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Election Research in Finland

The term 'national election studies' refers to established research in different countries regularly charting election campaigning, citizens' voting behaviour, political participation, and political opinion.

National election studies are often based on nationally representative surveys collected in connection with parliamentary elections. The roots of the tradition lie in the United States. In the University of Michigan, researchers began to collect so-called panel data in connection with general elections already at the end of the 1940s. These data were collected by structured face-to-face interviews from a randomly sampled target population so that the same research subjects responded both before and after the elections. The research tradition based on this model became common especially in Western Europe and the Nordic countries already in the 1950s.

In Finland, Professor Pertti Pesonen († 29.1.2005) pioneered the field with his election research based on regional and national panel data collected from 1950s onwards1. Pesonen can also be merited for the fact that the four major parties in Finland jointly began to finance annual voter barometers, which have been collected from the beginning of the 1970s to the 2000s. The voter barometers are stored in the Finnish Social Science Data Archive. These data collected by Gallup Finland were for the most part not reported into actual research in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, although they contain information on the elections and voting behaviour in the election years.

After his retirement at the beginning of the 1990s, Pesonen together with his colleagues designed and conducted a large national election study on the 1991 parliamentary elections2, as well as participated in the 2003 parliamentary election study as author3.

The structure and approach in the 2007 national election study4 were similar to the 2003 study. Because of financial reasons, both of them were based on cross-sectional data collected after the elections, not on so-called panel data. The data from both election years include an international comparative module (Comparative Study of Electoral Systems), a face-to-face interview questionnaire together with a supplementary questionnaire, and an oversample of Swedish-speaking population. Therefore, it is only after the 2007 election study that it is actually justifiable to talk about established Finnish election research. The 2011 parliamentary election study will be similarly structured, but without the oversample of Swedish-speaking population.

1 Pesonen, Pertti (1968): An Election in Finland. Party Activities and Voter Reactions. New Haven: Yale University Press.

2 Pesonen, Sänkiaho ja Borg (1993): Vaalikansan äänivalta. Tutkimus eduskuntavaaleista ja valitsijakunnasta Suomen poliittisessa järjestelmässä. Porvoo – Helsinki: WSOY. In Finnish, only.

3 Paloheimo (ed. 2005): Vaalit ja demokratia Suomessa. Porvoo - Helsinki: WSOY. In Finnish, only.

4 Borg ja Paloheimo (ed. 2009): Vaalit yleisödemokratiassa. Eduskuntavaalitutkimus 2007. Tampere: Tampere University Press. In Finnish, only.

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Finnish Social Science Data Archive & Finnish national election study consortiumUpdated 2011-01-17