Self-reported health and democratic innovations: the case of the citizens’ initiative in Finland

Abstract

This study examines the association between self-reported health and the propensity for supporting citizens’ initiatives in Finland. Democratic innovations such as the citizens’ initiative provide novel ways for citizens to express their preferences, but whether people in poor health make use of such possibilities remains unclear. The data come from the Finnish National Election Study (FNES2015), a cross-sectional representative sample of the Finnish population. The results suggest that self-reported health affects the propensity to sign citizens’ initiatives, but the effect depends on age since it mobilizes young citizens in poor health, whereas the impact on older generations is negligible.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1

Source: Own calculations from www.kansalaialoite.fi

Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4

Notes

  1. 1.

    The requirements and procedures for citizens’ initiatives vary between countries. The most important requirement concerns the number of signatures required for submitting a citizens’ initiative, which depends on the size of the population, but also the type of initiative since the thresholds are usually greater for full-scale initiatives. The percentages required vary from 50,000 (0.1% of the electorate) for an agenda initiative in Italy to 300,000 (11.4% of the electorate) for a full-scale initiative in Lithuania (Schiller and Setälä 2012b: 248–249).

  2. 2.

    The 50,000 signatures equal 0.9% of the total population or 1.1% of those eligible to vote/support, which is in line with what we see on other countries (Schiller and Setälä 2012b, 248–249). The requirements depend on both the size of the population and type of initiative and vary from 50,000 (0.1% of the electorate) for an agenda initiative in Italy to 300,000 (11.4% of the electorate) for a full-scale initiative in Lithuania.

  3. 3.

    The signatures for the first initiative where Parliament made a decision, an initiative to ban fur farming in Finland, were mainly collected on paper since www.kansalaisaloite.fi was still not launched.

  4. 4.

    For more information on FNES2015, see: https://services.fsd.uta.fi/catalogue/FSD3067?study_language=en.

  5. 5.

    We replicated the results with a three-fold categorical variable measuring health with similar substantive results. The main difference was that the interaction effect between age and health was not significant at a 0.05 threshold, but plotting the results showed that the substantive implications were similar.

  6. 6.

    We also tested a dummy coding of this variable where respondents were grouped into good health and bad health. Since the substantive implications were similar we do not report these results.

  7. 7.

    We tried to include age-squared to test whether the association between age and supporting citizens’ initiatives is curvilinear (Mattila et al. 2013). The coefficient for the term was not significant (B = −3.53, p = 0.172), and the substantive interpretations were unaffected, and therefore, we do not report these results.

  8. 8.

    To see how the mobilizing effect of the citizens’ initiative compares to other political activities, we ran models explaining other types of participation. The results how that the effect of health on signing citizens’ initiative (B = 1.45, SE = .36, p < 0.000) is greater than for voting (B = −.55, SE = .46, p = 0.234), party activity (B = −.06, SE = .51, p = 0.905), contacting (B = −.11, SE = .41, p = 0.781), demonstrating (B = −.65, SE = .62, p = 0.294) and signing petitions (B = .81, SE = .34, p = 0.016). The only other activity to reach significance and with a similar magnitude to the one found for the citizens’ initiative is signing petitions, which shares obvious similarities with the act of signing a citizens’ initiative. This suggests that the citizens’ initiative does success in mobilizing people not attracted to other forms of participation.

  9. 9.

    No significant interaction effects existed between self-reported health and the other individual-level characteristics.

  10. 10.

    The marginal effects of health as a function of age show a positive effect for younger citizens, which deteriorates as people grow older. The effect becomes insignificant after the age of 57 and negative (not significant) after 72 years.

References

  1. Almond, G.A., and S. Verba. 1963. The Civic Culture: Political Attitudes and Democracy in Five Nations. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Auers, D. 2015. Comparative Politics and Government of the Baltic States: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in the 21st Century. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

    Google Scholar 

  3. Berinsky, A.J. 2005. The perverse consequences of electoral reform in the United States. American Politics Research 33(4): 471–491.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Bloom, D.E., D. Canning, and G. Fink. 2010. Implications of population aging for economic growth. Oxford Review of Economic Policy 26(4): 583–612.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Braunstein, R. 2004. Initiative and Referendum Voting: Governing Through Direct Democracy in the United States. New York: LFB Scholarly Publishing.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Burden, B.C., J.M. Fletcher, P. Herd, B.M. Jones, and D.P. Moynihan. 2017. How different forms of health matter to political participation. The Journal of Politics 79(1): 166–178.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Christensen, H.S., M. Jäske, M. Setälä, and E. Laitinen. 2017. The Finnish citizens’ initiative: Towards inclusive agenda-setting? Scandinavian Political Studies 40(4): 411–433.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Couture, J., and S. Breux. 2017. The differentiated effects of health on political participation. European Journal of Public Health 27(4): 599–604.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Degeling, C., S.M. Carter, and L. Rychetnik. 2015. ‘Which public and why deliberate? A scoping review of public deliberation in public health and health policy research. Social Science & Medicine 131: 114–121.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Denny, K.J., and O.M. Doyle. 2007. ‘…Take up thy bed, and vote’ Measuring the relationship between voting behaviour and indicators of health. European Journal of Public Health 17(4): 400–401.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Eckstein, H. 1975. Case studies and theory in political science. In Handbook of Political Science, vol. 7, ed. F. Greenstein, and N. Polsby, 79–138. Reading: Addison-Wesley.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Geissel, B. 2009. How to improve the quality of democracy? Experiences with participatory innovations at the local level in Germany. German Politics and Society 27(4): 51–71.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Geissel, B., and K. Newton (eds.). 2012. Evaluating Democratic Innovations: Curing the Democratic Malaise?. Abingdon: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Hibbing, J.R., and E. Theiss-Morse. 2002. Stealth Democracy: Americans’ Beliefs About How Government Should Work. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  15. Jylhä, M. 2009. What is self-rated health and why does it predict mortality? Towards a unified conceptual model. Social Science and Medicine 69(3): 307–316.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Jäske, M. 2017. ‘Soft’ forms of direct democracy: Explaining the occurrence of referendum motions and advisory referendums in Finnish local government. Swiss Political Science Review 23(1): 50–76.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Lijphart, A. 1997. Unequal participation: Democracy’s unresolved dilemma. American Political Science Review 91(1): 1–14.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Mansbridge, J.J. 1999. On the idea that participation makes better citizens. In Citizen Competence and Democratic Institutions, ed. S.L. Elkin, and K.E. Soltan, 291–328. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Mattila, M., and A. Papageorgiou. 2017. Disability, perceived discrimination and political participation. International Political Science Review. https://doi.org/10.1177/0192512116655813.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Mattila, M., L. Rapeli, H. Wass, and P. Söderlund. 2017. Health and Political Engagement. Abingdon: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Mattila, M., P. Söderlund, H. Wass, and L. Rapeli. 2013. Healthy voting: The effect of self-reported health on turnout in 30 countries. Electoral Studies 32(4): 886–891.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Newton, K. 2012. Curing the democratic malaise with democratic innovations. In Evaluating Democratic Innovations: Curing the Democratic Malaise?, ed. B. Geissel, and K. Newton, 3–20. Abingdon: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  23. OECD. 2011. Health Reform: Meeting the Challenge of Ageing and Multiple Morbidities. Paris: OECD Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264122314-en.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Ojeda, C. 2015. Depression and political participation. Social Science Quarterly 96(5): 1226–1243.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Pacheco, J., and J. Fletcher. 2015. Incorporating health into studies of political behaviour—Evidence for turnout and partisanship. Political Research Quarterly 68(1): 104–116.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Parkinson, J. 2006. Deliberating in the Real World: Problems of Legitimacy in Deliberative Democracy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Qvortrup, M. 2013. Direct Democracy: A Comparative Study of the Theory and Practice of Government by the People. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Schiller, T., and M. Setälä. 2012a. Introduction. In Citizens’ Initiatives in Europe, ed. M. Setälä, and T. Schiller, 1–14. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

    Google Scholar 

  29. Schiller, T., and M. Setälä. 2012b. Conclusions. In Citizens’ Initiatives in Europe, ed. M. Setälä, and T. Schiller, 243–259. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

    Google Scholar 

  30. Schur, L., A. Meera, and A. Mason. 2015. Accessible democracy: Reducing voting obstacles for people with disabilities. Election Law Journal: Rules, Politics, and Policy 14(1): 60–65.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Setälä, M., and T. Schiller (eds.). 2012. Citizens’ Initiatives in Europe. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

    Google Scholar 

  32. Smith, G. 2009. Democratic Innovations: Designing Institutions for Citizen Participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  33. Söderlund, P., and L. Rapeli. 2015. In sickness and in health: Personal health and political participation in the Nordic countries. Politics and the Life Sciences 34(1): 28–43.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Sonnicksen, J. 2016. Dementia and representative democracy: Exploring challenges and implications for democratic citizenship. Dementia 15(3): 330–342.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Stoker, G. 2006. Why Politics Matter—Making Democracy Work. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

    Google Scholar 

  36. Tu, Y.-K., D.J. Gunnell, and M.S. Gilthorpe. 2008. Simpson’s paradox, Lord’s paradox, and suppression effects are the same phenomenon: The reversal paradox. Emerging Themes in Epidemiology 5(2): 2.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Verba, S., K.L. Schlozman, and H.E. Brady. 1995. Voice and Equality: Civic Voluntarism in American Politics. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  38. Wass, H. 2007. The effects of age, generation and period on turnout in Finland 1975–2003. Electoral Studies 26(3): 648–659.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Young, I. 2000. Inclusion and Democracy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

A previous version of this paper was presented at the 2017 ECPR Joint Sessions in Nottingham, workshop “Health and Political Behavior”. The authors would like to thank all the participants. The research was funded by Academy of Finland, grant number 274305 (Democratic Reasoning) and 285167 (Democratic innovations in Finland and political legitimacy).

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Henrik Serup Christensen.

Appendix

Appendix

See Table 3.

Table 3 Logistic regression models with robust standard errors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Christensen, H.S., Setälä, M. & Jäske, M. Self-reported health and democratic innovations: the case of the citizens’ initiative in Finland. Eur Polit Sci 18, 291–308 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41304-018-0167-6

Download citation

Keywords

  • Health
  • Democratic innovations
  • Citizens’ initiative
  • Political participation
  • Marginalization