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Yle poll: SDP rise levels off, Greens slip, Finns Party hold steady

Marginal shifts in voter sentiment could signal the calm before the storm, according to one pollster.

Party poll June 2020
Image: Ilkka Kemppinen / Yle

After showing steady growth during the spring coronavirus crisis, support for Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s Social Democratic Party appears to have levelled off, according to Yle's monthly poll.

The poll showed a 1.3-percentage-point slippage for the Antti Rinne-led SDP, although it still leads the field with 21.9 percent backing from voters. The change lies well within the poll's two-percentage-point margin of error.

That is still more than four percentage points higher than its showing in last April's parliamentary elections. But it is the first wobble in support during Marin’s premiership, which many believe was bolstered by the government’s handling of the epidemic.

"SDP support has seen a small decline. It remains to be seen how permanent it is or if the trend will turn around," said Tuomo Turja, research director at Taloustutkimus, the firm that conduscted the poll for Yle.

Greens losing ground

Meanwhile government partner the Greens saw voter approval dip by one percentage point -- also within the margin of error -- to 10.9 percent. The downward trend has continued for some time.

During last year’s general election the party won over 11.5 percent of voters and when current Interior Minister Maria Ohisalo was elected party chair, one poll recorded support at 14.3 percent. The last time voter backing for the Greens fell below 11 percent was in February 2016.

According to Turja, core party supporters have migrated to the SDP, the Left Alliance and to the opposition National Coalition Party.

"The loss of support is coming from under 35-year-old men and women, students and people who have moved out of large urban areas in Finland," he noted.

He added that the Left Alliance had picked up enough former Green supporters to expand its voter base by nearly one percentage-point to 8.9 percent in the June survey.

Finns Party unscathed by scandal

The latest poll revealed no shakeups in the relative popularity of the parties, including that of the largest opposition group, the Finns Party. Support for the nationalist party did not budge and remains at 18.1 percent, making it the second-most popular party in Finland. The other main opposition party, the NCP, also saw a near-imperceptible 0.4-percent approval gain to end the survey in third place with 17.9 percent voter backing.

The survey period coincided with an uproar over a Finns Party think tank-backed book widely panned as racist and misogynistic, and which saw chair Jussi Hall-aho describe it as the party’s "mistake". The party was also making headlines for an MP’s racist tweets, but according to Turja, these incidents do not seem to have swayed voters.

"It's like that with the Hankamäki [Jukka Hankamäki, author of the book] scandal, support for the Finns Party would have risen slightly, but not enough to take it to a different level,” he noted.

However the pollster said that the current static nature of the polls suggests that upheaval may be on the way.

"There is a sense of expectation. Coronavirus restrictions are being dismantled and hopefully we will gradually move towards normal life and there will be budget negotiations in autumn. It is clear that the economic outlook is not by any means rosy. All of this could impact quite heavily on autumn polls."

Slight uplift for Centre

Meanwhile government partner the Centre Party saw a slight 0.7-percentage-point bump in voter approval to record 11.4 percent support in this poll. The poll suggests that the popularity boost came when chair Katri Kulmuni announced that she was stepping down as Finance Minister over a consultancy fee fiasco, but that it was only short-lived.

"The Centre got backing from some of its own voters as well as from undecided voters to some extent," Turja said.

Changes in support for government partner the Swedish People's Party as well as the Christian Democrats and other opposition groups did not exceed 0.5 percentage points.

Pollsters interviewed just over 2,400 voters between 3 and 30 June for the survey. The margin of error was +/- two percentage points.

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