yle.

NCP losing momentum

Last summer the National Coalition Party saw a leadership change as Alexander Stubb exited stage left to make way for Petteri Orpo, who also took over the Finance Minister portfolio.

Immediately after the convention that ousted Stubb in favour of Orpo, the party saw its approval rating rise. But the rush was short-lived as the party failed to maintain the momentum past Orpo’s first budget presentation.

During the autumn it seemed that Orpo might be able to rally supporters, but the colourful month of December when the Centre Party stole the headlines, left the NCP in the shadows – and on the sidelines.

Strong year for Greens

During 2016, the opposition Greens have managed to hold on to a swell in popularity that has seen approval ratings settle at 13 to 14 percent. It is a clear improvement over ratings during previous parliamentary and municipal elections, when it captured around 8.5 percent of the vote.

April’s municipal election will be a test of whether or not the party can maintain or even improve on its current tide of popularity.

In any case, the party is facing an eventful year in 2017 – apart from the election, party leaders will try to single out a candidate for the presidential election in 2018, and install a new chairperson.

Finns Party stagnating

2016 has been a rough year for the Finns Party as it saw elector support collapse to less than ten percent – nor has it been able to climb out of the doldrums.

The party of Foreign Minister Timo Soini, who triumphantly led it into government just under two short years ago, has been relegated from the major league in the polls and is now in the same series as the opposition left Alliance.

The December poll shows the Left Alliance registering its lowest support levels for 2016 with the Finns Party hardly faring better.

Among the smaller parties, the Swedish Peoples’ Party managed to close the year with its strongest showing in the monthly surveys, while there was no change for the Christian Democratic Party.

Taloustutkimus polled 1,946 respondents for the survey between December 7 and 28. The margin of error in results for the largest parties is + / - 2.4 percentage points.

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