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Survey on local democracy in municipalities and regions in 2020

Local democracy in municipalities and regions

Statistical news from Statistics Sweden 2021-03-17 9.30

In the survey on local democracy in municipalities and regions, Statistics Sweden examines citizens’ opportunities to have an impact between elections. Information on council organisation, security efforts concerning elected representatives, audits and community information is also included in the results.

Three in four municipalities had a designated position that elected representatives can turn to if they are subjected to threats, hatred, or violence. At the same time, four in ten municipalities decided to increase responsibility for the security of elected representatives. Nine in ten municipalities had a citizen council, seven in ten municipalities arranged at least one citizen dialogue in 2019 and six in ten municipalities had an option to submit a citizen proposal. Virtually all municipalities used social media.

Security for elected representatives in the municipalities

New questions in the survey dealt with positions that handle threats, hatred, and violence against the elected politicians. Among the municipalities that responded to the survey, 185 of them, corresponding to 76 percent, answered that the municipality clarified to the elected representatives where they could turn to for support in matters regarding threats, hatred, and violence. A smaller proportion of municipalities, 42 percent, stated that they had decided to increase their responsibility for elected representatives’ working environment and security in their representative positions.

Citizen dialogues, citizen proposals and public question time in the municipalities

Citizen dialogue is defined as possibilities for citizens to communicate directly with elected representatives and officers in the municipalities, for example in the form of dialogue meetings, focus groups, or citizen panels. In the municipalities that took part in the survey, 73 percent held one or several citizen dialogues in 2019. Among those that held a citizen dialogue, 38 percent stated that it was possible to participate via the municipal website.

Citizens can also raise questions in the municipal council - this is called a citizen proposal. In total 149 municipalities, that is, 60 percent of those who answered the question, stated that it was possible to submit citizen proposals to the municipality in 2019, which is 12 percentage points less than in the previous survey.

A new question in the survey dealt with whether there were any electronic proposals in the municipalities and regions. An electronic proposal refers to an idea or a proposal from a citizen that is published on a website and that other citizens can support through some form of digital signature. Electronic proposals were present in 20 percent of the municipalities.

Another new question in this survey dealt with whether the municipalities had a public question time during council meetings. In total 64 percent of municipalities stated having question time. Public question time was more somewhat more commonly held at all council meetings, 38 percent, compared with selected council meetings, which 26 percent of the municipalities did.

Presence of citizen dialogues, citizen proposals, electronic proposals, and public question time, 2019 and 2015, proportion of municipalities (%)

Presence of citizen dialogues, citizen proposals, electronic proposals, and public question time, 2019 and 2015, proportion of municipalities (%)

Nine in ten municipalities had at least one citizen council

The municipalities can also let different groups of citizens be involved and influence through citizen councils. These can be young people, the elderly, foreign born persons, national minorities or people with disabilities. Citizen councils often consist of elected representatives and representatives of various interest groups. Among the municipalities that took part in the survey, 92 percent stated that they had some form of citizen council, which is a similar level as in the previous survey. A citizen council for elderly people was most common, and was present in 90 percent of the municipalities in 2019. Almost as many municipalities, 85 percent, had citizen councils for people with disabilities. In this year’s survey, 40 percent of the municipalities stated that they had a citizen council for young people.

Almost all municipalities used social media

It is worth noting that social media is used by virtually all municipalities; only two municipalities that took part in the survey stated that they did not use social media. However, the purpose of use varies. The most common purpose of using social media was to inform inhabitants in the municipality, at 96 percent. This was followed by contacting inhabitants, which 68 percent of the municipalities stated as a possible reason. Giving inhabitants the possibility to influence political decisions was stated by 15 percent of the municipalities that engaged in social media. In the previous survey, in 2015, nine in ten municipalities used social media.

Definitions and explanations

Statistics Sweden now publishes the results of the 2020 survey on local democracy in municipalities and regions. This is the fifth electoral period in which Statistics Sweden carries out this survey. The survey is sent to all 290 municipalities and 20 regions. In total, 247 municipalities and 16 regions participated. In addition to questions about democracy, relations to the citizens and security, there are also questions on which parties form part of the political governance, information channels to the citizens, forms of cooperation with private and non-profit organisations, municipal companies, relations with care users, information, services, and more.

Statistical Database

More information is available in the Statistical Database

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Statistical agency and producer

Statistics Sweden, Democracy Statistics

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Jonas Olofsson

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