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Study contradicts stereotypes of True Finns supporters
Opponents of the populist True Finns (or “The Finns”) party tend to see a typical supporter of the group as containing a pinch of marginalised suburbanite, a dash of young man ranting against immigration on an online message board, with a helping of blue-collar worker seething with hatred of bigwigs.
However, a study published on Friday last week in the journal Yhteiskuntapolitiikka paints a more nuanced picture of the group.
The study, based on an extensive opinion survey, suggests that the various stereotypes linked with the party are far from the truth. One in five supporters earns more than the Finnish average in annual income.
As a whole, the annual earnings of True Finns supporters are close to the national average, although their level of formal education is slightly below the average.
Forty per cent of the party’s supporters see themselves as working class - a percentage matched only by the Left Alliance.
The True Finns also have many supporters among entrepreneurs - especially among taxi drivers and other small businesspeople.
Party chairman Timo Soini agrees with the results of the study.
“Two groups - the workers and small entrepreneurs - are clearly ahead of the others among our supporters”, he says.
The True Finns also have a foothold among university students - exceeded only by the Green League.
The extensive support that the party has in different professions suggests that the True Finns are becoming a party encompassing all classes of people. Support is also fairly even around the country and among people of different ages.
Political scientist, Dr. Maunu J. Vuorio, a True Finns activist of long standing, largely agrees that the party has both working class and academically educated supporters.
“Talk about a party of old country geezers is best forgotten. We cover a broad range, except for Green thinking, which we do not do very much”, Vuorio says.
One stereotype that does have some factual basis is that the True Finns are mainly supported by men.
The survey found that two out of three supporters of the party are male.
There are also signs that the True Finns may have some staying power; party loyalty has grown stronger during the summer.
Juho Rahkonen, head of research at the Taloustutkimus polling organisation which conducted the survey, said that supporters agree with with Soini’s decision to stay in opposition in spite of the party’s historic election victory.
Rahkonen feels that Soini took a calculated risk, which seems to have paid off. The risk was that those voting for the party would have accused it of shirking responsibility. “It was a shrewd move, and shows that Soini is knowledgeable of the way of thinking among his party’s supporters.”
The survey suggests that the eurozone crisis and economic uncertainty are likely to increase the party’s support further.
Rahkonen believes that Soini calculated that Europe’s economic situation will not improve in the near future, making it more expedient to remain in opposition.
“There’s no need to sit in the back seat of a minister’s Audi, sweating over how to deal with the decisions on collateral. All he has to do is to say that they won’t work, thereby establishing a reputation as a truth-teller”, Rahkonen says.
Soini denies any such calculations. “We would have gone into the government if Finland’s EU policy could have been changed.”
Rahkonen says that the euro crisis works in favour of the party. “The True Finns are preparing for a democratic coup in the next municipal elections”, he says.