News 22 Apr 2024

Finns taken over by survey fatigue – Statistics Finland is concerned about skewness of information

Information and views collected from citizens are a central raw material for statistics that steer social decision-making. In recent years, people’s response rates to surveys have fallen steeply. This feature is international and there are several reasons for the non-response. Statistics Finland highlights this worrying development with the Blue and white letter campaign. 

“We citizens are the main data source for official statistical data, which is often not even realised. For example, statistics describing employment and households' consumption are almost exclusively produced with data collected from ordinary people. Based on these statistics, decision-makers make decisions that affect the everyday life of every one of us,” Senior Statistician Henna Attila explains. 

Statistics Finland collects data annually from nearly 400,000 citizens, households and organisations. In order for the data to be reliable, responses are needed exhaustively and evenly from all population groups. The response rate has continuously fallen and increasingly more work is needed to collect the required survey data.  

“We are worried about this growing trend. If the direction cannot be changed, the picture of the situation among those who respond weakly may remain deficient. This threatens to erode the knowledge base of social decision-making that concerns us all,” says Henna Attila. 

Several reasons for non-response 

“The number of various inquiries, opinion polls and surveys has exploded, and as a result, clear survey fatigue is visible in Finland. It is also difficult for people to recognise the connection of surveys concerning the whole of society to their own life and what the collected data has an effect on,” says Attila. 

Statistics Finland has tried to make participation in surveys easier in many ways. In practice, it is possible to answer all inquiries online. In addition, data are collected with telephone interviews or forms sent by post.  

“The biggest challenge is that citizens cannot be reached. For example, people do not necessarily answer the phone anymore, especially if they do not know the number from which the call is coming. We have also noticed that contact attempts are drowned in a flood of messages especially among those living through the busy family years,” says Henna Attila and states that statistical authorities face the same challenges in other European countries as well. 

Regional differences in survey fatigue 

The rate of survey fatigue varies in different parts of Finland. Statistics Finland's comparison data show that eagerness to respond follows regionally a relatively similar pattern as voting turnout.

“Those living in areas experiencing economic difficulties or migration loss are generally somewhat less motivated to participate in social activity than others. There are also exceptions: for example, people living in Lapland and Kymenlaakso participate in Statistics Finland's surveys quite eagerly. Surprisingly, it is most challenging to get enough answers from North Ostrobothnia and Kanta-Häme,” says Henna Attila. 

Blue and white letter arouses respondents to answer 

Statistics Finland has been producing data for the needs of Finnish society since 1865 and Finland is among the forerunners of statistical data in the world.  

“With the Blue and white letter campaign we are now highlighting the importance of citizens as producers of common data. Reliable data cannot be generated from scratch even today, but every response is important,” says Henna Attila. 

The campaign is linked to the Labour Force Survey, which is Statistics Finland's largest and most followed survey. The Blue and white letter gets dropped through the letterbox of those being reached for the survey and the important message is also communicated on social media. 

“The response rate of the Labour Force Survey has fallen by over 20 per cent in ten years and it is important to make every effort to revert this development,” says Henna Attila.  

Further information: 
Senior Statistician Henna Attila 
Statistics Finland, Data collection services 
+358 29 551 3378