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Poll: Attitudes toward immigration becoming more positive

Opinion polls carried out over the past half-year reveal a split in views on immigration in Finland.

Maahanmuuttajanuoria Itäkeskuksen kauppakeskuksessa.
More than half of respondents said that the current level of immigration is too high (file photo). Image: Milla Vahtila / Yle

A pair of surveys published by the Finnish Business and Policy Forum (Eva) on Monday suggests that Finnish views on immigration have generally become more welcoming – although paradoxically more than half of respondents still said that there are already too many immigrants in the country.

The business group hired pollster Taloustutkimus to question 2,000 people in Finland on immigration last autumn and early this year, following up on previous corresponding public opinion polls over the past two decades. The polling organisation says it aimed for a representative cross-section of the nation's adult population, but does not specify whether respondents were all citizens.

Respondents were asked whether they agreed with the following statement, "Our country's ageing population and its threatened decline requires us to make it easier for foreigners to move to Finland."

No impact from Oulu allegations

Thirty-nine percent said they somewhat or completely agreed, the highest figure since polling began in 1998. However, nearly as many, 36 percent, said they somewhat or completely disagreed. That number was a majority (52 percent) as recently as 2016, down from a record 61 percent in 1998.

"The most important result of the survey is that Finns' attitudes toward immigration have become more positive over both the long and short term," said Eva research director Ilkka Haavisto.

"The biggest single change is that Finns now believe that our country really needs people coming in from abroad to work," Haavisto said.

Data was collected from September through February, including a period when there was heavy media coverage of alleged sex crimes by immigrants in Oulu.

"The Oulu events did not actually affect general Finnish attitudes toward immigration at all," he said.

Splits along party lines

Despite the increase in positive responses, many Finns remain cautious or negative about immigration, the survey suggests. Fifty-two percent of respondents said that the current level of immigration is too high.

Respondents' responses were closely tied to the political party they supported.

"Supporters of the Greens, Left Alliance and Swedish People's Party were positive by nearly all measures. On the other hand backers of the Finns Party and its breakaway Blue Reform Party were at the opposite extreme, with Finns Party supporters clearly more anti-immigration than those of the Blues," Haavisto said.

Haavisto adds that while there was a spike in anti-immigration views before the 2011 and 2015 parliamentary elections, there was no sign of one this time, which he said was "surprising".

The autumn data was collected between 24 September and 4 October, and the winter data between 31 January and 6 February. The pollster says the margin of error is 2-3 percentage points.

Eva is affiliated with the Confederation of Finnish Industries (EK) and other employers' lobbies, as well as the Research Institute of the Finnish Economy (Etla).

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