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Political Science in Europe

Self-reported Health and Direct Democracy – The Case of the Citizens’ Initiative in Finland

Political Participation
Referendums and Initiatives
Political Activism
Political Engagement
Henrik Serup Christensen
Åbo Akademi
Maija Jäske
University of Turku
Maija Setälä
University of Turku
Elias Laitinen
University of Turku

The relationship between health and political participation has become a prominent topic within political science in recent years. Bad health is often found to be connected to lower voter turnout, whereas the relationships may differ for other forms of participation. Nevertheless, may lead to potential democratic problems when it cannot be ascertained that the demands of these citizens in bad health are channelled into formal political decision-making. For this reason, it is important from a democratic perspective to ensure that these people are provided with adequate channels for venting their political demands.

This study contributes to this research agenda by examining the association between self-reported health and the propensity for supporting citizens’ initiatives in Finland. The citizens’ initiative was introduced in Finland in 2012. Democratic innovations such as the citizens’ initiative provide novel ways for citizens to express their preferences, but the extent to which people who are in bad health make use of such possibilities remain unclear. Furthermore, since support for initiatives in Finland can be collected online, it may provide a suitable outlet for citizens with health problems due to its accessibility.

The data for the study come from the Finnish National Election Study (FNES2015), a cross-sectional representative sample of the Finnish population that makes it possible to explore the relationship between health and signing citizens’ initiatives. The results suggest that self-reported health status affects the propensity to sign citizens’ initiatives since declining health increases the likelihood of supporting proposals for initiatives. However, the impact differs depending on age meaning it is more pronounced for younger citizens.
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