Kantar TNS: A clear majority of Helsinki residents still want to keep Malmi Airport in aviation use – support for housing construction has not increased

Feb 2, 2022

From 28 January to 2 February 2022, Kantar TNS has conducted an opinion poll on the future of Malmi Airport. Based on the answers, 53 per cent of Helsinki residents unconditionally want to keep Malmi Airport in aviation use. If the needs set for housing construction could be reasonably solved otherwise, 58 per cent of Helsinki residents would keep the field in its present use.

The number of Helsinki residents who are in favor of housing construction has remained the same as in previous years with an accuracy of one percentage point (23-28%). The city’s measures have clearly caused uncertainty among people, and the share of undecided people is now 19%, 6 percentage points more than in 2020 (13%). Even so, support for aviation use of the airport is clear – 53-58% of Helsinki residents want airplanes on the airport!

The City of Helsinki has planned housing construction to Malmi Airport. The projects have not proceeded beyond planning, but the city has taken heavy measures to prevent flight operations. The right to terminate the land lease of the runway area will still pend in courts for a long time, and the town plans approved by the council will not take effect until then. The city’s communications propagate the idea that the airport has already been lost, as evidenced by the growing number of uncertain Helsinkians.

3/4 of the supporters of the big parties want aviation

As many as 76% of the voters of the Coalition Party, the Center Party, the Finns and Liike Nyt are in favor of maintaining Malmi’s aviation operations. 61% of SDP voters are in favor of aviation. Less than half of the supporters of the left-wing parties and the Swedish Party want to keep aviation, but also less than half of them support housing construction, as long as housing construction needs can be resolved sensibly otherwise.

Reasonable solutions can indeed be found, as there are ongoing regional and supplementary construction projects in Helsinki for decades to come. For residential construction, Helsinki has elsewhere tens of times more building land than the planning area of Malmi Airport.

Citizens disagree with the City Council

“Public opinion has been repeatedly polled, and people have always been in favor of aviation use of Malmi Airport. For some reason, city officials are pushing for the most peculiar solutions to prevent aviation use – most recently, an ice rink! Some of the councilmembers also claim that the matter has already been discussed and decided by the council. The voice of the citizens has regularly been ignored in decision-making”, says Timo Hyvönen, Chairman of the Friends of Malmi Airport Association . 

“Alongside the fundamental values, this issue alone is too small to influence the voting for candidates in municipal elections. It is truly unfortunate that the people’s initiative for a municipal consultative referendum on this matter was rejected by the City Council. It is unbelievable that this instrument of direct democracy under Finnish law is not respected in Helsinki”, says Hyvönen. 

Small changes between parties

The survey also asked the resopondents about the political party they support. As in previous studies, it is once again evident that keeping the area in aviation use is supported across political borders. Changes to previous years are marginal.  

“Decision-makers should look ahead. Helsinki and aviation are both experiencing a significant transition. Aviation is turning electric and unmanned aviation is becoming more common. At the same time, Helsinki’s population is growing and connections between the capital and the rest of Finland are becoming even more important. Smart decision-makers are sure to find a solution that will serve the future of Helsinki, the people of Helsinki and the entire country in terms of connections and housing construction.”

Why do citizens want to keep Malmi Airport in aviation use?

Citizens clearly want to preserve the Malmi airport as a whole. It is a significant part of the history of independent Finland, a living natural and cultural heritage site with international recognition, and a national icon. The people of Helsinki have repeatedly expressed their desire to keep it in its original use.  

A prohibition of endangerment is in effect in the entire area due to a protection proposal made under the Building Heritage Act. The proposal is pending before the Administrative Court. 

The Finnish Parliament requires the Government to guarantee a compensatory location for Malmi’s operations as a condition for changing the land use purpose of the Malmi Airport area. In November 2021, Parliament decided to maintain this so-called Lex Malmi statement, in which the claim is registered. The Government has not fulfilled its obligation.

Kantar TNS interviewed a total of 819 Helsinki residents from 28 January to 2 February 2022. The statistical margin of error in the study is about 3.4 percentage points in each direction. The results are very similar to the corresponding polls conducted in 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2020.

2022 poll results (in Finnish) can be downloaded here

Previous poll results