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Voter support split evenly between coalitions: poll

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Voter support split evenly between coalitions: poll
11:37 CEST+02:00
Sweden's ruling centre-right coalition has registered its strongest support since 2006 in a new poll, and is now in a statistical dead heat with the Red-Green opposition.

The poll by Novus Opinions for TV4 puts support for the governing Alliance for Sweden at 46.5 percent of decided voters, an increase of 2.3 percentage points since Novus' last poll. Meanwhile, backing for the Red-Green opposition shrank 2.5 percentage points to 47.5 percent of decided voters. The difference between the blocks is now so small that it is statistically insignificant.

The latest surge for the Alliance is mostly due to growing support for Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt's Moderate Party, which rose from 28.3 to 31.2 percent. This represents the highest level of support the party has registered in a Novus poll since the 2006 parliamentary election.

"They've been more successful than I expected them to be," Arne Modig, a public opinion expert and one of Sweden's top political advocacy analysts, told The Local.

"What has happened in last month is that the two main coalitions have had a number of debates. Reinfeldt has performed well in these debates. That is the main reason behind that."

A total of 2,000 respondents were polled from April 27th to May 10th on who they would vote for if an election were held now. During the polling period, the opposition unveiled its shadow budget and the economic crisis in Greece dominated the news. The Novus voter barometer shows that during the polling period, there has been a degree of mobilization among conservative supporters, while at the same time, there has been a demobilization among opposition voters.

"What is happening now favours the Alliance," Modig told The Local. "The experience in Sweden in the autumn of 2008 shows that when this crisis comes back internationally, this favours the government and the leading party of the government, as well as the prime minister. The Greek crisis will favour Reinfeldt. The conservatives are in power and Finance Minister Anders Borg has a good record in handling the crisis in 2008 and 2009. A lot of people think he's a competent finance minister."

The proportion of undecided voters was 14.3 percent. Modig added that the average turnout for Swedish elections is 80 to 82 percent, in line with the 86 percent of respondents who named a political party during polling. He told The Local that the margin of error for the poll is about 3.2 percent for the Moderates and Social Democrats and slightly lower for the smaller parties.

The poll points to several changes in public opinion, implying a new political situation. Both the Social Democrats and Green Party lost ground. The Social Democrats have the support of 33.6 percent, down 2.2 percentage points.

A big setback for the Red-Greens was a fall in support for the Green Party, which in recent years has succeeded in attracting many of the urban middle class voters that the coalition needs to win to form a majority. But Novus shows the Green Party's backing declined for the second poll in a row to 8.3 percent.

Support for the Green Party has not fallen to such levels since prior to the European Parliament election in 2009, when it polled similar numbers.

"It not been a successful for the Green Party. It's very surprising - nobody in Sweden would have guessed this would happen," Modig said.

Modig said the poll was taken at a time during which the opposition were in the spotlight:

"What has happened in the last two weeks when we conducted the interviews is that the Red-Green alliance has presented its politics in more detail," Modig told The Local.

"This is the second poll showing a close gap between the two blocks in the current situation. There are very evident political differences between the two blocks and their parties. The Red-Greens have to carry on and develop their politics even more. There is still an ongoing debate about the taxation of houses. They have not yet decided what they want to happen. They are very unspecific."

The remainder of the parties in Sweden's parliament, the Riksdag, registered statistically insignificant changes. Support for the Liberal Party dropped 0.1 percentage points to 6.3 percent, the Centre Party remained unchanged at 4.9 percent and the Christian Democrats lost 0.7 percentage points with 4.1 percent support.

The only party in the red-green coalition that gained was the Left Party, which rose 1.1 percentage points to 5.6 percent. The nationalist Sweden Democrats also increased, by 1 percentage point to 4.6 percent, suggesting that they would hold the balance of power if an election were held now.

"It's hard to say why they [Sweden Democrats] increased," Modig told The Local. "Going from 3.6 to 4.6 percent, this is not much of a change. You have a situation in Sweden where they were polling more than 4 percent, then in the spring, it fell. This should be an indication that they have a full opportunity to reach parliament."

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