Yhteiskuntapolitiikka

Who Are Those Brave Men Who Support the (True) Finns?

In another move that has left very little room for interpretation with regard to the party’s intentions on the Finnish political stage – and should have signaled that some time for reflection is needed in the headquarters of the main political parties – the radical right populist True Finns (PS/ Perussuomalaiset/ Sannfinländarna) has chosen to drop the ‘true’ particle in their name’s English version and title themselves simply and perplexingly: The Finns (in Swedish, här). Besides the argument that most foreign media has been misusing their name, there is a deeper lying explanation and has to do less with the foreign media, than with the PS’ captive electorate: the Finns (the party) thereby appeal to those that have cast their vote for them that they the Finns (the voters) are to see themselves as one with all the Finns (the people). In other words, through a simple name change, the PS has anchored itself ever more comfortably in the populist discursive field, thus erasing the difference between a small community within the Finnish society and the society as a whole, while proclaiming its representativeness for the whole Finnish society.

Such claims of homogeneity and representativeness have nevertheless determined the media to scrutinize into the PS’ voter profile. Taloustutkimus hurried with a survey that was aimed to offer a better picture of the PS supporters. The survey was first published in Yhteiskuntapolitiikka (in Finnish, tässä) and later on was popularized further by among others Helsingin Sanomat, the Finnish daily with the widest circulation in the country (a more recent article in Finnish, tässä; in English, here). The study revealed that the PS has a serious support base among the workers and lower middle class small entrepreneurs. Noteworthy, the PS supporters are spread among all income categories. They also appear to share an affinity with the voters of governing conservatives, the National Coalition Party (Kok/ Kansallinen Kokoomus/ Samlingspartiet), in terms of conservative values. Nonetheless, the educational profile of the PS supporters is below the Finnish average, but this however does not necessarily mean that the party does not have its voters among the student population in Finnish universities. In addition to that, the finding that two thirds of the PS supporters are recruited among men was flatly reported as a stereotype with ‘some factual basis’ (a wording present in the English version of the Helsingin Sanomat article, see link above).

The media hype thus created around the PS voters unfortunately lost focus on certain important aspects. For instance to which extent does the fact that the party has a serious gender imbalance in terms of its electoral support reflect into the media’s labeling of the PS as a ‘party encompassing all classes of people’ (as the aforementioned English version of the Helsingin Sanomat article claims)? Is this representative for all Finnish parties, or is it rather a defining aspect of the radical populist parties that in the specialist literature are even called ‘men’s parties’ (Männerparteien)? And if the previous holds true, how much do the PS converge with the Finnish political mainstream and to which extent is the party actually getting closer to the other such radical right populist parties across Europe?

Even more so, is it to be understood that the unit of comparison in the Finnish context for a party to be part of the mainstream is to be voted by (Finnish) men? Are the voting patterns of Finnish women less representative and thereby there is no need to investigate the reasons of the gender imbalance among the PS supporters? Looking closer at the voter base of the PS, to which extent their support reflects a ‘perceived’ uncertainty (in this context, my previous blog entry discussing the situation of a ‘perceived precariousness’ becomes perhaps more anchored into reality)? In the end, one may wonder to which extent the media’s unabated reporting on the PS as part of the political mainstream does actually contribute to the party’s normalization?

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Monday, September 12th, 2011 Research No Comments