Labour dives in new opinion poll

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Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and his Labour Party have taken a beating in recent weeks, suffering a huge loss in voter popularity according to a new public opinion poll. Labour has fallen nearly 10 full points since the September election, and once again is running neck-and-neck with Norway’s most conservative party.

The Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet, Frp) now holds 25.1 percent of the vote, compared to just 25.8 percent for Labour (Arbeiderpartiet) , according to the poll conducted by research firm Norstat for newspaper group ANB.

The new numbers show that Labour has lost 9.6 points, from the 35.4 percent of the vote it secured on September 14, which won re-election for Stoltenberg’s left-center coalition government.

“Never has any prime minister fallen so steeply in such a short time after a re-election as Jens Stoltenberg,” said Arne Strand, political commentator and editor of newspaper Dagsavisen .Labour’s two coalition partners, the Socialist Left (SV) and the Center Party (Sp) have fared better, with SV actually gaining a bit to claim 7.6 percent of the vote and Sp falling just over a point to 5.1 percent of the vote.

Labour’s loss has been a gain for Frp and the Conservative Party (Høyre) rose as well, to 22.1 percent. That means Frp and Høyre now have more than 47 percent of the vote, compared to the government’s 38.5 percent. It may not mean much more than a boost of moral support for Norway’s two leading conservative parties, which seem to be cooperating better of late, but it does strengthen their credibility.

Stoltenberg’s fall in popularity is believed linked to Labour’s controversial stands on environmental issues, which have drawn fire from environmental advocates. Most recently Stoltenberg got the blame for pushing through removal of a tax exemption on biodiesel, setting off screams of protest from supporters of renewable energy sources. They felt betrayed by Stoltenberg and his government partners, although at least his partners said they regretted the proposal and shouldn’t have supported it.

The Christian Democrats (Kristelig Folkepartiet, KrF) continue to lose voter support, falling to just 5.2 percent after suffering its worst election ever with just 5.5 percent in September.

The small Liberal Party (Venstre) regained some support, moving up to 4.7 percent from 3.9 percent in September.