The five-party government led by prime minister Antti Rinne has seen voter approval rise for the first time since it took office, according to a new Taloustutkimus survey for Yle.
The poll shows that the administration has been buoyed by rising approval for the Greens. The Centre led by outgoing chair and ex-PM Juha Sipilä also saw signs of regaining some voter intentions during the survey period.
"Combined support for the government parties is now 57 percent. The administration has a mandate to govern," said Taloustutkimus research chief Tuomo Turja. A poll by daily Helsingin Sanomat at the end of July put support for the government coalition at 55.3 percent.
The pollster noted that although party polls have seen wild fluctuations in recent years, support for the largest opposition parties has remained constant over the past few months. The right-of-centre Finns Party remains the party the largest proportion of electors say they’ll vote for if an election were held now, with 19,6 percent of popular sentiment. This level of support has more or less held steady for the past couple of months.
The National Coalition Party, which is also now in opposition after having been in government since 2007, also appears to have cemented its level of voter backing, recording 16.8 percent approval in the latest poll. Reading the numbers, Turja said that the Finns Party has claimed the mantle of the country’s largest workers’ party, however support from the business sector declined in the last survey. The NCP meanwhile, managed to boost its approval among the business class.
Greens wake sleeping voters
Turja noted that among the five-party coalition, the Greens were able to rouse sleeping voters among its own ranks and also poached some backing from the Left Alliance and the NCP to post 15.1 percent voter approval.
The Centre shift the tide of its slow decline to post an improvement of 0.9 percentage-points and finish the poll with 12.6 percent support.
"It’s now reached rock bottom but it’s still there. Baseline support for the Centre appears to be around 12 percent," Turja observed.
Turja added that after the party’s election drubbing followed by its confusing decision to join the government, some voters have returned to the fold. He noted that the slight rebound was driven by backing in its traditional strongholds.
In addition, a look at weekly polling for the party showed no indication that its imminent leadership election was affecting levels of support.
All of the movement in party approval scores were well within the poll's margin of error, +/- two percentage points.
SDP support generally down in summer
The downward slide in approval for Rinne’s SDP that began after the election also appears to have halted. Voter backing for the party stood at 16.3 percent in the latest survey, the same as in June.
However the numbers suggest that the party suffers from a seasonal summer slump in the polls. Yle surveys from 2013 to 2017 indicate that the party always scores its lowest ratings in one of the summer months.
Turja said that for some reason during the summer the party’s message fails to reach core supporters – blue- and white-collar workers – which was also the case in July this year. He added that the decline has taken place in key SDP territory such as western Finland and in provincial centres.
In 2016 Rinne explained the decline in support by saying that during the summer, then-government ministers had greater opportunities for publicity because of their work. That hypothesis no longer applies now that his party is in government.
Turja said that the new poll shows a typical post-election trend.
"During summer [overall] party support begins to fall, it’s close to 80 percent after elections and now it’s around 71 percent," he noted.
"After elections people are active about sharing their party affiliation, but I believe that during the autumn voters will be more uncertain."
The pollster predicted greater movement in party support during the autumn after a quiet summer. Taloustutkimus interviewed 2,451 respondents between 8 July and 6 August for the survey. Nearly 1,750 of them revealed their party affiliations.