Should immigrants in Finland commission a poll?

by , under All categories, Enrique

It seems a bit tragic-comic that we have had two important polls published in Helsingin Sanomat on Finnish attitudes of immigrants. The latest one published by Finland’s leading daily was commissioned by anti-immigrant website Hommaforum. The first one shows that Finns don’t want more immigrants while the second one shows that the majority (88%) were not against labor immigrants but nearly half wanted to make it more difficult for refugees and asylum seekers to enter the country. However, 59% considered the country’s immigration policy too or somewhat lax.

Since the Finnish camp has had its say, why doesn’t the immigrant and refugee community commission a poll from Taloustutkimus or Gallup? We could load the questions in a no-brainer way to ensure we get the responses we wish. Seriously, how many countries in the world — and especially those in a recession — state they want more immigrants?

The poll commissioned by immigrants could show what they think about living in Finland. Do they believe that they are targets (very often, often, sometimes, rarely, never) of discrimination. How does racism show itself? Which political parties are the most obnoxious in this sense? Do immigration authorities treat them fairly and handle their cases swiftly? Are Finns xenophobic or tolerant?

The problem with the last two surveys published by Helsingin Sanomat is that they offer a narrow view. The questions fuel and confirm how much some Finns dislike immigrants never mind refugees.  Is this true? I don’t think so.

Let’s get a collection going and commission our own opinion survey.

The results, I am certain, would not only be novel but revealing!

  1. hannu

    “Both of these surveys show during a deep recession how Finns don’t want more immigrants, refugees (HS) and tighter controls (Hommaforum).”

    Well you obviously didnt read that homma survey.

  2. Martin-Éric

    I like this idea a lot. They did it in Sweden a few years ago and it significantly affected the nature of the debate. For one thing, it permanently killed Sweden’s naive view of itself as an exuberantly tolerant and egalitarian society. For another, it made the average Swede better aware of structural obstacles to integration, especially after the results of the poll were discussed in a public affairs program on prime time TV, with a whole panel of immigrants representing the whole spectrum of nations and immigration basis commenting and speaking their mind openly and in a qualitative way.

    • Enrique

      Well, let’s try to find out how much it would cost and see if we can raise the money.

  3. Martin-Éric

    Amazingly enough, we should be able to get either the Ministry of Justice or the Ministry of Immigration to pay for this poll, because they run several EU-funded programs whose goal is to help immigrants’ voices getting heard.

    • Enrique

      Why don’t we see what we can do and how much it would cost. Good question, xyz. One of the problems is would you classify each respondent by nationality or just group them as invisible (white Finnish looking) or visible (stands out from the majority). I would ask if the immigrants thought that more immigrants should come to Finland. Some may say no. As I mentioned, it is a dumb question because nobody, especially in a recession, wants more immigrants. For a matter of fact, even in good economic times people are not saying they have too few immigrants.
      But other questions about how they feel in Finland (discrimination, being marginalized from society, hostility, good points about Finnish values etc) would rock in the survey.

    • Enrique

      –What sample size would make sense for 140.000 immigrants to be representative?

      Probably 500, I guess. The one used by Jaakkola on Finnish attitudes had about 1,200 respondents.

  4. Martin-Éric

    The whole question of how to classify immigrants for statistics purpose has been abundantly discussed in the immigration sector and in multicultural studies.

    In short:

    1) Nationality can be misleading, especially given how the authorities have the bad habit of labeling people according to where their parents came from and carrying which passport, rather than according to where the individual grew up or to which country the individual has the strongest ties.

    2) Language is sometimes better, since some groups tend to aggregate on a linguistic basis e.g. people from many former Soviet republics easily find communality in the Russian language. However, in other cases, people would never remotely think of regrouping on a linguistic basis e.g. French speakers tend to regroup according to ethnicity (i.e. specific tribe) and, even then, this varies drastically from one group to the next. For instance, French speakers from all over Africa easily find communality among themselves, but this is not the case for Belgians (Walloons), French, Swiss (Jurassian) or Canadians (Quebecers), who each tend to stick to their own group.

    3) Letting each respondent declare the label of their own choice (usually a combination of language and ethnicity) tends to produce the most accurate categories.

    • Enrique

      Hi Martin-Éric, nationality is misleading. Take a look at the Russians and how many different ethnic groups there are there. I agree with you 100% about using mother langauge and what ethnic group they belong to. In Canada you have invisible and visible minorities. Statistics Canada uses this and it could also be a valid option without getting too intricate. By the way, do you remember what year to conducted the survey in Sweden and how it was made?

  5. xyz

    I would even pay something from my own pocket for this survey. Maybe we can collect money if nobody is willing to pay for it. We could also do it by ourselves but I think people would more trust the results if it is done by an official organization.

    • Enrique

      xyz, thank you very much for the sample size calculator. Hommaforum financed their survey with the help of donations.

  6. Martin-Éric

    Russia indeed is a country full of minorities, but most of them end up identifying with the all-mighty state, rather than with their local tribe. One example: a friend comes from Yakutia. She feels proud that their republic is the biggest in the Russian federation and that it’s the birthland of the Turkic nations, but she also proudly refers to herself as Russian and systematically sides with Russia on every political issue, no matter how ridiculous Russia’s position might be on some issues. Her identity as a Yakutian is very Soviet in nature: she is just a member of an ethnic minority among others.

  7. OnTheRoadToSuccess

    Brilliant idea, Enrique. As Martin-Éric rightly pointed out – the results of such a survey would be a game-changer in daily Finn-Immigrant interaction, which is presently on “life support.”

  8. Linda


    I think it will be a good idea to classify immigrants, by race (caucasian, black african, Middle-eastern, chinese and other), gender and level of education. This way, the survey will also tell us how immigrant groups differ from eachother. I added gender because, in my experience women face less hostility,it would be nice to know whether it is a correct assumption or not.

  9. Martin-Éric

    Linda, I really don’t see what a racial classification would contribute. I’m not sure that level education is significant either. Gender vaguely makes sense, though, and precisely for the reason that you mention.

  10. xyz

    Rassial classification is quite important I think. There are groups in Finland with higher unemployment rate than other groups.

    Education would also be interesting…as it is quite important to get a job in Finland.

  11. Linda

    Hi Martin,

    Firstly, I suggested race, because, many white immigrants might have it easier than blacks, thus their experiences might differ significantly from Africans.

    Secondly, I added chinese because there is an assumption in Finland that the Chinese are hard working people, and that assumption might lead into favoring the chinese for a job, although there might be a more qualified African candidate available.

    Thirdly, the level of education: this will show us, which group of immigrants are more excluded from the proffesional job market as well non-proffesional jobs. The survey could give many answers depending on how the questionaire is written.

    • Enrique

      Linda has a point but here we can see how complex classifying a group is. If you use three criteria you may come close: (1) nationality; (2) mother tongue; and (3) what they person considers himself to be. I mentioned two groups: visible (those that stand out from the rest of the population) and invisible (those that don’t) immigrants. There are, I am certain, many ways of doing it and these types of surveys have been done before.

  12. Martin-Éric

    Linda: race is too broad of a classification. For instance, we already known that Slavic nations experience more racism than Germanic and Scandinavian nations, yet all are Caucasian races.

    The same happens among people of color. People from the Indian sub-continent experience far less racism than Africans. Already among Africans, there’s differences between the white north, the different black shades everywhere else, whether the people involved are of an Arabic tribe or not, and whether they are Muslim or of some other religion.

    There are also differences among Asian people and things become even more confused when it involves Asians from Eastern Russia, such as Yakutia, where several identities collide, some official, some personal.

    Level of education is misleading because foreigners of any race seldom find employment in their own field, either because their foreign degree is not acknowledged by Finland, or more often because of racism. Both of these factors affect Caucasians as well.

    — Martin-Éric

    • Enrique

      Hi Ep, and welcome to Migrant Tales. Could you fill us in a bit more on racial classification and the law. Why do people such as Halla-aho and others use 1930s eugenics to explain how “race” determines behavior? What about the work of Kalvei Wiik? Just curious. As you remember, Finns used to classify themselves not too long ago in two racial groups: the Nordic and East Baltic.

  13. Linda

    Martin-Éric: Sorry I didn’t reply earlier. Yes, I do agree with you in all cases.

    Actually it is my bad, didn’t read the whole article properly that is why. The questions that Enrique suggested will be enough to reveal the positions of immigrants by itself.