Support for non-parliamentary party Estonia 200 has continued to rise as coalition party Center's has fallen slightly, a recent survey finds.
The research, conducted by pollsters Norstat on behalf of NGO the Institute for Social Research (MTÜ Ühiskonnauuringute Instituut) put Estonia 200, formed in 2018 and which currently has no Riigikogu seats, at 11 percent support among respondents – ahead of both the coalition Isamaa party (5.7 percent) and the opposition Social Democratic Party (8.3 percent).
This represented a 1.1-percentage-point rise on the previous week for Estonia 200, according to Norstat, and support for the party has risen 3.5 percentage points in the past five weeks.
Estonia 200 is a socially liberal, future-oriented (hence its name) and research and technology-focused party led by Kristina Kallas. It narrowly missed out on Riigikogu seats in the March 2019 election, with its vote only slightly below the 5 percent threshold required to pick up MP spots.
The big three parties remain Reform, in opposition, on 32.4 percent, the Center Party – the senior coalition party – on 21.3 percent, and the coalition Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) on 15.8 percent.
Center's support has fallen slightly, however, by 1.3 percentage points over the past week, whereas Reform and EKRE support has remained stable.
Overall, the three coalition parties received 42.8 percent of support among respondents, while the two opposition parties together polled at 40.7 percent.
The survey polled just over 4,000 Estonian citizens of voting age over the period October 22 to November 16, Norstat says.
Analyst: Shifts in support may be long-lasting
Political scientist Martin Mölder says that this week's results show the continuation of two trends observed last week, namely a fall in the proportion of unpledged voters and a rise for Estonia 200.
Respondents unable to express a preference for any particular party have fallen to an all-time low of 22.7 percent, Norstat says. Its polls using the current methodology have been running well over a year.
Mölder also noted that changes in support have also been across all the main socio-demographic groups, which he said suggested the latest results are not a flash in the pan
"As with the increase in support a year ago, we can now see that it has been fairly even across all major socio-demographic groups. This suggests that this is not a temporary shake, but rather a clear shift in the preferences of some voters," Mölder said.
Mölder noted another recent trend, a rise in support for EKRE among voters whose native language is not Estonian – principally those whose first language is Russian, along with the decline in Center support.
Since Center has traditionally drawn a lot of its support from the Russian-speaking community, particularly in Ida-Viru County and in Tallinn, the inference is that EKRE has been mopping up some of this fall – a drop which had already been observed in the March 2019 elections but with no other beneficiary party at that time.
As to why Russian-speaking voters might be more amenable to EKRE – an avowedly nationalistic Estonian party – the prevailing theory is that the party's stance on the definition of marriage, i.e. that it should be legally enshrined as a contract between one man and one woman, has been behind much of the rise.
Mölder said that: "Other changes include a very clear rise in EKRE support among non-Estonian voters. Whereas a month ago, EKRE support in this group stood at about 3.3 percent, now … it is 7.3 percent."
"At the same time, we can see that support for the Center Party has been on the whole following a slow but steady downward trajectory among non-Estonian voters over the past few months, and their support in this group is currently at a record low of 59.8 percent.
"During the 2006 elections, the support of the Center Party was about 70 percent among non-Estonian voters, "Mölder added."
Norstat conducts its polls on behalf of the Insitute for Social Research, a socially conservative think-tank.
Editor: Andrew Whyte