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Poll: Young people increasingly support conscription

The new survey also shows growing concern over the global refugee situation and international terrorism.

Uudet alokkaat kantavat varusteitaan Santahaminan varuskunnassa.
Fresh conscripts carrying equipment to their barracks at the Santahamina army base on 6 January. Image: Vesa Moilanen / Lehtikuva

A poll by the Advisory Board For Defence Information (ABDI), a parliamentary committee also including defense experts, has a sharp rise in support for military conscription among young Finns.

In 2018, a similar poll found that fewer than 60 percent of Finns under the age of 25 wanted to see Finland continue its system of universal military conscription of young men. This latest survey registered support for conscription by over 80 percent of the under-25 year-olds questioned.

The data gathered by ABDI also showed growing willingness to defend the country.

Those surveyed were asked the question, "If Finland were attacked, do you think the Finns should defend themselves, under all circumstances, even though the outcome looked uncertain?"

In 2018, fewer than 50 percent answered in the affirmative. When the question was posed to a sample of 1,011 people in November-December of last year, 78 percent of men and 58 percent of women said "yes".

Growing gender gap

ABDI secretary general Heli Santala says that the difference in responses between genders on this question has been seen before, but the gap has been growing.

"Women seem to oppose war more than men do. In their replies, many primarily stress negotiation and diplomacy," Santala explains.

The issue of gender equality in relation to military conscription in Finland has been very much in the air of late. However, there is rising support for the current system that makes service compulsory for men, but voluntary for women.

According to Santala, a gender-neutral system would not necessarily mean gender equality. Pointing to the introduction of gender neutral conscription in Norway in 2015, she noted that only young people who want to serve in that country are actually selected and only 10-12 percent of any age group goes into training.

Worries about terrorism

Since 2004, the annual ABDI poll has included questions about what factors or phenomena are causing concern about the future.

In the 2018 poll, the leading cause of concern was found to be climate change. This time, worries about international terrorism and concern over the global refugee situation have moved to the top of the list.

Some 75 percent of respondents cited climate change as a continuing concern, however. Worries about organised crime and extremist political movements were just as high.

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