Jonas Gahr Støre’s Labour Party, the biggest party in opposition, has fallen dramatically in public opinion polls, with its new January showings the worst since before it lost the last national elections in 2013. It’s also the worst showing since Støre took over as Labour Party leader in 2014, and a huge decline from just a few months ago when it held more than 40 percent of the vote.
NRK reported Wednesday evening that Labour (Arbeiderpartiet), fell 4.9 points in its January party barometer conducted by research firm Norstat, to 29.7 percent of the vote. It’s the first time the party has been under 30 percent during Støre’s command.
The voters seemed to defect in all directions, with all the centrist parties logging relatively modest gains as did the Greens Party (MDG), which has attracted quite a few disillusioned Labour voters in the past. A random sample of voter interviews conducted by NRK showed them claiming that Labour was unclear in its positions on key issues, and it was no longer easy to determine where Labour stood.
Støre admitted that the poll numbers were bad news for Labour, which needs to muster support heading into next year’s national elections. He defended the party’s decision to go along with new government policy on asylum and immigration issues, and said it was “natural” for the government to get the credit for them.
Government parties up and down
The Conservative Party (Høyre), which leads Norway’s minority government coalition, did indeed gain the most voter support, up 2.5 points to 25 percent of the vote. Its coalition partner the Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet, Frp), however, fell by one full point to 16.3 percent of the vote.
The Progress Party’s decline came as a surprise, since it’s been steadily climbing in recent months on the back of the refugee crisis. The conservative Progress Party’s tough line on immigration and asylum issues has won support from voters worried about the influx of 31,000 asylum seekers into Norway last year, with thousands more expected this year. The Progress had been on a roll all autumn, so the January decline was difficult to decipher.
The Liberal Party (Venstre) logged the next-biggest gain after the Conservatives, rising 1.6 points to 5 percent of the vote. It’s a support party for the minority coalition government along with the Christian Democrats (Kristelig Folkeparti, KrF), which landed at 5.6 percent of the vote, up two-tenths of a point.
The left-leaning Socialist Left party (SV) was steady at 4.3 percent while its former left-center government partner the Center Party gained 0.7 points to claim 6.5 percent of the vote.
Finance Minister Siv Jensen, who leads the Progress Party, said she was pleased that her party’s standing was relatively stable. She said she wasn’t surprised Labour took a dive: “There’s a lack of clarity in the party these days. There’s a lot of waffling and it’s unclear what Jonas Gahr Støre actually means.”
Støre all but agreed, saying the party hadn’t focused on its own campaigns this fall. “The stream of refugees has been a demanding situation for the country and Labour contributed to a broad compromise on a solution,” Støre told NRK. “If it hadn’t been for the refugee crisis, the big issue would have been rising unemployment and also more attention on issues we must address, like growing income gaps among the people, the higher unemployment rate and anti-social policies from the government that we want to criticize.”