The Reform Party has lost ground while the opposition Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) continues to gain and is now practically neck-and-neck iin support with coalition party Center, according to a recent survey, which aggregates results over the past four weeks.
The survey, conducted by pollsters Norstat on behalf of NGO the Institute for Social Research (MTÜ Ühiskonnauuringute Instituut), finds Reform is supported by 30.1 percent of respondents, while Center and EKRE picked up 19.9 percent and 19.5 percent respectively.
The two coalition parties together, Reform and Center, were supported by slightly over half the respondents at 50.7 percent, while the three opposition parties (EKRE, Isamaa and the Social Democratic Party (SDE)) polled at 32.1 percent.
Norstat conducts its polls on a weekly basis, and says that in the case of this past week, Reform's support has fallen 1.3 percentage points, bringing it to a 4.7 percentage-point haemorrhage over the past eight weeks in a row.
Center's support has remained unchanged over the past week, while EKRE's rose by 1.2 percentage points, Norstat says.
The remaining two parliamentary parties are actually outstripped again by a non-parliamentary party, Eesti 200, which garnered 13.5 percent of support. SDE were next with 7 percent and Ismaa 5.6 polled at 5.6 percent.
Researcher Martin Mõlder said Reform's support trend, for a fall of about 5 percentage points over the past two months, mirrors the one that it experienced on the advent of the coronavirus pandemic over a year ago.
"In the last two years, the Reform Party's support last fell so rapidly and so sharply in February and March last year, in parallel with the spread of the coronavirus and the declaration of a state of emergency. It can be seen that the prime minister continues to lose government support," Mölder said.
The Center Party grew in support in the early stages of the pandemic from March last year.
However, Reform's support is buoyed by the "Kallas effect", Mölder said, which prompts more women to support Reform than men – so while support from both genders has fallen, among women the fall is not as marked, he said.
Another phenomenon which may be at play is that Reform no longer have the aura of being in opposition.
Those abandoning Reform are not necessarily going elsewhere, however. The proportion of unpledged voters has risen, while absolute support for other parties has either remained the same or risen slightly, Mölder noted – some will have switched from Reform to SDE, but that is about all.
The the Institute for Social Research and Norstat have focused on the past four weeks, starting April 7, in compiling their survey, meaning at least 4,000 individuals have been polled, they say. Margins of error grow in proportion to the size of a party's support, so for the most popular party, Reform, the margin is +/- 1.43 percent, compared with +/- 0.71 percent for Isamaa, Norstat says.
Respondents are Estonian citizens aged 18 and above, and both phone and online polling methods were used.
Editor: Andrew Whyte