2007-04-08

What's important? II

Previously I dealt with the government parties. This one's dedicated to the loyal opposition. As previously, the data comes from Vaalit ja demokratia Suomessa by Heikki Paloheimo et al. In a 2003 survey respondents were asked how important they considered 30 different possible political issues to be. Then the authors calculated how the answers correlated with party support.

Social Democratic Party

Social Democrats are, perhaps surprisingly to some right-wingers, very close to the political centre on most issues. There are very few goals which they rate much higher or lower than the average voter does. When everything is taken together, however, the picture becomes clearer.

The one goal Social Democrats think is clearly more important than the average voter is:

  • Securing the level of public services
To anyone who has listened to Social Democratic leaders' rhetoric, this shouldn't come as a huge surprise.

A few rungs of the ladder down, we find:
  • Decreasing unemployment
  • Strengthening the integration of the European Union
  • Securing the level of health care and medical care
The EU thing may surprise some, but at the time the party was led by the noted europhile Paavo Lipponen.

Of goals Social Democrats find less important than the rest, only one really stands out:
  • Improving the conditions of entrepreneurship
Maybe that's the party's labor union wing talking.

Social Democrats can compete with Centre Party supporters for the title of the most centrist lot fairly evenly, but they are nevertheless noticeably centre-left. Emphasizing the importance of government-provided services seems to be the defining characteristic, the one issue on which they stand out.

If it's somewhat difficult to find the defining characteristics of Social Democrats, analyzing the other opposition parties doesn't pose the same problem. All four stand out, but in very different ways.

Left Alliance

The two big issues Leftists find more important than the average voter is:
  • Improving the status of poor people
  • Securing the level of health care and medical care
Slightly less significant, but still good predictors of Leftist leanings, are:
  • Improving the income of the unemployed
  • Securing the level of care for the elderly
It's pretty safe to say that Leftists support an interventionist government which helps the needy. The notable feature is emphasis on support for the poor and the unemployed, not only the sick and the old.

There are also a number of goals they think are significantly less important than the average voter:
  • Cutting taxes
  • Reducing crime
  • Increasing discipline and order in society
  • Improving the conditions of entrepreneurship
And rock bottom, as befits an ex-communist party:
  • Strengthening religious values
In effect, Leftists are the anti-Coalitionists. The topics on which the two are on the same side of the centre are few and often they're at the opposite ends of the spectrum.

Christian Democrats

Christian Democrats have one overarching concern, which shouldn't be too difficult to guess. Yes, it's...
  • Strengthening religious values
The positive correlation between supporting Christian Democrats and finding strengthening religious values important is in fact the biggest of any party/issue correlation in the survey, comfortably beating out even Greens' emphasis on increasing the efficiency of environmental protection.

The two other big issues for Christian Democrats are:
  • Strengthening traditional values and moral beliefs
  • Increasing foreign development aid
Both flow fairly naturally from the Christian angle.

Compared to the above three issues, in everything else Christian Democrats are fairly close to the political centre. There are some issues they don't find as important as the average voter, like:
  • Decreasing differences in regional development
  • Strengthening the integration of the European Union
But these are not the issues that drive the party's support. Promoting socially conservative, Christian values is the important thing.

True Finns

Unsurprisingly, True Finns have a number of issues on which they stand out.
  • Reducing crime
  • Increasing discipline and order in society
  • Limiting foreign workers' entry into the country
  • Improving living conditions
  • Limiting refugees' entry into the country
Conclusion: they live in crime-ridden concrete suburbs and hate foreigners.

As supporters of a party that largely defines itself by its opposition to things, True Finns are also well defined by the things they find less important than the average voter:
  • Improving the status of poor people
  • Strengthening the integration of the European Union
  • Improving the status of racial or other minorities
  • Improving the status of families with children
  • Increasing the efficiency of environmental protection
I was surprised by the lack of emphasis on improving the status of poor people, as I recall seeing demographic data which indicated that True Finn voters are less wealthy than the average Finn. Maybe they see "poor people" as code for "refugees". In general, party supporters don't share the right-wing economic goals of e.g Coalitionists, but also reject a number of left-wing goals. The picture is one of an isolationist, authoritarian, contrarian bunch.

4 comments:

Passer-by said...

Again, very interesting data there. I was kinda surprised that Soc Dems are so centrist. Also the True Finns have a couple of surprises: They didn't find it important to improve the conditions of poor people. And "increasing discipline and order in society" sounds a little strange for them too. Maybe the thing is, that Timo Soini has actually a little different political agenda compared to most of his supporters? He seems to often talk about poor people and less fortunate - it may have to do with his Christian faith too.

Ari said...

Re True Finns and discipline and order, a possible explaining factor is that in the 2003 election about 37% of True Finns voters were more precisely Tony Halme voters. Halme's agenda was a bit more extreme than Soini's.

Passer-by said...

Oh yes, there is the Halme effect in the play, I completely forgot it. Still, I feel that Soini is more moderate and talks more about poor people than the overall True Finns supporter.

Passer-by said...

*average True Finns supporter, of course