Henrik Serup Christensen, Åbo Akademi University
Maija Karjalainen, University of Turku
Laura Nurminen, Helsinki University
Crowdsourcing legislation is one of the emerging ways to engage citizens in the legislative decision-making in representative democracies (Howe, 2008; Aitamurto, 2012; Brabham, 2013). This form of democratic innovation involves giving ordinary citizens, rather than political and bureaucratic elites, the chance to cooperate to come up with innovative new policies. Crowdsourcing legislation frequently happens in connection to Citizens’ initiatives, which have been introduced in several European countries and at the European level (Setälä and Schiller, 2012). Using the Internet for crowdsourcing such initiatives makes it possible to engage a greater range of voices in drafting the proposal than what is practically possible to achieve offline and should ideally make it possible to draft proposals of higher quality and with greater public appeal.
By increasing popular involvement, the representative democracies hope to restock dwindling reserves of political legitimacy. However, it is still not clear how involvement in the legislative decision-making affects the attitudes of the participants, since it cannot be taken for granted that this impact is positive (cf. Blaug, 2002). It is therefore of central concern to establish whether crowdsourcing can actually help restore political legitimacy by creating more positive attitudes towards the political system.
This study paper contributes to this research agenda by examining the developments in attitudes among the users on the Finnish website Avoin Ministeriö (English translation Open Ministry) which orchestrates crowdsourcing of legislation by providing online tools for deliberating ideas for Citizens’ initiatives. The Citizens’ initiative was introduced in Finland in 2012, but so far, there has only been a final decision on a single Citizens´ initiative, where an initiative to ban fur-farming in Finland was rejected by the Finnish Parliament in July 2013. The developments in attitudes among the participants on Avoin Ministeriö are examined following this decision with the help of a two-stage survey. The data include 421 respondents who filled in the questions concerning political and social attitudes as well as political activities performed. The results suggest that while crowdsourcing legislation has so far not affected political legitimacy in a positive manner, there is still potential for doing so.