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Poll: One in four Finns supports informal street patrols

Up to one in four Finns supports the idea of citizens’ street patrols. According to a survey by the weekly magazine Suomen Kuvalehti, just over one-third of nearly 1,000 respondents said that the rapid increase in the number of asylum seekers entering the country has eroded their sense of security.

Soldiers of Odinin mielenosoitus Joensuun Kauppatorilla 8. tammikuuta 2016.
An informal street patrol in Joensuu. Image: Jyrki Richt / Yle

A new survey has revealed strong opposition to citizen street patrols that have sprung up around Finland in recent months, but also a stubborn minority that supports them. Almost one in four respondents expressed positive views about the patrols, some of which have links to racist and far-right organisations.

The arrival of more than 30,000 asylum seekers in Finland in a relatively short space of time has tested the mettle of Finland’s mostly homogenous society. The magazine weekly Suomen Kuvalehti turned to pollster Taloustutkimus to see how Finns felt about the situation, especially given reporting on alleged crimes by a small number of the new arrivals.

The pollster’s online survey panel revealed that some 36 percent of respondents felt a weakened sense of security specifically related to the rapid increase in the number of people fleeing conflict areas.

"The number is striking," Taloustutkimus research chief Juho Rahkonen told Suomen Kuvalehti.

"Although people haven’t had any contact with asylum seekers, a sense of general unease has spread via the media. The paradise thinking has been shaken up," Rahkonen added.

Taloustutkimus: Street patrols a divisive issue

Researchers also asked how Finns felt about contentious citizens’ patrols, originally launched by an anti-immigrant group in Kemi, citing a desire to maintain security in the city.

In spite of reporting in Finnish media highlighting the criminal background and racism of some groups, 28 percent of respondents described the patrols as either a very positive or somewhat positive development. Some 48 percent however said they viewed the patrols in a very negative or somewhat negative light.

"This clearly divides people," Rahkonen said. "Many probably think that it’s not illegal to walk through the streets," he added.

Taloustutkimus conducted the survey between January 8 and 11 and 965 respondents participated. The poll’s margin of error was 2.5 percentage points in either direction, and its level of confidence was 95 percent.

The target group comprised Finns between the ages of 15 and 79, who participated in the online survey.

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