The Finns Party has retained its place as the most popular party in Finland, according to the results of Yle's latest monthly political party poll. If an election were held now, 21.9 percent of the population would vote for the populist party led by Jussi Halla-aho.
However, Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s Social Democratic Party (SDP) trailed by only half a percentage point with support of 21.4 percent.
Backing for both parties grew during the latest polling period compared to the previous poll, with the Finns Party up by one percentage point and the SDP by 0.8.
"The view is that these two parties are fighting for the top spot as the largest party and the others do not seem to be progressing anywhere," Research Director Tuomo Turja of pollster Taloustutkimus, who carried out the survey, told Yle.
The Finns Party especially benefited from the uproar surrounding Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto (Green) over the repatriation of families from the al-Hol detention camp in Syria, Turja added. Polling data showed an uptick in party support after the Parliament's Constitutional Law Committee said the minister broke the law, but should not face prosecution.
"During these discussions the Finns Party were in their area of strength. When it came to the repatriations, they knew how to take advantage of that conversation," Turja said.
Support for the Finns Party has been rising steadily since August, and this is the second poll in a row in which their support has increased by a full percentage point.
Over-50s upset with SDP
The SDP’s handling of the coronavirus crisis helped the party strengthen its support, although the latest polling period ended before criticism over the availability of vaccines became politicised.
However, the government’s plans to phase out the so-called 'pension pipeline', an enhanced unemployment benefits scheme offered to older people in Finland, did lead to a drop in support for the SDP among older voters.
"During the polling period, the SDP lost support among the 50-64 age demographic, which were particularly affected by the phasing out of the pension pipeline," Turja explained.
Among the other parties, the opposition National Coalition Party, led by Petteri Orpo, remained in third place in the standings at 16.2 percent after receiving a small increase in support.
The Centre Party, a government coalition partner of the SDP, is in fourth place but has dropped further back after leaking support for the second poll in a row. Chair Annika Saarikko had high hopes for increasing the party’s standing with voters when she took over from Katri Kulmuni in September, but support fell by 0.4 percentage points in the latest poll to leave the Centre Party with backing reaching 11.7 percent.
Haavisto criticism didn’t impact Green support
The criticism of Foreign Minister Haavisto's handling of the al-Hol repatriations has not hugely affected his party’s support among voters, with the Green Party only down 0.2 percentage points to 11.4 percent.
Similarly, plans to remove the pension pipeline has not proven to be a source of discontent among voters of the Left Alliance, as the party increased its support by 0.4 percentage points to 7.6 percent.
According to Turja, the background data does not show a similar decline in support for the Left Alliance among the over-50 age group as there was for the SDP.
There were no major changes in support for smaller parties other than Movement Now, which dropped almost a full percentage point from the previous poll.
Government coalition partner the Swedish People’s Party remained virtually unchanged on 4.3 percent, while the Christian Democrats would receive 2.8 percent of the vote if an election was held now.
Taloustutkimus interviewed 2,221 people between 2 December 2020 and 5 January 2021 for the survey. Altogether 1,504 voters revealed their party affiliation. The margin of error was +/- 2.1 percentage points.