Poll: Satisfaction with human rights situation in Estonia declines slightly

Crowds at a Tallinn tram stop (photo is illustrative).
Crowds at a Tallinn tram stop (photo is illustrative). Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

More Estonian residents have concerns about human rights in relation to coronavirus restrictions, climate issues and in general, than was the case earlier this year and late last year, a recent poll suggests, particularly with some demographic sectors. However, overall residents – still over 80 percent of respondents – said they thought there were no human rights issues to be concerned with.

The survey, commissioned by the Estonian Institute of Human Rights (Inimõiguste Instituut) and conducted by pollsters Turu-uuringute, found that the proportion of respondents who found that "everything is in order with human rights in Estonia" had dropped to 81 percent, from 84 percent of respondents in a similar survey conducted in April.

An earlier survey conducted along the same lines in November last year returned 87 percent of respondents feeling the same way.

The current survey also posed, for the first time, whether there might be situations where the interests of the state and society should take precedence over the interests of the individual.

The poll surveyed residents of Estonia and not just citizens.

Poll: 55 percent say societal rights trump individual ones during pandemic

75 percent of respondents said this should be the case in a state of war-time, while 55 percent agreed that this should be the case during pandemic conditions.

Reflecting on the survey's results, Lauri Malksoo, professor of international law at the University of Tartu, said that: "Most people find that there are situations - from war to pandemic – where the interests of the state and society trump those of the individual."

"However, as many as 9 percent of respondents believe that such situations can virtually never occur, meaning that the interests of the individual are always at the forefront," he went on.

University of Tartu professor: Significant number of libertarians in Estonian society

"This demonstrates that there is also a significant number of libertarians within Estonian society," Malksoo claimed.

"These different segments of Estonian society are currently in intensive dialogue with each other on the coronavirus-related restrictions, as well," he went on.

The survey also polled respondents as to whether the media, in their view, has avoided stigmatizing and discriminating against society or societal groups, reported opinions in an impartial and balanced manner and protected human rights.

67 percent find coronavirus restrictions have not violated human rights

It also asked whether the coronavirus restrictions imposed have violated fundamental and human rights and whether human rights rhetoric has been used for ideological purposes.

67 percent of respondents said that the coronavirus restrictions related have not violated anyone's fundamental or human rights, down from 77 percent in April's' survey.

Regional, age-group and educational differences

However, the 30-39-year-old demographic were much more susceptible to thinking that the restrictions did violate human rights, with the proportion of respondents reaching nearly half, at 46 percent, in the latest survey, over double last November's figure of 21 percent.

Similarly, 41 percent of residents of Northeast Estonia polled considered the restrictions to be violating their human rights, compared with 30 percent in April and 17 percent last November.

Results across all respondent groups were more negative than they had been in November last year and in April this year, BNS reports.

Nonetheless, trust in the Constitution remains high, according to the survey, with 76 percent of respondents agreeing that the it protects the rights and values of the individual.

Climate issues: 58 percent say society more important than individual

With regard to climate catastrophe, 58 percent of respondents overall said that communal interests outweighed individual ones here, though the results varied hugely by demographic.

Among 15-19-year-olds, but also among respondents aged 75 and over, 78 percent through that societal interests outweighed individual rights on climate.

However, among 40-49-year-olds, that proportion was just 40 percent, the lowest of any age group.

44 percent of people with primary or basic education said that society was more important in relation to climate issues, than individuals.

Turu-Uuringute AS conducted the online survey for the Institute of Human Rights by interviewing just over a thousand Estonian residents in the month of October.

It asked respondents to assess whether there might be situations where the interests of the state and society are more important than the interests of the individual.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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