Ratings: Support gap between Reform and Center continues to narrow ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Centre and Reform Party members at the opening session of the Riigikogu in September 2019.
Centre and Reform Party members at the opening session of the Riigikogu in September 2019. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Opposition Reform Party remains the most popular of Estonia's political party, though the gap between it and coalition Center has narrowed, according to recent research.

The research, by pollster Norstat on behalf of NGO the Institute for the Study of Societal Issues (MTÜ Ühiskonnauuringute Instituut), reported that Reform's support had dipped below 30 percent.

The latest polls, conducted on a weekly basis, show the Reform Party on 29.9 percent support, the Center Party on 25.4 percent, and coalition Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) on 18.2 percent.

The top three are followed by the opposition Social Democratic Party (SDE) with 8.3 percent, the non-parliamentary party Estonia 200 with 7.9 percent, and Isamaa, which is in the coalition, just above ther 5 percent threshold required for parliamentary seats, on 5.1 percent.

The three coalition parties together enjoyed 48.7 percent support from respondents, the highest it has been this year, BNS reports, compared with 38.2 percent for the two opposition parties (NB Estonia 200 does not have Riigikogu seats).

No drastic change in trends

Researcher Martin Mölder from the institute added that there had been no big surprises regarding the changes on week.

"As in most cases, short-term fluctuations are within the statistical error margin," Mölder said, according to BNS.

"At the same time, all the small shifts we are currently seeing characterize the long-term trends in party support - the support for the Reform Party is falling on average, the support for the Center Party and EKRE is rising, SDE and Estonia 200 have stabilized somewhere between 5 and 10 percent, and Isamaa is falling towards 5 percent. With small and, in terms of weekly comparison, inconspicuous steps, everyone has moved in their now-familiar direction."

Support for the Reform Party reached its post-election peak in August 2019, when the party garnered 38.5 percent of respondent in the same surveys, and since that time, the party has lost 8.6 percentage points of support.

Support for Isamaa has not been at such a low level since the beginning of last year when Norstat started with party preference surveys. Five percent is the benchmark figure for winning Riigikogu, local and European seats under Estonia's d'Hondt system of proportional representation. In other words, were an election to take place today, Isama would only scrape through if the survey results are reflective. Estonia 200 polled only slightly below 5 percent at the March 2019 general election, the first one it had contested.

Whereas in the second half of last year, the difference between general support for the Center Party and the Reform Party was steady at a little over 10 percent, since the beginning of this year, it has made a rapid drop to about 5 percent. The early stages of the pandemic and the emergency situation declared on March 12 saw a rise in support for Center Party Prime Minister Jüri Ratas, but this subsequently levelled-off.

"If the same long-term pace continues, the support for the two parties could be at parity in a couple of months' time. At the same time, it will soon be summer, when the political rhythm will inevitably be different," Mölder added.

EKRE see rise in support among the young

While no radical changes in individual voter groups' behavior could be detected, some developments could still be pointed out, Mölder went on.

"For the last three weeks, instead of the Social Democrats, EKRE has been the second most popular party in the youngest age group, and the second most popular party in the lowest income group after the Center Party, instead of the Reform Party. The Reform Party reigns supreme among those earning more than a thousand euros a month. Since the end of last year, their support has grown on average in the youngest group of voters and has been stable for a long time in their most secure position - among the highest-income voters. In all other voter groups, the support for the Reform Party has recently moved downhill," Molder said.

The Institute for the Study of Societal Issues and Norstat Eesti AS have focused on the aggregate result of the last four weeks, taking a sample of at least 4,000 Estonian citizens of voting age. Norstat claims a statistical error margin of +/- 1.55 percent.

The Institute for the Study of Societal Issues is a think tank which was established in January 2016.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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