STRATEGIC VOTING became a hot topic of discussion after the parliamentary elections held in Finland in April.
The Social Democratic Party, in particular, was accused of “stealing” votes from the Green League and Left Alliance because chairperson Sanna Marin framed the elections as a choice between a right-wing government and one led by the Social Democrats.
“If the National Coalition or Finns Party wins, we’ll have a right-wing, blue-black government that’ll pursue harsh austerity policies,” she warned during an election debate hosted by MTV in March.
It appears that the framing had an effect on voters, reveals a study published in June by Åbo Akademi University. The study found that nearly a third of those who had previously voted for the Green League or Left Alliance voted for the Social Democratic Party.
Kimmo Grönlund, a professor of political science at Åbo Akademi University, views that Marin had a major impact on voter choices.
“When we measured how popular different party leaders are, Marin came out on top by a clear margin among Finns. And that she so strongly pleaded in her campaign that the only way to prevent the formation of a right-wing government is to vote for candidates of the Social Democrats. These two things combined show that Marin’s role was big,” he stated to YLE on Saturday.
The Green League and Left Alliance, which each lost about a third of its seats in the parliament, were not the only major losers of the parliamentary elections.
The Centre slumped to its worst result in history, winning eight fewer seats than in 2019. The study found that 10 per cent of those who had voted for the party in 2019 voted for the Finns Party and 9 per cent for the National Coalition.
The Swedish People’s Party and Finns Party, by contrast, managed to hold on to roughly 80 per cent of their old supporters.
Researchers at Åbo Akademi also gauged the popularity of party leaders among both the general public and the supporters of their respective parties, finding that three party leaders outperformed their parties among supporters: Marin, Sari Essayah of the Christian Democrats and Li Andersson of the Left Alliance.
While Marin received a score on a scale of 1–10 that was 0.4 points higher than that of the Social Democrats, Essayah outscored her party by 0.2 points and Andersson by 0.1 points.
Maria Ohisalo of the Green League, Petteri Orpo of the National Coalition and Annika Saarikko of the Centre each received a score that was roughly a point lower than that of the party they led.
“The party chairperson can in the best-case scenario boost their party’s support, but a party can get a good result even if its chairperson isn’t terribly popular,” Grönlund stated to YLE.
One interesting observation is that the premiership has been won by a party with a fairly unpopular chairperson in two consecutive elections. The Social Democratic Party won the 2019 elections with Antti Rinne at the helm, the National Coalition the 2023 elections with Orpo at the helm.
“Orpo is the more popular of these two, but when you examine [popularity] among the party’s supporters also he’s unpopular. The election result depends also on other factors than who’s the chairperson. It’s about the big picture of what the government and opposition are doing and what kind of policies the party wants to implement.”
The Finns Party, the study also found, was either the most popular or jointly most popular party in all age brackets before retirement age, winning up to 28 per cent of votes in the 45–54 years bracket. The populist right-wing party appealed especially to young and middle-aged men, according to Grönlund.
The National Coalition, Social Democrats and Centre all outperformed the party among over 65-year-olds, though, with shares of 26, 24 and 16 per cent respectively.
The Social Democratic Party has received more and more support from young people, even though over 65-year-olds continue to support it the most widely.
“This started already under Jutta Urpilainen, when women started increasingly voting for the Social Democrats. And now young women have been voting for it too, with Marin being extremely popular,” analysed Grönlund.
Aleksi Teivainen – HT