Finland Votes: Conflicting Poll Numbers, But Niinistö Still Leads

With so many polls trying to predict the outcome of Sunday's election, some of the races are too close to call.

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File picture of woman voting in election with Finnish flag behind / Credit: Getty Images

The latest presidential opinion polls paint a confusing picture for voters, political analysts and campaigns alike.

One thing is clear, incumbent President Sauli Niinistö (NCP, CD) is leading by a long way from the rest of the pack. But what’s less clear is if he will be able to get more than 50% in the first round of voting on Sunday.

Niinistö’s support has melted away in recent weeks. Surveys by state-funded broadcaster YLE put Niinistö at 80% support in November. By the turn of the year he was down to 72%. And in the latest YLE poll released this morning, he had dropped to 68%.

Jari Pajunen, Managing Director of Taloustutkimus, which carried out the polls for YLE, thinks that a second round of voting will be unlikely. The poll interviewed a thousand people from 8th to 17th January. The margin of error is just under 2%

Support for a sitting president before an election is expected, but it was also always expected to fall as other campaigns got underway.

Helsingin Sanomat’s Different Poll Numbers

National newspaper Helsingin Sanomat also released their own survey on Thursday, and it shows President Niinistö on 58% – that’s a full 10% lower than the new YLE poll.

The Helsingin Sanomat poll questioned a smaller sample – just 500 people – in weeks two and three, to get these latest results.

“With this blazing rate, the support of Niinistö would fall below 50 percent perhaps next week. For the rivals of Niinistö, it is only regrettable that the elections are already on Sunday” write HS political correspondent Marko Junkkari.

How The Other Candidates Are Polling – YLE

The two most recent polls from YLE and Helsingin Sanomat show mixed fortunes for the other seven candidates trailing President Niinistö.

YLE has Pekka Haavisto (Green) on 14%; with Laura Huhtasaari (Finns) and Paavo Väyrynen (Ind) tied for third place on 6% each.

The remaining candidates scored even more poorly in the YLE poll, with candidates for two of Finland’s biggest political parties, former Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen (Centre) and former minister Tuula Haatainen (SDP) on 4% and 2% respectively.

One bright spot is the Left Alliance candidate Merja Kyllönen who is polling above expectations in the YLE survey at 4% – achieved with the smallest campaign budget of the candidates who have filed advance financial information.

How The Other Candidates Are Polling – Helsingin Sanomat

The latest HS survey shows a slow upward trend for Pekka Haavisto at 13%. And then Paavo Väyrynen in third place with 7%, something he was quick to mention on social media today.

The HS poll has Laura Huhtasaari, Merja Kyllönen and Tuula Haatainen all tied on 5%. With Matti Vanhanen and Nils Torvalds (Swedes) tied on 4%.

Difficult Predictions

In the final days of campaigning, candidates can still boost their voter percentage.

“The presidential election polls, and the election results may differ quite a bit from each other” says Jari Pajunen.

In the 2012 presidential race, Paavo Väyrynen was polling just 10% a week before the election but finished a close third with 17.5% after all the votes were counted.

Väyrynen has consistently complained that in previous election campaigns, the media under-reported his popularity. Väyrynen himself has said that his supporters might be reluctant to tell pollsters that they would in fact vote for him.