Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s Social Democratic Party (SDP) is the most popular party in Finland just over two months ahead of municipal elections, despite a slight slip in support, according to the results of Yle's latest monthly political party poll.
Support for the Jussi Halla-aho-led Finns Party, which topped last month’s poll, fell by over three percent to leave the populists in second place just ahead of the centre-right National Coalition Party (NCP), which saw a two percent boost in support.
"The SDP looks like it will be in pole position going into the municipal election campaign. The Finns Party and the National Coalition Party, on the other hand, are very close to each other," pollster Taloustutkimus’ Research Director Tuomo Turja told Yle.
Centre Party in "historically difficult position"
The SDP’s government coalition partners the Centre Party saw a one percent increase in voter backing during the latest polling period, consolidating its position as the fourth most popular party in the country.
The traditionally rural party, led by Annika Saarikko, has usually been a strong municipal election performer but faces a tough challenge in the upcoming election, according to Markku Jokisipilä, Director of the Centre for Parliamentary Studies.
"The party is now in a historically difficult place. The progress of the Centre Party would require almost complete success in candidate nominations and campaigning," Jokisipilä said, adding that if the party fails in these matters, the election result could be one of the weakest since the 1950s.
Background data from the Yle poll indicates that a significant number of those who voted for the Centre Party in the previous municipal election have now moved to the sidelines, unsure of where their vote will go.
However, Jokisipilä added that the results of the latest Yle poll tells more about the parties' support potential in the municipal elections, rather than being a strong indicator of the final result. This is because all parties are still recruiting candidates, and voter support will depend heavily on the number of good candidates parties offer to the electorate.
SDP's lead "not surprising"
The SDP’s return to top spot in the latest poll is no surprise, according to both Jokisipilä and Turja, as the party’s support has risen in a number of different polls and party chair Marin enjoys widespread popularity.
Despite the dip in support for the Finns Party, Jokisipilä believes the party will still be satisfied with the poll results, especially as a similar outcome in the election would be a significant improvement on the municipal elections of 2017, when the party polled just 8.8 percent of votes.
"The support for the Finns Party in the municipal elections has not been at the same level as for parliamentary elections. A peculiar feature of the Finns Party among the larger parties has been that it has been smaller as a municipal party," Jokisipilä said, adding that the party’s rise in support has been based on positioning itself as an alternative to other parties.
"Now it will be interesting to see if the party will be able to seize on the support shown in the poll," said Turja of Taloustutkimus.
Meanwhile the NCP, which has been Finland’s largest party for the past three municipal elections in a row, is aiming to perform even stronger this time around. The party performed better at the ballot box in 2017 than the polls had predicted, Jokisipilä recalls.
Voter backing for the other parties in the latest poll changed only very slightly, with the Green Party remaining on 11.4 percent while the Left Alliance and the Swedish People’s Party saw their support fall and rise by 0.4 percent respectively.
Taloustutkimus interviewed 2,468 people between 11 January and 2 February 2021 for the survey. Altogether 1,605 voters revealed their party affiliation. The margin of error was +/- 2.1 percentage points.