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Yle poll: "Sleeping voters" could sway municipal election

A Yle poll in the run-up to the April 9 local government election shows a significant portion of the electorate – just over 56 percent – still sitting on the fence over casting their ballots. The survey places the National Coalition, Centre and Social Democratic parties nearly neck-and-neck, but so-called sleeping voters could upset the race if they decide to go to the polls.

Puoluekannatusarviot maalis- ja huhtikuun vaihteessa 2017.
Image: Yle Uutisgrafiikka

In the recent past, voters have been reluctant to share their political affiliations with pollsters. That reticence hit a peak at the end of 2015, when a record 63.3 percent of respondents interviewed wouldn’t or couldn’t say which party they backed.

Last month, the proportion of undecided voters was lower at 56 percent, but still significant enough to swing party support in any direction if those individuals decided to vote in upcoming local government elections on April 9.

"The closeness of the election is making people begin to seriously think about things," Taloustutkimus pollster Jussi Pajunen said.

He said that the consolidation of a party affiliation closer to an election is a reflection of our time.

"The group of undecideds has grown continuously. It is probably a sign of the times that people tend to make decisions at the last minute and choose who to vote for," he noted.

The Taloustutkimus poll also revealed which parties were most popular among voters who did not reveal a preference. The results indicated that the Greens and the National Coalition Party could hold out hope for potential support among sleeping voters.

A previous poll placed the SDP in the lead among this group, but the party fell to third place this time around.

NCP leads heated race ahead of local election

Despite the reservation of many voters, Yle’s latest party poll gives the National Coalition Party a narrow lead over the rest of the field ahead Sunday’s election.

Led by Prime Minister Juha Sipilä, the Centre Party overtook the opposition Social Democrats to claim second place, even as advance voting in the poll took place. Pollster Taloustutkimus conducted the voter survey from last Wednesday up to Tuesday.

However the three leading parties are essentially locked in a three-way tussle at the top of the field, given that the difference among the trio falls well within the poll’s margin of error.

The last time the Centre eclipsed the Social Democrats was back in autumn 2016, after which the prime minister-led party began to see its voter approval slide. This time it was the SDP’s turn as its popularity began to slip in the prelude to the election.

"The head of the pack has just become more cluttered in the past week. It’s all very exciting," said Taloustutkimus chief executive Pajunen.

The poll shows the closest race in years for local government elections. The difference separating the top three parties is within half a percentage-point, compared to a few percentage points previously. Because it was conducted over a shorter period than usual, the poll had a smaller sample size and a larger margin of error, some 2.5 percentage points either way.

Surprise surge from Christian Democrats

The top three parties were followed by the Greens, whose support has leveled out since last year’s record high voter approval. Still the party looks in better shape than during the last municipal election, when it has the backing of 8.5 percent of voters.

The start of campaigning for leadership elections has given the Finns Party a much-needed fillip, boosting support for the nationalists just over 10 percent in the last poll, however support has dipped ahead of Sunday’s election to 9.7 percent.

The opposition Left Alliance also enjoyed a popularity rise, but the Christian Democrats posted the biggest gains in the poll – rising by 1.5 percent points to 5.1 percent, behind the Swedish People’s Party’s 5.3 percent.

"There have recently been election debates and the campaigns are in full swing. That may have given the Christian Democrats more visibility," Pajunen speculated.

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