Finland will hold municipal elections on 13 June. The elections were originally scheduled for 18 April, but the government headed by Prime Minister Sanna Marin decided to postpone them due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In this pre-electoral context, the National Institute for Health and Well-being (THL) has just published a study on the voting habits of the population of foreign origin.
Its main conclusion is that language skills and the sense of belonging with the local community increase immigrants’ voter turnout in Finland
In this sense, THL highlights how knowledge of Finnish or Swedish and a sense of belonging with the community where they live, and with Finns, increase the likelihood of immigrants voting in the municipal elections in Finland.
The reason for migrating to Finland also correlates with voter turnout. Voting is more common among those who move to Finland for family reasons than among those who come here for work.
“Work-based immigration is desired, and integration is often examined based on whether or not a person is employed. However, it appears that identity-based integration – the experience of belonging to the local population – would be more important for voting. A simultaneous sense of belonging to the citizenry of the country of origin does not reduce the likelihood of voting”, says Anna Seppänen, Project Coordinator at THL.
“Meanwhile, for those who came to Finland for family reasons, a spouse or a family can be a factor that helps the person create bonds with the new society, thereby encouraging participation in elections”, Seppänen adds.
Most common reason not to vote
According to THL, only 25% of all eligible voters with foreign backgrounds cast ballots in the 2017 municipal elections. This means that if the voter turnout is as low in the upcoming 13 June elections, 300,000 potential votes could be lost.
THL points to lack of information as "the most common reason for immigrants in Finland not to exercise their right to vote."
Other important reasons to abstain include a lack of interest or not finding a suitable candidate, as well as a general mistrust of politics.
“Information on the elections, voting rights, and candidates is primarily available in Finnish and Swedish. Having information available in people's own native languages in a clear and accessible form could increase voter turnout among those who have moved to Finland”, Seppänen ponders.
The information is from a study by THL on voter turnout in municipal elections in the 18 regions in continental Finland and in the six largest cities. The material used has been obtained from the Survey on Well-Being among Foreign Born Population, which includes the responses of 6,836 Finnish residents aged 18-64 years from abroad.