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Yle poll: Corona crisis has unified Finland

A social scientist warns that the feeling of cohesion may dissipate quickly if crisis measures are seen as unequal.

Ihmisiä Tuomiokirkon rappusilla.
Celebrating Jean Sibelius's 150th birthday at Helsinki's Senate Square on 8 December 2015. Image: Petteri Paalasmaa / AOP

The corona crisis has harmed Finnish society, but also brought more unity and strength, according to respondents to an Yle survey. The Taloustutkimus poll was carried out in mid-May and published on Sunday.

Some 98 percent of respondents said they believe the Covid-19 pandemic has damaged Finnish society. Nearly half described the level of damage as high or extremely high.

However a plurality of respondents, 39 percent, said they do not expect the crisis to have any major long-term impact on society. Nearly as many, 36 percent, said that Finland’s people will be “stronger together” after the pandemic, while 19 percent expect the nation to be weaker and more fragmented.

Major societal upheavals such as wars and economic depressions have traditionally boosted feelings of cohesion. Some such experiences that shaped entire generations. In Finland, this occurred during the Winter War (1939-40) and the severe recession of the 1990s, for instance.

Unified leadership

Professor Juho Saari, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at Tampere University, says that crises particularly enhance cohesion when a society has confidence in its leaders.

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Pääministeri Sanna Marin eduskunnassa.
Prime Minister Sanna Marin at Parliament House on 20 March 2020. Image: Jani Saikko / Yle

Finland’s response to the corona crisis has been personified by Prime Minister Sanna Marin, who took over as the world’s youngest prime minister in December, just as the pandemic was beginning to appear in China.

In Saari’s view, she has succeeded in managing publicity while the government has appeared unified and presented a common message.

“Studies indicate that Finns’ confidence in public sector leaders is among the highest in Europe,” Saari says.

“We in Finland tend to seek consensus in reforms that are based on strong leadership and administration,” he adds.

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Juho Saari
Prof. Juho Saari, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at Tampere University Image: Tiina Jutila / Yle

Saari warns that the sense of unity and cohesion will not last long if inequality increases as the crisis fades. He predicts that the feeling of unity will last for 2–3 years at most after the worst of the crisis is over.

Taloustutkimus interviewed 1422 people between 15–18 May. The pollster says the sample is representative of Finland’s population aged 15 and older. It estimates the margin of error at about 2.5 percentage points.

Finland’s path out of the corona crisis is the theme of the Kultaranta Talks discussion event hosted by President Sauli Niinistö on Sunday evening. Yle will broadcast the event on TV1 and Yle Areena beginning at 6.15 pm.

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