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Report: New Left-Green led Grand Coalition enjoys 78% approval rating

By Staff

  • New Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir is the second woman to serve as Prime Minister of Iceland. Photo/Stefán

The newly formed coalition government is off to a great start, according to the latest Gallup poll: 78% of voters say they support the new government. This is a higher approval rating than any government has had since prior to the 2008 crash.

Strong gains for the Left Greens
The poll, conducted by the local newspaper Fréttablaðið, finds that the two largest parties are the conservative Independence Party, with 26.4% support and the Left-Greens with 23.5% support. The third coalition member, the centrist Progress party is the fourth largest party, with 11.3% support. All three parties gain support compared to the 28 October elections. 

Read more: Report: Grand Coalition a reality: Left Greens, conservative Independence party join forces

The Left Greens, who lead the coalition gain most, 6.6 percentage points. The party received 16.9% of the vote in the elections. This suggests that voters are pleased with the decision by Katrín Jakobsdóttir, the leader of the Left Greens, to gamble on an unprecedented cooperation with the conservative Independence Party. Historically the Left Greens, heirs to the Socialist Party, and the Independence Party have been sworn political foes. The parties have not worked together in government since 1944-47 when Iceland saw its last Grand Coalition.

The largest opposition party, the Social Democratic Alliance, also gains support since the election. The party, which is the third largest, now polls at 13.4%, up 1.4 percentage points since the elections when it received 12% of the vote. All other opposition parties lose ground. 

Grassroots anger
Many in the grassroots of the Left Green Movement have voiced anger and frustration that the party decided to work with the Independence Party, which may left-wing activists view as toxic. The party and its leadership have repeatedly found themselves embroiled in scandals and controversies. Citing these concerns two MPs for the Left Greens voted against the government.

Read more: The struggle to keep conservatives out of power: A full chronicle of the day's political developments

The party leadership has argued it was willing to work with the Independence Party after it became clear the Left Greens would be left in the minority if they rejected working with the conservatives. Attempts to form a broad center-left coalition had collapsed because the center-left parties would have had an extremely narrow 32-31 seat majority in Parliament. The Grand Coalition has the support of 33 MPs or 35 if the two Left Green MPs who have voiced concern over the government are included.

Read more: Analysis: Populist parties, Talk Radio victorious in snap election

The leadership of the Left Greens also argued that once it became clear the Independence Party was willing to concede the office of Prime Minister and sign off on an agreement which incorporated key demands of the Left Greens it would have been irresponsible not to reach across the aisle and work together to make much needed investments in physical and social infrastructure. 

Best honeymoon poll in more than a decade
Coalition governments always enjoy a honeymoon period, and government approval ratings have historically been higher during the first few weeks or months after an election. However, one needs to go back more than 10 years to find a coalition government which starts off with more support. The last coalition, the conservative led center-right coalition formed after the 2016 election only enjoyed a 43.6% approval rating when it took office. Support plunged shortly thereafter, and was around 30% when it fell in September and new elections were called.

The two other post-crash coalition governments also began with significantly less support. The 2009-13 left-wing government started off with a 65% approval rating, while the 2013-16 center-right coalition enjoyed a 62.4% approval rating when it took office. 

One needs to go back to December of 2007 to find higher approval ratings for a coalition government. In June 2007 the Social Democratic Alliance and the Independence Party formed a coalition government which enjoyed a whopping 83% approval rating for its first month in office. By December this had slipped to 77%. Support for this coalition collapsed following the 2008 financial crash, bottoming out at 26% approval in January 2009, the lowest approval ratings any government has enjoyed since Gallup began tracking government approval ratings.

 

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