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Party ratings: Emergency situation leads to increased interest in politics

Reform Party electoral adverts close to the Center Party headquarters in Tallinn, in early 2019.
Reform Party electoral adverts close to the Center Party headquarters in Tallinn, in early 2019. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

The recent emergency situation has led to a fall in the number of people who are not committed to any political party in Estonia, according to a recent survey.

The survey, conducted by Norstat on behalf of NGO the Institute for the Study of Societal Issues (MTÜ Ühiskonnauuringute Instituut), puts the Reform Party, which is in opposition, on 29.8 percent, compared with 26.2 percent for the coalition Center Party.

The Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) is in third place on 16.5 percent.

Of these three, Center has seen a slight increase, by 1.9 percentage points over the past week, Norstat reports, EKRE's has fallen slightly, by 1.7 percent over the past week, and Reform's is relatively unchanged, though the lowest it has been in the past year.

The Social Democratic Party (SDE), in opposition, is next on 8.3 percent support, with non-parliamentary party Estonia 200 and coalition party Isamaaa neck-and-neck on 5.2 percent.

The three coalition parties see 47.9 percent support, the two opposition parties are on 38.1 percent.

Analyst: More people would go to polls than earlier

Political scientist Martin Mölder says that the most significant finding from the recent survey was that the share of those who would not vote at all has fallen, from 35 percent earlier in the year, to 25 percent. In other words 75 percent said they would vote for someone.

Mölder said the emergency situation declared in response to the coronavirus pandemic was behind the change.

"It can be seen that both at the time the state of emergency was imposed (on March 12-ed.) and when it ended (May 17-ed.), the political preferences of many voters became clearer, and the proportion of those who did not have a preference fell sharply both at the beginning and, more recently, at the end of the state of emergency. But in general, in recent weeks, the clarification of preferences has been seen in all major socio-demographic groups," said Mölder.

Which parties would be the beneficiaries of this uptake in democratic participation was harder to estimate, Mölder went on, though said that Center and EKRE had most likely picked up the bulk of the increased, previously uncommitted support.

"As the same people are not polled from week to week, it is not possible to directly measure which party of these voters moved," he said.

"However, we can see how the support for the parties has changed at the same time. The increase in the absolute number of supporters of the Center Party is not significant. In the case of Isamaa and the two opposition parties, there has been no significant change. So it could be assumed that during the emergency, many voters' preferences became clearer, with them deciding to support either the Center Party or EKRE,"

The Norstat polls aggregates results of its weekly polls over a four-week period, and claims a +/- 1.55 percent error margin. A minimum of 4,000 respondents are polled.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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