What are democracy indicators?

Democracy indicators monitor the state and development of Finnish democracy. For the moment democracy indicators are available in Finnish, only. The latest updates are presented in the following reports: Demokratiaindikaattorit 2015 and Demokratiaindikaattorit 2013.

They cover the following topics:

  • election and party democracy
  • participatory democracy and social capital
  • NGO participation
  • citizens’ views on citizenship and their own opportunities to influence
  • attitudes towards political institutions and actors
  • criteria of informed citizenship
Which data are democracy indicators based on?

The comprehensive and reliable democracy indicators are based on high quality survey data and registers, especially on election studies in connection with parliamentary elections.

What are democracy indicators needed for?

There is plenty of demand for information about democracy. Civic discussion calls for clear and reliable information that creates a firm enough basis for the formulation of opinions and decisions made by citizens in the context of their own active role in society. Political and government decision-makers need information that is relevant to society’s development and in concrete problem-solving situations.

Democracy issues include key elements that cannot be properly illuminated without measurable indicators. Many questions typical of democracy discussions are formulated in quantitative terms. Which development trends can we observe in people’s attitudes towards democracy? What is the rate of those participating in “non-traditional” political activities among the population?

What do democracy indicators tell about the situation in Finland?

This question is best answered by examining individual indicators and their descriptions. At the moment, they do not support international comparisons. However, according to several opinion indicators Finns are quite strongly attached to their political system compared to citizens of other European countries. On the other hand, some operational indicators seem to imply that the situation is not as good. For example response rates in Finland have fallen to the average EU level or below already a long time ago.

Globally thinking, the issue can be evaluated using Finland’s ranking in the comparisons made with the help of the so-called democracy indices. The indices describe the political systems of different countries and list their general characteristics.

How are the data utilised?

Both the research data which democracy indicators are based on as well as the indicators themselves are designed so that long-term monitoring of Finnish democracy is served as appropriately as possible. Fundamental democracy indicators will be published as easily understandable and concise tables and graphs.

In addition to summaries intended for the public and media, a main academic report and briefer publications in scientific journals will be created on central topics.

Who creates democracy indicators?

Indicators are selected and also for the most part designed by academic researchers. The main data collected in connection with Parliamentary elections include the collection of data agreed under the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems project, as well as national elements agreed separately. International cooperation networks and international comparability are vital tools for research into Finnish democracy.

Who finances democracy indicators?

The basic data are financed by the Ministry of Justice.

Background for the democracy indicator project

The Finnish democracy indicator project was launched in 2005 as part of the Citizen Participation Policy Programme of Matti Vanhanen’s first Government. The research group produced a large work [Finnish democracy indicators] for the publication series of the Ministry of Justice, which included proposals for democracy indicators to be introduced in Finland. Afterwards, the Ministry of Justice has financed collecting the data required by the indicators during the Parliamentary elections and reporting them.

The responsibility for maintaining and developing the indicators has been transferred to the Finnish Social Science Data Archive, which publishes the indicators as part of the Finnish Election Study Portal. Democracy indicators are naturally connected to election studies, because it is particularly the national election studies that provide the main data for researching citizens’ political identification and voting behaviour in several countries.

The most reliable data on public political participation are still drawn from registers. However, the information they offer is often fairly limited. For instance regarding elections, registers mostly provide information on voter turnout by gender and on party and candidate support in the whole country and by regions. Survey data are needed in order to examine citizens’ thoughts and reasons for participating in politics and making their social choices.

In addition to election studies, especially international comparative research based on survey data provide useful basic and comparative information for democracy indicators. This kind of research includes European Social Survey, International Social Survey, World Values Survey, and Eurobarometres – all of which Finland has participated in at least for ten years.

The Finnish democracy indicators publication divided the indicators into nine categories:

  1. election and party democracy
  2. participatory democracy and social capital
  3. NGO participation
  4. citizens’ views on citizenship and their own opportunities to influence
  5. attitudes towards political institutions and actors
  6. criteria of informed citizenship
  7. democracy education
  8. municipal democracy
  9. democracy and equality

The indicator classification presented on this page does not fully conform to the division illustrated above. This is mostly due to the lack of data available on some categories for the time being.