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Yle poll: Support for gov't down, Finns Party split only partly responsible

Support for all three of Finland's coalition government parties is down, according to a new voter opinion poll. The Yle survey suggests that the Finns Party splinter group New Alternative, which polled at 0.7 percent, suffered most from recent turmoil in the nationalistic Finns Party.

Image: Yle Uutisgrafiikka

This latest edition of Yle's monthly appraisal of political support was carried out from June 26 to July 18 -- in other words after the Finns Party congress installed hardliner Jussi Halla-aho as their new leader and caused the party's five ministers and 19 MPs to break away and form their own parliamentary group.

The Taloustutkimus survey showed that support for the three government parties is down: the centre-right National Coalition Party is now on top, but its approval has dropped from 21.3 percent to 20.4. The Prime Minister's Centre Party continues its downward slide, enjoying the support of just 16.7 percent of the poll's respondents. Back in May, support was at 18.4 percent.

The Finns Party offshoot New Alternative, which replaced the Finns Party as the government partner after the break, has the least support of all the parties surveyed, at 0.7 percent. This number is much lower than the 2.5 percent support reported in a Helsingin Sanomat poll published Wednesday. The survey indicates that overall support for the three government parties now stands at 37.8 percent.

Taloustutkimus CEO Jari Pajunen says that the decline cannot entirely be explained by the Finns Party implosion.

"Support for the NCP and Centre Party has also fallen; [support for] the whole government is in decline," he says.

Greens on Centre's tail

The Centre Party, which won the 2015 general elections with 21.1 percent of the vote, is already being challenged by the Greens, which have surged to 16 percent popularity in the latest poll, hot on the heels of the Centre.

"The Greens are riding high after the municipal election gave them a boost. If the trends continue, support levels for the two parties will meet as soon as the next poll," Pajunen speculates.

He says the low approval rating for the New Alternative parliamentary group is in part because people still aren't sure what the Finns Party split was about and what it will portend. July is also traditionally quiet on the political front in Finland, and Pajunen says this hasn't helped the fledgling party's chances either.

"It looks as if there is still a lot of uncertainty out there about it." 

Opposition numbers up

Now that the Finns Party has fallen into the opposition camp, it is the only opposition party to not see its number rise in the latest poll. Support numbers are down to 8.1 percent, according to the Yle poll. However, Wednesday's Helsingin Sanomat poll put this number lower, at 6.3 percent.

The Left Alliance on the other hand saw support climb from 8 percent to 9.2, and the largest opposition party, the Social Democrats saw its popularity improve from 17.1 last month to 18.5.

"The delay to the social and health service reform has been a plus for the opposition," says Pajunen.

Support for the Swedish People's Party and the Christian Democrats was also up.

The Yle-commissioned poll conducted in late June-early July interviewed 1,950 people about their political leanings, yielding a margin of error of 2.3 percentage points in either direction.

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