Increased voter support has propelled the opposition Social Democratic Party (SDP) to become Finland’s most popular party, suggests Yle’s monthly poll.
The results come in the wake of widespread voter disapproval of the government’s model to activate the unemployed.
The poll shows that 21 percent of respondents support the SDP, compared with 20 percent support for the National Coalition Party (NCP) and 17 percent for the Centre Party. The SDP's edge over the NCP is well within the poll's margin of error, however.
"The SDP has grown more popular since January and at the moment it is neck-to-neck with the NCP," said Tuomo Turja of Taloustutkimus, who carried out the survey on behalf of Yle.
It appears that the SDP's traditional devotees are returning home, as support for the party rose the most among pensioners, men living in small towns and respondents with vocational educations.
Bad news for the coalition
The poll does not bode well for the centre-right government parties, who with combined support of 38.6 percent are considerably behind the red-green parties of the opposition, which boast a 44.4 percent popularity level.
With a narrow majority of six MPs in Parliament, the government cannot allow many dissidents if it wants to push through its key reform of health and social care. On Wednesday, NCP MP Elina Lepomäki caused a commotion by announcing that she would vote against the reform.
Since municipal elections last spring, the NCP has held the position of Finland’s most popular party while its coalition partner – the Centre Party – has seen its support wane.
The numbers have not been helped by Centre Party maverick Paavo Väyrynen first splitting the vote in the presidential election as an independent candidate and now contesting the party leadership. As a result, the party of Prime Minister Juha Sipilä has fallen to third place in the poll.
The Swedish People’s Party suffered a surprisingly large drop in support, 1.7 percentage points. However Turja believes the unexpected decline is based on interviewers reaching fewer Swedish-speakers this time.
Researchers interviewed 2,710 people between 7 and 28 February. The poll’s margin of error is +/- 2.1 percentage points.