Zhen Im, Anu Kantola, Timo Kauppinen, and Hanna Wass have found that there are 4 voting bubbles in Finland. In this blog post, we will tell you what those bubbles are.
The Finnish municipal elections are in June this year. They were moved from April to June due to the pandemic. Since last fall, we have discussed Finnish municipal elections and voting in four blog posts. Those posts as well as this current one are a part of our effort to encourage eligible non-citizens to use their right to vote.
Basic information about voting in municipal elections in Finland
Voting in a country one hasn’t grown up in can seem difficult. Firstly, voting practices can be different and unfamiliar. Secondly, it might be difficult to find enough information about the political parties, candidates, and the whole political landscape to make one feel informed enough to vote.
YLE, the Finnish National Broadcasting Company, recently published a simple but comprehensive guide to the municipal elections. This article also includes a description of the voting system used in Finland.
The Ministry of Justice also has comprehensive guidance for voting in Finland. They provide at least the basic voting information in 31 different languages.
These sources do not, however, shed light on the current political landscape in Finland. They do not explain who it is that current Finnish political parties represent. We’ve touched upon this issue a little bit in two previous blog posts.
In our November 26, 2020, blog post, we looked at voting activity in Finnish municipal elections. That focused especially on the voting activity of eligible non-citizens.
In our January 28, 2021, blog post we looked at the results of the last municipal elections and told you which parties are currently in charge in Finnish municipalities.
This blog post discusses changes in voting behavior and describes the 4 voting bubbles in Finland the researchers identified in their study published last year.
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The 4 voting bubbles in Finland
Im, Kantola, Kauppinen, and Wass explain in their research report that the structural changes that have occurred during the past few decades have changed Finnish voting behavior. Before, voting in Finland was heavily based on social class.
Those in the working class voted for parties on the left. Farmers had their own party and those who were better off had their own party.
However, the share of the Finnish population working in farming and industrial jobs has been declining for a long time. Instead, there is an increasing number of different types of service jobs that blend the borders between the traditional working class and middle class.
Those in the middle class who’ve traditionally felt their position and future to be safe have faced increasing insecurities as traditional middle-class jobs have been disappearing.
Im, Kantola, Kauppinen, and Wass suggest that these structural changes have fractured the traditional class-based voting patterns. Instead, there are new divisions in voting behavior within social classes.
New political parties have emerged to provide a channel through which the electorate can express and seek remedy for the insecurities they feel. Also, an increasing number of voters move around from one election to another.
In their study, Im, Kantola, Kauppinen, and Wass aimed to discover what type of voting groups the Finnish electorate forms today. They recognized 4 voting bubbles in Finland that are not clearly tied to social class.
In this study, Im, Kantola, Kauppinen, and Wass surveyed 4 000 eligible voters. They asked the respondents what parties they had voted for during their lifetime and what parties they could consider voting for in the future.
They also asked the respondents what their experience of globalization was. Whether they saw themselves as winners or losers of globalization, and how they saw their own social status as compared to others. They also asked after their thoughts about the future.
Based on the survey results they discovered the 4 voting bubbles. The defining factor in this division is how members of the electorate see their position in society. So, voting behavior is no longer driven by social class and demographic factors like education level. Rather, it’s driven by how voters see their position in society now and in the future.
The first voting bubble in Finland: “the bourgeoisie”
The researchers named the largest voting bubble in Finland “the bourgeoisie”. About a third of the electorate belongs to this group.
This bubble was the only one that was clearly tied to only one political party, the Coalition Party. They vote for the Coalition Party quite reliably and also see voting as an important civic activity.
They clearly dislike the Left Alliance.
There are more men than women in this group. There are also more those who are highly educated.
More than others, they see themselves as winners of globalization. They also view their own social status to be better than average. They also think that it will remain so in the future. In their opinion, the world hasn’t changed in a way that would threaten their position in the world.
The second voting bubble: “the red-greens”
About 26 % of the electorate belong to this group. They can imagine themselves voting for a larger variety of parties than members of the previous group. They can see themselves voting for the Left Alliance, the Social Democratic Party, and the Greens.
The majority of this group is women. Membership in this group isn’t defined by educational level.
Unlike the members of the bourgeoisie group, members of this group do not see themselves as winners of globalization. But, they don’t see themselves as losers either. Instead, they think that they are in a precarious position. They see it as potentially declining in the future.
The third voting bubble: “the omnivorous”
The omnivorous group accounts for about 24 % of the electorate.
They are the least loyal to a single party. Members of this group seem equally comfortable with parties to the left and right. They can see themselves voting for the Social Democrats, the Greens, the Coalition Party, or the Left Alliance.
The omnivorous don’t seem to have a particularly strong dislike for any particular party. They do, however, support the Finns Party the least.
They don’t seem to vote primarily to protest. Rather, they seem to pick and choose the party they vote for based on circumstances.
The omnivorous generally see themselves as winners of globalization. They aren’t, however, as sure of their continued success as the bourgeoisie. As a group, though, their views on this issue were more varied than in other groups.
The fourth voting bubble: “the withdrawn”
Every fifth member of the electorate belongs to this group. They are the most detached of the groups as they don’t have favorite parties. Instead, they dislike most parties in the center and in the right. They also dislike the Greens.
Members of this group are typically men. In addition, they are normally Finnish speaking and their education level is low.
In comparison to all the others, they most often see themselves as losers of globalization. They also see their own future as undefined and murky.
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