From Iceland — Most Icelanders Against Privatising Banks, Public Services

Most Icelanders Against Privatising Banks, Public Services

Published March 9, 2015

Andie Sophia Fontaine
Photo by
Sarah Pepin

The majority of Icelanders want to keep their public services public. Although there is a slight uptick in support for privatising public broadcasting, this support remains below 30%.

A new poll from Market and Media Research put the spotlight on privatisation, by asking Icelanders how they felt about institutions which are publicly owned, in whole or in part, being completely privatised. The results show a significant percentage of Icelanders are against the idea.

Of those who responded, 41.5% said they supported the idea of the government selling its share of Landsbanki, down from 42.5% in February 2014. At the same time, 13.2% said they believed the National Power Company of Iceland (Landsvirkjun) should be privatised, down from 13.7% the year previous. 28.9% said they supported the government selling its share of the national broadcasting service, RÚV, which is up from 26.6% last year.

Support for, or against, privatisation fell pretty sharply along party lines. Generally speaking, those who support the current ruling coalition of the Independence Party and the Progressives were more likely to support privatisation than those who do not. The greatest division was over the question of whether or not to privatise RÚV: 45.2% of those who support the coalition also supported privatisation, versus 19.6% who do not support the coalition.

The greatest push for privatisation overall came from voters of the Independence Party. The only occasions where a majority of voters supported privatisation were amongst these voters (59.2% and 50.9% supporting privatising Landsbanki and RÚV, respectively), and the highest percentage in favour of privatising electricity and hot water – 20.3% – was also amongst Independence Party voters.

While there has not been much push to privatise utilities, RÚV has been under considerable criticism from the ruling coalition. Budget cuts made to RÚV prompted Reporters Without Borders to comment that “Between 2013 and 2014, the ruling right-wing coalition repeatedly criticized the treatment of the news coverage provide[d] by RÚV’s TV and radio channels, and used it as an excuse to reduce dramatically its budget.”

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