Ratings: Reform support levels off, Center reverses decline

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Reform, led by Kaja Kallas, and Center, whose leader is Jüri Ratas, the two largest parties, have seen their support fortunes change this week, according to Norstat. Reform's has levelled-off, while Center's has started to rise after a continued fall. Source: Raul Mee

Support for coalition party Reform has stalled after a lengthy trend towards a rise, according to a recent poll. Opposition Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) meanwhile continues to rise, to its highest level in over two years, while coalition party Center, which had been seeing declining support recently, has reversed that trend slightly.

According to the latest weekly survey by pollsters Norstat, on behalf of NGO the Institute for Social Research (MTÜ Ühiskonnauuringute Instituut), Reform, with 34 seats in the Riigikogu, is polling at about the same figure – 34.6 percent. Last week it was over 35 percent. EKRE now polls at 19.9 percent, its highest figure since early 2019, with Center picking up 19.5 percent support among respondents.

The two coalition parties together have seen 54.1 percent support, with the three opposition parties, EKRE, Isamaa and the Social Democratic Party (SDE) together garnering 31.2 percent.

Non-parliamentary party Eesti 200, early on in the year the third-most popular party in the Norstat ratings and ahead of EKRE, has continued to see a fall in its support, now for the 10th week in a row.

This is the longest period of decline in support for any party in the past two years or so, Norstat says, and a fall of 5.4 percent in support since the start of this year.

SDE, with 10 seats, is now at its lowest level since early 2019, with 6 percent.

Analyst Martin Mölder says that the hemorrhaging of support for Eesti 200 does, however, give a clearer picture of what the party's support base truly is.

The party posted 11.1 percent in the latest Norstat poll; at the end of 2020/beginning of 2021 it stood at 16.5 percent. 

Mölder said: "Eesti 200 support has either remained constant or fell to a lesser extent among voters under the age of 50, and to some degree also among wealthier voters. Those demographics whose preferences had been less strongly in favor of Eesti 200, meaning older and less wealthy voters, have moved further behind in the changed political situation. At the moment, it is thus easier to see who the Eesti 200 core supporters are." 

The party, formed in 2018, had been seen as a protest vote in some ways, as against EKRE, when it was in office. However, this raison d'etre may have been removed somewhat with the collapse of the last coalition in January, and the arrival of the Reform/Center bi-partite coalition.

The largest chance in the past week is for Center, whose support rose by 1.8 percent. The party had seen reported declines in support from a traditional demographic, Russian-speaking voters, primarily in Tallinn and in Ida-Viru County, with EKRE picking up some of these. However this reversal of fortunes is in its first week as regards Norstat polls. The party is still in third place, just, behind EKRE, where it has been since late February.

SDE is on six percent support, as noted, one percentage point ahead of the 5 percent threshold required to win Riigikogu (or municipal or European parliament) seats, while Isamaa has long been hovering around this benchmark, and in the latest survey sees 5.3 percent support – for the fifth week in a row in fact. SDE has 10 Riigikogu seats, Isamaa, 12.

With the big two parties, Reform and Center, recent trends – the former towards a rise, the latter, a fall, have been arrested at least for the time being.

Martin Mölder noted that the negative effects of the Porto Franco real estate scandal on Center's support have by now worn off – and that this mostly affected its Estonian-speaking base.

SDE have also seen falls in support among men voters – where in isolation they would be below the 5 percent threshold – and also among Russian-speaking and more financially well-heeled supporters.

SDE is currently active in bringing to the Riigikogu a bill which would raise the age of consent to 16, from 14.

The next direct elections are in October, to Estonia's municipalities. The presidential elections in August-September are not direct and do not poll the electorate, but rather the Riigikogu in the first instance.

Norstat claims an error margin of +/-1.55 percent in its ratings, which combine figures from the preceding four weeks. The company used a combination of phone and online polling in its processes. The Institute for Social Research is a conservative think-tank established in 2016.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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