Falling support for EKRE in the latest Kantor Emor survey may be due to the party's attempt to use the Marko Mihkelson scandal to its advantage having backfired. Reform's popularity appears to have increased due to electricity bills rising less than feared.
Survey expert Aivar Voog discussed the results of November's Kantor Emor survey with ERR journalists Indrek Kiisler and Urmet Kook.
According to the November Kantar Emor survey commissioned by ERR, 31 percent of voters support the Reform Party. This is an increase of three percent from October, when survey results showed 28 percent support for Reform. In contrast, EKRE, which still came second in the November survey, saw its support drop from 25 percent to 22 percent. 15 percent of those surveyed supported the Center Party, while Eesti 200 were backed by 14 percent. A month earlier, both parties were supported by 14 percent of respondents.
Survey expert Aivar Voog said, that the situation had become a little more favorable for Prime Minister Kaja Kallas' Reform Party, as the situation with heating and electricity bills has not turned out to be as bad as previously feared.
Head of ERR radio news Indrek Kiisler pointed out, that electricity bills had already started to fall in October. "People (have already) got over the shock," Kiisler said, adding that things would move at about the same pace until the end of the year, and that a tipping point in relation to electricity prices may come in January or February, just before the elections.
ERR journalist Urmet Kook said, that while it had been thought that support for Reform could be affected by the recent scandal involving Marko Mihkelson, it does not seem to have had a major impact. Kook suggested, that, Reform voters may have questioned EKRE's efforts to instrumentalize the suffering of the children involved in the case, in the Riigikogu, or that, perhaps for them, the issue simply did not resonate.
"A section of the electorate started to sympathize with the Reform Party. EKRE, on the other hand, went off the rails," Kook said.
Voog said, that Mihkelson is not considered to be a figurehead for Reform and therefore does not have much impact on the party's overall ratings. He added, that when such scandals first appear, it can cause an emotional response amongst voters, which may lead them to use their votes as a form of protest. However, the situation may often change later as more details emerges.
Kiisler said that, while no new facts were likely to emerge in the Mihkelson case, the Reform MP will probably still receive some sympathy votes.
Speaking about the Center Party, Voog said, that the key question for them was whether they could regain support from Russian-speaking voters.
Kook pointed out, that EKRE had managed to increase its support among Russian-speaking voters, something which Kiisler believes was helped by vice-chair Mart Helme's stance on the war in Ukraine. Helme has said, that he supports neither Ukraine nor Russia in the war, but instead stands for peace.
Kook added, that EKRE has now become the second favorite party for Russian-speaking voters, after Center, which, in his view, is positive for democracy, as it no longer means that the votes from this section of Estonian society are so heavily concentrated on just one party.
However, according to Kiisler, this puts Center in a very difficult position. "They are competing with EKRE for the same voter group and with the same proposals." Kook agreed, pointing out, that Center has failed to push its own agenda and instead appears to focus on reacting against Reform.
As for Isamaa and the SDE, Kook said that both are also in relatively poor positions.
Voog said, that Isamaa has, as usual, begun campaigning heavily ahead of the elections, which has enabled the party to boost its support. The Social Democrats however, have clearly been overshadowed by Reform and Eesti 200.
Kiisler also said, that Isamaa had failed to draw voters away from EKRE. While Justice Minister Lea Danilson-Järg has helped Isamaa's cause, by leading the way on bills to remove Soviet symbols from public space and increase the importance of the Estonian language, this has not necessarily led to a growth in support from voters.
"There has been a lot of support (for these policies -ed.), but it doesn't translate into support for the party," Kiisler said. Kook said, that these issues are not so important for voters. "People understand that their removal will not help Ukraine. That it is essentially a substitute action," he explained.
Kiisler said that the Social Democrats were having difficulty finding well-known names for their lists in municipalities outside Tallinn, while Kook added, that without such additions, they will have a hard time crossing the electoral threshold.
Kiisler also believes that Eesti 200 has high potential, as an alternative to those voters who are dissatisfied with the current government.
The survey commissioned by ERR and conducted by Kantar Emor also revealed how confident voters are in their current choice of political party. According to the survey, Reform and EKRE voters are the most confident in their current choices, while SDE and Eesti 200 voters may be the most likely to change their minds.
Nine percent of Reform voters surveyed were either "not sure" or "very unsure" of their current choice, while 14 percent of EKRE voters were also in the same position.
20 percent of Center voters are unsure about their preferred party, while the same can be said for 23 percent of Isamaa voters.
SDE and Eesti 200 voters were the least certain about their preferred parties, with 28 percent of the former and, as many as 37 percent of the latter, still unsure if they would stick with their current choices.
In total, 19 percent of voters surveyed were unsure whether they will ultimately vote for the party they currently prefer, meaning up to a fifth could still change their minds when the time comes to cast their ballots.
Kantar Emor was commissioned by ERR news agency to carry out a survey between November 10 and 17. 1,512 voters aged 18-84 responded to the survey, with half interviewed online and the other half by telephone.
Editor: Michael Cole