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Poll: 59% of Finns opposed to joining NATO

A new poll commissioned by Finland's leading newspaper suggests that a clear majority of the population, 59 percent, are opposed to Finland joining NATO. 22 percent of the survey respondents said they support membership in the US-led military alliance, while another 19 percent couldn't say.

Naton päämaja sijaitsee Brysselissä.
NATO headquarters in Brussels Image: Justin Tallis / AFP

A fresh public opinion poll on NATO membership indicates that 59 percent of Finland's residents are opposed to joining the military alliance. The poll was commissioned by newspaper Helsingin Sanomat and the results were published on Sunday, November 5.

The findings suggest that less than one in four, or 22 percent, of the respondents supported Finland joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, which now extends to 29 states. Almost as many, 19 percent of the survey takers, refused to take a stand on the issue.

As many Finns feel it is wise to work cooperatively with Sweden on any NATO questions, the poll also asked Finns if their opinion would change if Sweden would join NATO. In this case, 52 percent were still opposed to the idea, while 33 percent were in support.

Opposition even across the nation

The paper outlines that opposition to NATO membership is pretty much even across every demographic: men and women, young and old, urban and rural, white and blue collar, and employed and unemployed. 

The only exception is supporters of the centre-right National Coalition political party, where 45 percent support NATO membership and 43 percent are opposed. Among supporters of all the other political parties, the clear majority is opposed.

Support for NATO membership has gone down slightly in Finland since the last time the paper did the poll, in the summer of 2014. At that time, shortly after the annexation of Crimea in the Ukraine, 26 percent of the survey respondents supported Finland's NATO membership.

Reality is enhanced NATO cooperation

The paper says Finland's security policy has changed considerably in the last three years without officially being part of any defence alliance. Cooperation with NATO has deepened and networking with Swedish and US  defence forces has increased.

"Finns don't entirely understand Finland's changing status. They support joint policies that in reality bring us closer to western defence systems," Matti Pesu of the Finnish Institute of International Affairs tells HS.

Pesu says that Finnish decision-makers' criticism of superpowers has diminished over the last few years and cooperation with NATO has been met with more approval.

"It looks like the current political leadership is prepared to progress towards a policy of deeper cooperation. Time will tell if this is eventually reflected in public opinion on NATO membership," he tells the paper.

Keeping all options on the table

HS says that Finland's policy in recent years has been to not actively seek out NATO membership, but to "keep the possibility to seek NATO membership open, while carefully observing changes to the security environment". The policy makes direct reference to the weakened Baltic Sea situation amidst heightened Russian bravado. A show of military force against Finland cannot be ruled out, says the paper.

The poll was carried out by pollster Kantar TNS from October 16 to 27, and includes the responses of 1,005 respondents for but a margin of error that is three points in either direction.

Edit at 3 pm to add details about the poll's sample size.

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