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The big question behind the research on media and democracy is: do media influence public opinion and the actual policy? The discussion about Finland’s NATO membership is a case in point. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, there has been a continuous public debate about whether Finland should join NATO. In the last 16 years, however, public opinion on NATO membership has not changed much. Despite the changes in world politics, such as NATO enlargement and new weapons technology, Finns still rely on military non-alliance and want to keep their own army strong. During the last ten years, there seems to be no correlation between media coverage and public opinion: pro-NATO media content has not been able to make Finns’ attitudes towards NATO more positive. The information provided by most of the Finnish newspapers is different from the way ordinary people see NATO. In the papers’ view, joining the alliance would be a natural step in Finland’s integration into Western democratic organizations. Ordinary people on the contrary consider NATO more as a (U.S. led) military alliance which is not something Finland should be a part of. Historical experiences also discourage military alignment. In the light of data drawn from newspaper articles and opinion polls, the article suggests that journalism has had only a slight effect on public opinion about Finland’s NATO membership. The NATO issue does not count for much in any measurements that have been made regarding the preferences of Finnish voters. As the NATO issue is not considered to be important, most people do not have enough motivation to learn about NATO. Thus, the journalistic interpretation of NATO has not reached the general public, leaving the impact of the media limited.
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