Former Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg was a hard act to follow for successor Erna Solberg. Even though her Conservative Party won the last national election, her personal popularity lagged that of the well-liked Stoltenberg, but now that’s changed.
As Solberg approaches her first 100 days in office, a new public opinion poll indicates that 43.5 percent of Norwegians think Solberg is now best suited to be prime minister in Norway. Stoltenberg still claims a high rating himself, but it slipped to 40.4 percent.
Results of the poll, conducted by research firm Norstat for Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK), were the reverse in early November, when more Norwegians still favoured Stoltenberg over Solberg.
“There can be many reasons for that, and this can swing from month to month,” Bernt Aardal, a professor of political science and election expert, told NRK. “But actually being prime minister gives a higher degree of visibility and stature.”
Aardal notes that it’s still “sensational” that Stoltenberg remains as popular as he is among voters, after eight years as prime minister and head of a left-center government coalition that showed clear signs of exhaustion and friction before voters opted for Solberg’s conservative coalition.
“The fact that Jens still nearly matches Erna in popularity is quite sensational,” Aardal said. In most other countries, voters show a strong dissatisfaction with heads of government that they’ve voted out of office.
“Here we’re seeing much less effect of the election loss and voter discontent than we perhaps could have expected,” he said. “For Stoltenberg, this is interesting in terms of his plans to build himself up again for the next election.”
The poll was conducted between November 26 and December 2 and is based on 765 responses from voters questioned. Solberg told NRK that she was pleased more voters seemed happy with her work so far, and her ability to lead the government. She was quick to attribute her higher rating, though, to the government’s political platform and attempts to make changes in how Norway is run, as opposed to her personal appeal.