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Councils’ Actions Do Not Engage Finns, Disappointment the Most Common Emotion

Close to 75 percent of adult Finns experience negative emotions or insignificance toward their municipal or city councils’ actions. These results emerge from an empathy study conducted by NayaDaya, YouGov, and Statista.

In the study, Finns were asked about their emotions toward their own local municipality, city, or the respective councils’ actions. Based on the survey results, almost two thirds of the respondents experience positive emotions toward their municipality or city. One fifth experience negative emotions. The most common emotions are contentment (27%), disappointment (10%), and pride (9%).


”Even though commenting affiliated with municipalities and cities is often exaggerated and borderline derogatory on social media, emotions toward one’s own municipality or city are most often positive. Hate was not once expressed in the study results and only two percent of the respondents reported experiencing negative, empowering anger. These results support the understanding that only a small portion of people dominate the online discussion groups and spread the distorted picture of annoyance and dissatisfaction”, estimates Timo Salomäki, Head of Global Growth at NayaDaya Inc.


Positive emotions toward one’s own place of residence (municipality or city) are expressed more often by those who live in cities of over 50 000 inhabitants (68 %) (excluding the Capital area), are white-collar employees (75 %), belong to the high income group (72 %), or are supporters the Greens (75 %), the Social Democratic (72 %), or the National Coalition parties (72 %).


Negative emotions are expressed most often by those living in countryside (28 %), who are men (23 %), or young adults (24 %), who have completed only the basic education (27 %), or are single (24 %) as well as those supporting the Centre party of Finland (32 %) or the Swedish People’s Party (32 %). Insignificance is experienced more often than others by those living in municipalities of less than 10 000 inhabitants (22 %), who have completed only the basic education (20 %) and those who are politically nonaligned (21 %).


Municipal decision-making meaningless to many


Emotions toward municipal or city council’s actions are strongly polarizing the Finns. Negative emotions (37 %) are more common than positive emotions (27 %). Negativity toward the municipal decision-making is most common in cities of 50 000-100 000 inhabitants (43 %). Most positivity can be found in the countryside (32 %), although also there negativity is more common (36 %). The most common emotions reported are disappointment (21 %), interest (9 %) and contentment (6 %).


Only 20 percent of the respondents experience emotions which predict positive and engaging behavior toward the councils’ actions. Seven percent are passive, 31 percent are ’avoiders’ – those unwilling to take action, and six percent are ’protesters’. Over one third experience no emotions toward councils’ actions – this result can be interpreted as insignificance.


Insignificance is especially common among those who are affiliated with the Greens or are politically independent (both 46 %), are young adults or have no children (both 52 %), who have completed only the basic education (41 %), who are students (60 %), who live in the Capital area (41 %) as well as those belonging to the low income group (38 %). The younger the target group, the greater the insignificance.

”When looking at municipal counsils’ actions, up to two thirds of the Finns report having experiences which indicate insignificance as well as avoidance and inactivity. Less than one tenth experience interest toward political decision-making. In terms of voter turnout and democracy, this result raises many concerns”, says Timo Järvinen, CEO at NayaDaya Inc.


Empathy needed in municipal democracy


How can the municipal citizen be encouraged to participate in political decision-making and in building a sharing community? Concurrently with the national empathy study the county of Asikkala also studied its citizen’s emotions and engagement. In Asikkala, there is a strong will to identify, understand and bring to discussion people’s emotions. Emotions are also being heard in all schools.


”In Asikkala, we want to be authentic, mindfully present and hence, real to our municipal citizens. To be seen and heard, fostering open connections and handling challenging matters enhance trust, engaging emotions and involvement. We utilize the empathy study both in our strategic work and as a basis for the dialogue between us and our fellow municipal citizens”, tells Rinna Ikola-Norrbacka, Mayor at Asikkala municipality.


The gap between the municipal citizen and the policymakers can be crossed by increasing interaction. The more familiar the council’s actions are to the people and the more they can influence the shared issues, the more they experience engaging emotions and take action themselves.


”We are missing supportive empathy in our democracy – something which builds and maintains an ongoing dialogue between the policymakers and the citizen – and not only once in four years. We need presence and interaction where listening is more essential than speaking. A politician must have courage to reveal his or her weaknesses and occasional lack of knowledge on something – learning from the constituents is more essential than providing ready solutions. Empathy, compassion, and love are tools with which democracy can be developed”, underlines Timo Järvinen.


Facts about the study

  • Emotion data was collected 20.-22.1.2021 through the YouGov online-panel

  • The quota sampling was implemented on the basis of age, gender, and location to represent the Finnish population of 18-years or older

  • Other variables are age, gender, location, family life stage, urbanization, income level, professional field, education, social media usage, and political party preference

  • For the overall result (N=1001) the average margin of error is approximately ±2,8 percentage

  • The data was analyzed with the NayaDaya® Empathy Analytics, based on scientific theory, University of Geneva research, and algorithm which predicts behavior and engagement

Further information

Timo Järvinen, CEO, NayaDaya Inc., timo@nayadaya.com, tel. +358 40 505 7745

Timo Salomäki, Head of Global Growth, NayaDaya Inc., timos@nayadaya.com, tel. +358 40 709 2399

NayaDaya Inc. is an empathy analytics company that reveals the way emotions and behavior interact with phenomena and brands. Through data, insight, empathy, and impact, we empower organizations, authorities, brands, and leaders to strive for a sustainable change. If you respect science, empathy, and data, we would love to discuss with you. News and further information: https://www.nayadaya.com