The coronavirus crisis in Finland has tipped the scales in favour of Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s Social Democratic Party (SDP) which now tops the latest ranking in Yle's monthly voter survey.
Opposition Finns Party ended its nearly one-year streak of leading the monthly barometer since May 2019 by dropping to third position behind the National Coalition Party (NCP).
Support for the SDP has risen five percentage points during the epidemic situation in Finland, up 2.5 percentage points from last month's poll and three percentage points from the poll before that.
"It is not unprecedented, but this is quite rare and unexpected. We are in an exceptional situation, and the numbers also reflect that," says Tuomo Turja, research director of market research company Taloustutkimus.
During Marin's short term as prime minister, SDP's support has risen by almost nine percentage points. According to Turja, the Prime Minister's Party has not recorded a similar increase in popularity in his company's polls since such data has been available starting in the early 1990s.
The latest SDP reading is more than four percentage points higher than the party's result in the parliamentary elections a year ago.
The increase in popularity is explained by the fact that in Yle's March survey, a large part of the population approved the government's measures during these times. In March, a Helsingin Sanomat survey also registered this rise in popularity.
The popularity of the Finns Party has fallen by more than six percentage points during the first half of the year.
This can be explained by the coronavirus situation during which opposition parties have supported the government's actions and haven't expressed much criticism, Turja said.
Increased support from older citizens
According to Turja, among respondents aged 50–79, SDP is clearly Finland's largest party.
"If you look at those over 50 and especially over 65, then the support of the SDP has risen by several percentage points since last month, and it was already high then," he says.
Finns Party, on the other hand, has lost voters over the age of 50, especially in the latest survey.
In addition to people over the age of 50 and retirees, new support for the SDP cames mostly from women, as well as senior white-collar workers and experts.
However, Turja adds that Finns Party has managed to retain its working-class supporters despite the decline in overall support. The survey revealed that it is still the largest workers' party in Finland.
The survey's margin of error is estimated at two percentage points.