The citizens’ pulse surveys chart the Finnish state of mind – over 40,000 respondents to date

The Citizens' Pulse surveys examine Finnish attitudes and opinions on the conduct and communication of authorities, future expectations, trust in authorities, institutions, and other people, as well as concerns related to everyday life. The surveys initially focused on the COVID-19 pandemic, but they have since been expanded to cover Finnish life amidst global crises more broadly.

A white thought bubble imposed over a grey background. Stock photo.

With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring of 2020, the Finnish Prime Minister’s Office wanted to understand the mood among the Finnish public in response to this new situation that they were suddenly faced with.

Initially, the Citizens’ Pulse surveys focused on the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on daily life but questions on new topics, such as the Russia-Ukraine war, have also been introduced recently.

Juho Jyrkiäinen, a senior specialist at the Prime Minister’s Office, says that in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic there was a new round of the survey as often as every two weeks. At present, the survey is carried out every three to five weeks.

"The first round of the survey took place in April 2020, as there was an urgent need to obtain information about the public response."

The Citizens’ Pulse surveys are conducted by the Prime Minister’s Office and Statistics Finland. Since the start of 2021, the survey data have been archived on the Finnish Social Science Data Archive’s (FSD) data service portal, Aila. Previous questionnaires and statistical distributions are also available on the Statistics Finland website.

Charting the Finnish state of mind

The survey questions are developed by the Prime Minister's Office in collaboration with other official bodies. For example, questions on the COVID-19 pandemic have been developed in close collaboration with the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, and the Ministerial Working Group on Preparedness has contributed to questions concerning the price increases caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the effect that this has had on consumer behaviour. While many of the questions are repeated from round to round, the questions are also updated as needed.

"Our aim is to stay up to date with events as they develop so that the surveys can provide relevant information for political decision-makers," Jyrkiäinen says.

The respondents of the Citizens’ Pulse surveys change between each round of the survey and the samples consist of people aged 15 to 74 who reside in mainland Finland. Although the respondents change, it is possible to identify changes and patterns in the survey data. By combining the results from several survey rounds, one can also examine smaller details in the data.

One such pattern that Jyrkiäinen highlights concerns young people’s well-being. Since the introduction of the Citizens’ Pulse surveys, stress has been one of the topics investigated and the results from the surveys show that young people, especially young women, consistently report experiencing high levels of stress during each round of the survey.

"Worries about young people’s well-being during the pandemic have been raised by many different parties and these results add to those worries."

The survey data are freely available

Individuals who have had a central role in managing the COVID-19 pandemic in Finland, such as members of coronavirus coordination groups, have been informed of the results of the Citizens’ Pulse surveys. In addition, the survey data are openly available for all users without registration on FSD’s data service portal, Aila. The survey results have also been referenced by the media, which Jyrkiäinen is pleased about.

"Hopefully the data are being utilised even more widely."

Authorities have also used the Citizens’ Pulse surveys to track whether the government and the Finnish public agree on different matters.

"As we were lifting COVID-19 restrictions, we asked the public what they thought about the government’s plan to lift restrictions. This way we could make sure that the government’s plans were aligned with the views of the Finnish public."

When the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, Finns were faced with yet another unexpected crisis. The Citizens’ Pulse survey questions have been updated to reflect this new crisis, as it is important to obtain information about its impact on the public.

"Luckily, this survey already existed so we could easily collect information about the Finnish response to this new crisis."

The Citizens’ Pulse surveys will continue at least until the end of 2022. Jyrkiäinen estimates that over 40,000 people have responded to the surveys to date.

"The scope of the data that we have collected through the surveys is exceptionally large. I hope that the data can provide interesting viewpoints for further research and study, as well as for the media."

Text: Petra Viitanen, translation: Laura Eloranta, stock photo: pxfuel