EDITORIAL: Väyrynen gaining, Lipponen stagnates
There is finally some movement to be seen in opinion polls concerning the upcoming presidential elections, according to November’s Helsingin Sanomat Gallup poll.
The popularity of National Coalition Party candidate Sauli Niinistö certainly remains overwhelming. However, Niinistö’s numbers have fallen since the October HS poll. Among all citizens, Niinistö would be getting the backing of 44 per cent.
If the sample is reduced to include only those who actually gave an opinion, Niinistö is getting just over 50 per cent. With these figures it is unlikely that Niinistö would be elected in the first round.
In a possible second round Niinistö would easily defeat his rival, no matter who is running against him.
The most interesting changes have taken place among the other candidates. Support for the True Finns’ Timo Soini has risen by three points, and that of Paavo Väyrynen has gone up by four. The Social Democrats’ Paavo Lipponen and the Greens’ Pekka Haavisto remain unchanged.
In the previous survey Lipponen was still slightly ahead of Väyrynen now Väyrynen has overtaken Lipponen.
A gap of three percentage points cannot be seen as very ominous at this stage of the election campaign, but some conclusions might be drawn from it.
Väyrynen was chosen as the Centre Party’s presidential candidate at an extraordinary party congress just before the most recent survey. Väyrynen has gathered additional support specifically from Centre Party supporters, who said in the previous poll that they would vote for Niinistö, or who did not yet know who to vote for.
Now a majority of Centre Party voters are already saying that they will vote for Väyrynen. In the previous survey, Niinistö was more popular among Centre Party supporters than Väyrynen.
Väyrynen’s path to the presidential candidacy of the Centre Party was not easy, even though he was finally nominated unanimously. The party leadership tried to the very end to find another high-profile Centre Party figure, as well as the politically non-committed Jorma Ollila, but all that remained was Väyrynen.
The rise in support for Väyrynen especially among his own forces suggests that party loyalty is beginning to reassert itself. Väyrynen might also appeal to those in the Centre Party who were disappointed in their party and voted for the True Finns in the parliamentary elections.
Paavo Lipponen offers a different kind of example. He was supposed to be the Social Democrats’ salvation in the presidential elections. This has not worked out – at least not yet. Support for Lipponen has declined since the previous survey. Niinistö remains more popular among SDP supporters than Lipponen.
It would be interesting to know how many members of labour unions affiliated with the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK) plan to vote for Lipponen, and how many plan to vote for someone else – Soini for instance.
In previous direct presidential elections there has been considerable fluctuation in poll numbers. For that reason, a difference of a couple of percentage points is not yet of decisive significance.
Changes in support for the various candidates are still so small that it would be somewhat daring to predict any trends on their basis. One could imagine, however, that the voters might group themselves more behind the candidate of their “own party” than is the case now.
There are already weak signs of this trend in this survey. The number of those who are undecided has declined by a couple of percentage points. People are starting to find their own candidates. After all, presidential elections are the most popular elections in Finland.
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 15.11.2011
Presidential poll: Niinistö remains overwhelming front-runner, Väyrynen support rising (15.11.2011)