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Number 13 (1/2004)


New Data for Research on Citizen Participation

Sami Borg    1.3.2004

The Finnish government has launched a Civil Participation Policy Programme, which is coordinated by the Ministry of Justice. The programme aims to reinforce the functioning of representative democracy and encourage political participation between elections.

Social science research can support these objectives in a variety of ways. It increases knowledge of current phenomena, thus providing information necessary for decision-making. On the other hand, research should always include critical evaluation of the current state of affairs, and the study of possible alternatives.

Possibilities to conduct international comparative research on citizen participation and attitudes in Finland are better than ever. The European Social Survey offers high-quality, freely accessible, cross-national comparative data. The ESS enables, for example, comparison of participation in elections, political parties and voluntary organisations.

ESS data collection was carried out in 2002-2003 in over twenty European countries, with integrated content and methods. The data from different countries have been combined into an integrated data file. Moreover, the main theme for the 2004 round of ISSP (International Social Survey Programme) is citizenship. The questionnaire has already been designed. The Finnish data will be collected in the autumn of 2004, and will be available next spring. The integrated data file will be available some time later.

And let us not forget the data on the 2003 parliamentary elections in Finland, either. The dataset includes questions designed by the international, collaborative program "Comparative Study of Electoral Systems". Within a couple of years, this dataset will enable rich study of political participation in Finland, as compared to participation in other countries.

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