Survey: 56 percent of Estonians not deeming coverage of politics neutral

Photo is illustrative.
Photo is illustrative. Source: Thought Catalog/Unsplash

Media coverage of politics in major Estonian publications is not neutral, according to 56 percent of respondents to a survey commissioned in June by the Institute for the Study of Societal Issues (Ühiskonnauuringute Instituut), which also showed that supporters of the ruling coalition are particularly critical of the media.

In the survey carried out by pollster Norstat, respondents were requested to assess if Estonia's major media outlets' coverage of politics is neutral on a four-point scale. Four percent said the coverage was neutral, 29 percent deemed it rather neutral, 38 percent opined it was rather biased, 18 percent said it was biased and 10 percent did not have an opinion on the matter. Thus altogether, 33 percent said media publications' coverage of politics was neutral and 56 percent disagreed, according to the Institute for the Study of Societal Issues.

The biggest differences emerged between respondent groups when broken down by their political party preference. The group that was most dissatisfied with media outlets' coverage of politics supported the junior member of the government coalition Estonian Conservative People's Party (EKRE), whereas satisfaction was highest among supporters of the opposition Reform Party.

Among supporters of EKRE, 8 percent deemed the coverage of politics neutral while 89 percent disagreed. The respective figures among supporters of the senior member of the government coalition Center Party were 29 percent and 63 percent and among the second junior partner of the coalition Isamaa 35 percent and 60 percent.

Among supporters of the non-parliamentary Estonia 200, coverage was deemed neutral by 46 percent and biased by also 46 percent. The respective figures were 54 percent and 37 percent among supporters of the opposition Social Democratic Party (SDE) and 58 percent and 32 percent among supporters of the Reform Party.

The respective figure among respondents without party preference stood at 19 percent and 61 percent.

Peeter Espak, the member of the management board of the Institute for the Study of Societal Issues and newly-appointed member of the supervisory board of public broadcaster ERR (Estonian Public Broadcasting), opined that supporters of the coalition parties may be more critical of the media due to the government parties having received greater criticism than the opposition since the latest government was formed in 2019. 

"As supporters of the opposition parties feel that the media has a more positive view of the parties they support, their greater acceptance of and trust for the media is understandable," Espak said.

"Supporters of EKRE being critical was also to be expected as this party's approach to public communication has mainly consisted of accusing the mainstream media of being biased and anti-EKRE. The Center Party has not done so since Juri Ratas became the leader of the party, let alone Isamaa. This is where our various media houses should take a look in the mirror and ask themselves why the majority of voters feel that [the media] represents the opposition," Espak said.

The poll was carried out in an online environment by Norstat from June 2 to 18 among 1,000 Estonian citizens aged 18 and older. 

Editor: Katriin Eikin Sein

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