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Poll: Citizens' willingness to defend Finland, support for Nato hit all time high

The survey found a strong majority in favour of increased spending on national defence, as the view of Russia's impact on Finnish security has become more cautious.

Responses to the survey showed an increased confidence in the ability of Finnish forces to defend the nation. Image: Pasi Lindroos
Yle News

The willingness of people in Finland to defend the nation in the event of a military attack has reached an all time high, according to the results of a survey commissioned by the Advisory Board of Defence Information (MTS).

The survey of over 1,000 people further found an increased confidence among the public in Finland's defence capabilities, but also revealed a growing uncertainty about the future.

Concerns over Russia's ongoing war in Ukraine and the resulting energy crisis are reflected in the results of the survey, MTS noted.

Respondents to the survey reported a more positive attitude towards the United States and especially towards the Nato alliance, with nine out of ten people saying they were in favour of Finland applying for Nato membership — a record high figure.

By contrast, the survey found that an increasing number of people in Finland have a negative attitude towards Russia — as illustrated by the graphic below.

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In response to the question, "If Finland is attacked, do you think Finns should arm and defend themselves in all situations, even if the outcome seems uncertain", 83 percent of respondents said yes. This result was almost the same as a similar survey carried out in the spring, shortly after Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The willingness to defend the country has consistently scored high in MTS polls, but these latest figures are the highest for over 50 years and a significant increase on the rate of 68 percent last year.

If Finland were attacked, more than four out of five respondents said they would be prepared to participate in the defence of the nation. This figure is in line with the results of previous, similar surveys ever since the question was first asked in 1995.

On the subject of compulsory military service, more than 80 percent said they were in favour of continued conscription while just 13 percent would like to see a model of selective conscription.

The survey also found growing support for extending conscription to include women. One third of respondents said they believe that Finland's defence should be based on universal conscription for both men and women.

This figure is a noticeable jump from the 22 percent that were supportive of universal conscription in last year's equivalent survey.

Majority call for more spending on defence

The survey also canvassed opinions on the current level of spending on Finland's national defence, and found an increasing desire for more money to be allocated to the Defence Forces.

In last year's survey, only one third of respondents thought that funding for the armed forces should be increased, but the latest poll found that 58 percent want to see more money allocated to defence spending.

This figure represents the highest number in favour of increasing the defence budget in the history of the MTS survey. Support for increased spending hit 54 percent in the immediate aftermath of Russia's invasion of Ukraine on 24 February, and has since climbed even further.

Increased confidence in defence capabilities

Respondents also reported being confident in Finland's ability to defend itself militarily, with 89 percent saying they are at least fairly confident in Finland's defence capabilities, while 39 percent were very confident in the Defence Forces' ability to defend Finland against military threats.

Furthermore, 85 percent said they think Finland's defence policy has been at least fairly well managed in recent years, up from 78 percent in last year's survey, with a noticeable increase in the number of people saying the handling of defence policy has been "very good" — 25 percent in the latest survey compared to just 8 percent in 2021.

However, the management of Finland's foreign policy did not receive quite as good a rating, with 74 percent saying it has been at least fairly good in the 2022 poll. A particularly high level of dissatisfaction with Finnish foreign policy was found among people who identified themselves as Finns Party voters.

Concerns about Russia, energy shortages

The survey further found that the main concern about the future among people living in Finland is Russia, and in particular about recent developments in the country as well as the war in Ukraine.

Last year, 68 percent of respondents said they were very worried about Finland's eastern neighbour, but this year that figure increased to 85 percent.

Aside from Russia, other worries mentioned by respondents included the availability of energy, rising prices, cyber threats and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. More than half said they believe the world will be a less secure place in five years time than it is today.

Russia's war in Ukraine has influenced opinion in Finland. This photo shows a playground in the yard of a house damaged by a missile strike in Vyshgorod, Kiev. Image: AOP

This polling period also found a significant decline in concern about infectious diseases, with only 13 percent saying this was a major concern for the future. That figure was nearly three times higher last year.

The Advisory Board of Defence Information (MTS) is a parliamentary forum that organises seminars and discussions around security policy, national defence as well as Finland's readiness for crisis situations and emergencies. MTS has conducted opinion polls on various matters related to these subjects since the 1960s.

The latest survey was carried out by pollster Taloustutkimus during the months of September and October, and interviewed 1,033 people aged between 15-79 living on the Finnish mainland.

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