Kaisa Esko: To whom do the Estonian people look in tough times?
Trust is something that is hard-won, tough to keep and easy to lose. There is no ideal measure for the credibility of institutions, which is all the more reason it is nice to see people's trust in institutions grow in times of crisis.
We live during a time when each day can conjure up new and anxious feelings. We need to constantly deal with stress caused by the situation around us, fear for the future, price hikes, war, grisly news. All of it is a tad too much on top of daily coping.
During anxious times, people look to their support network. While it is family and friends on the individual level, institutions serve as the support network of the people. It matters to Estonians that they have institutions they can trust and depend on in times of uncertainty.
The president is surely one such institution in Estonia. The president as someone who unites people and manages our anxiety. I'm glad to report that Estonians' trust in President Alar Karis is high: almost two-thirds of the population reports they trust the president.
Trust is higher among Estonians at 77 percent, while it is 40 percent among people of other nationalities. That said, trust in the president has grown among the latter group since the start of the war.
President Karis has been more visible and in touch with the people since his inauguration, which is why people's attitudes solidifying can be described as a natural process. But it is good that those attitudes tend to be positive.
The president is not the only institution that Estonians tend to trust more than people of other nationalities. This is inevitable to some extent, especially in the conditions of language barriers. However, looking at NATO, this divide becomes deeper.
Estonians trust NATO. We can confidently say so based on 72 percent of people giving that assurance. This drops to just 27 percent among non-Estonians. Confidence in NATO matters in the current situation.
We cannot get around the fact that there are a number of people who are opposed to NATO on principle or who associate the alliance solely with USA. But on the whole, the Estonian population sports a positive view of NATO. We want certainty in being defended, which is understandable.
Unfortunately, trust in NATO was not mapped immediately before the war in Ukraine started, while we can speculate that attitudes toward NATO have also become more concrete.
Estonian residents generally hold important institutions in high regard, especially the president, police, Defense Forces and the healthcare system. Unfortunately, relatively low trust in the government and Riigikogu can be highlighted as a negative trend. This is not characteristic to the current iterations of those institutions as people's trust in the government and parliament has historically been low.
Trust in the Riigikogu has grown a little in February and March, while Estonians' confidence in their parliament remains modest. A little over a third of Estonian residents trust the government of the republic, with the share of those undecided and untrusting more or less the same.
International institutions – NATO and the EU – are trusted by more people, whereas trust in NATO is somewhat greater than in the European Union, with both ahead of the government and Riigikogu.
Trust is something that is hard-won, tough to keep and easy to lose. There is no ideal measure for the credibility of institutions, which is all the more reason it is nice to see people's trust in institutions grow in times of crisis. The people need our elected leaders and Estonia's decisions to bear fruit and manufacture certainty.
Trust in institutions was gauged in Kantar Emor's monthly omnibus survey in February and March. The survey format was developed by the West Virginia University and professor Erik Herron. Trustworthiness was measured on a scale of one to five, where 1 signified lack of trust and 5 full confidence.
Options 4 and 5 are reflected on the infographic as trust, 3 as neutral and 1 and 2 as lack of trust.
Kantar Emor questioned 1,282 respondents between February 10-16 and 1,146 from March 10-16.
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Editor: Marcus Turovski