Torvalds was active in the Communist Party of Finland (SKP) since he was a college student in the 1960s. He was elected to the Central Committee of the SKP in 1982. His political beliefs developed after learning of the atrocities committed against communist sympathizers in Finland. In his son Linus' book, he is reported as having lost enthusiasm for Communism. In 2007 he was elected to the post of the third vice president of the Swedish People's Party (Finland).
He met his wife Anna at their university. As the family story is told, he had a rival for Anna's attention on an outing for a club of Swedish-speaking students. As they were preparing to make the trip back to Helsinki, he had the rival oversee the loading of the club's bus. He then used the occasion to sit down next to Anna. They married years after and later divorced.