Young people more keen to get involved with citizen’s initiatives

The citizen's initiative process allows many young people to become engaged with politics for the first time.

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File picture of columns at Parliament building in Helsinki / Credit: iStock

A new study by researchers at Åbo Akademi finds that young people in Finland are more likely to get involved in citizen’s initiatives than older people.

The online petitions allow people to play a part in the country’s political process and suggest ideas they think politicians should consider. Anyone can make a citizen’s initiative petition, and if 50,000 people sign up within a six month period it automatically goes forward to the relevant parliamentary committee which decides if it has merit to go further, perhaps as part of a new law.

The researchers discovered that young people will get involved no matter their income or education levels, more so than older people.

“Young people use the internet more than older people, but even when we take that into account young people are much more likely to use the citizen’s initiatives. One of the reasons is that this is issue-based, rather than being about broad ideological concerns” explains Henrik Serup Christensen, one of the researchers behind the study.

Serup Christensen says those who sign a citizen’s initiative perceive it as being more important than simply ‘click and forget’ – that is, signing up without becoming more involved.

“At least for a large group of these young people this is maybe their first baby steps in the political universe, and it’s still an important political introduction. They get disappointed if they don’t get what they aim to achieve” he tells News Now Finland.

Getting young people to vote

Researchers say that Finland’s citizen’s initiative model is one of the most promising ways to mobilise this particular age group which might otherwise not be so motivated to get involved in politics.

Finland has a problem with the low number of young people, aged 18-24, who turn out and vote. According to the EU’s own figures, at the 2014 European Parliament election it was just 10%, the second lowest in the whole 28-nation block.

By comparison, 90% of young people in Belgium voted; 38% in Denmark; 66% in Sweden at the 2014 European Parliament elections.