Finns increasingly critical of Russia, survey finds

A new survey found that nearly 60 percent of respondents considered Russia a military threat.

2020 file photo of a military air show rehearsal, seen above Moscow's Kremlin. Image: Sergei Ilnitsky / EPA

Finnish residents are increasingly critical of Russia, according to a values and attitudes survey commissioned by the think tank Eva, the Finnish Business and Policy Forum.

Slightly more than one-third of respondents had a positive opinion of Russia, while 45 percent held a negative opinion of the country.

Meanwhile, a similar survey in 2012 found that 63 percent had positive attitudes and just 19 percent had negative attitudes towards Russia.

The new survey found that favourable attitudes about Finland's large eastern neighbour had fallen by around 30 percentage points — and negative attitudes grew by 26 percentage points during that nine-year period.

60% think Russia is military threat

According to Eva's Research Manager, Ilkka Haavisto, the shift in attitudes was in line with other Western countries, adding that Finns follow Russian domestic and international activities and tend to react to negative developments.

In recent years, the biggest shifts occurred after events such as Russia's aggression in Ukraine and Syria as well as the assassination attempt on opposition leader and anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny, according to Haavisto.

Story continues after photo

Alexei Navalny Image: Kirill Kudryavtsev / AFP

The think tank's new survey also found that nearly 60 percent of respondents considered Russia as a military threat.

Haavisto said it was too early to say if the shift towards more negative attitudes was permanent, noting that the last time attitudes toward Russia saw improvement was in 2018. The research chief said he suspected the reasons for that uptick was due to the country hosting the FIFA World Cup as well as the summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart Donald Trump.

Younger adults more negative

Negative attitudes towards Russia were more common among the survey's younger respondents, with Haavisto saying that might be indicative that such opinions might be long lasting.

The age demographic with the most positive attitudes towards Russia was around 65 years old.

Regarding cross-border trade, Eva's survey found that 43 percent of respondents said that business should not be weakened due to problems unrelated to the economy, while 32 percent of those surveyed disagreed with that sentiment.

More than 2,000 people between the ages of 18-79 took part in the survey, which was carried out during March and April by market research firm Taloustutkimus. The survey's margin of error is two to three percentage points in either direction.

The non-profit group has carried out its values and attitude surveys since 1984.