While the prime minister's Reform Party has this month been able to arrest and reverse a lengthy downward trend in support and coalition partner the Social Democrats (SDE) has seen its highest rating in recent years, support for the third coalition party, Eesti 200, has fallen below the five percent threshold required to win seats under Estonia's electoral system.
In other words, if an election were held today, according to a recent poll by Kantar Emor, Eesti 200 would not win seats in a given constituency – the next election takes place in June, to the European Parliament, where Estonia is treated as a single electoral district.
The Kantar Emor survey, commissioned by ERR, revealed that opposition party Isamaa has remained the most-supported party in January, albeit with currently declining support. Whereas Isamaa emerged as the most popular party last November/December and with a rating of 25 percent according to Kantar, Isamaa's support had fallen to 22 percent this month.
The Reform Party enjoyed a surge in support following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which began nearly two years ago, but from April last year, when it re-entered office as the largest party in the current coalition, its support started to freefall.
Reasons for this included unpopular tax hike proposals.
However, Reform has managed to halt this decline – or in any case the decline has halted – and in fact the party's rating has started to rise again somewhat, albeit from an historically low position.
Whereas in December, the prime minister's party picked up 15 percent in support, leaving it in joint third/fourth place with the Center Party, in January, the figure had risen to 19 percent, bouncing Reform back to second place behind Isamaa, according to Kantar.
EKRE and SDE lie in fourth place on 17 percent each
The opposition Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) meanwhile has seen its rating fallen slightly since November, to 21 percent, while SDE's has grown, to put the two on par in third/fourth place.
The Center Party is now in fifth place on 14 percent of support, though support in their target demographic, foreign-speaking voters (meaning overwhelmingly in practice Russian-speakers – ed.) is much higher, at nearly 51 percent.
The situation among native Estonian speakers is the reverse – Center only polls at 4 percent now, with this demographic, Kantar Emor says.
Eesti 200, which has the lowest rating among the governing coalition parties as noted (and the lowest for any of the six Riigikogu parties – ed.), fell further and is now below the election threshold, according to Kantar's January survey, at 4 percent. The party polled much higher than this last March and has 14 Riigikogu seats, however.
More significantly still, the non-parliamentary Parempoolsed, now matches Eesti 200 for support, at 4 percent.
This party was founded in 2022 and is at the same stage in its life span as Eesti 200, founded in 2018, was four years ago, at a time when it had narrowly missed out on Riigikogu seats at the 2019 election (polling then at 4.7 percent).
Of the other main non-represented parties (in the Riigikogu at least), the Estonian Greens polled at 2 percent, and the pro-Kremlin EÜVP picked up 1 percent of support.
Expert: Ratings are becoming more volatile
According to Kantar Emor's research expert Aivar Voog, the ratings of political parties are becoming more unstable once again.
Voog said: "The overriding influence here is seemingly the shifting of media attention from the stand-off between the coalition and the opposition, to the activities of the governing coalition," itself, referring to the long-running filibuster at the Riigikogu from last spring to year-end, compared with the current situation facing the coalition, particularly with regard to the teachers' strike.
Although it is a strong infighting within the governing coalition on the subject of teachers' salaries, as a result, the opposition has clearly been overshadowed and their total preference has dropped from 60 percent to 54 percent."
At the same time, the total support of the government coalition increased from 33 percent in December to 40 percent in January.
In recent months, the percentage of respondents who cannot state their preference has also increased. Last November there were 22 percent of such respondents, in December 25 percent and in January 27 percent.
Once the "can't say" respondents are also taken into account, 16 percent of respondents said they supported Isamaa in January (compared with19 percent in December, and 20 percent in November, 2023).
On this basis, Reform's support was 14 percent (cf. 13 percent both in November and December last year).
EKRE's support with "can't say" respondents factored in also stood at 13 percent in January (down from 14 percent in December and 16 percent in November).
Support for SDE stood at 12 percent (cf. 11 percent in December and 10 percent in November) while Center polled at 9 percent, with unpledged respondents included (largely unchanged on the 8 percent in December and 9 percent in November).
With the "don't knows" included in the results, Eesti 200 polled at just 3 percent this month, according to Kantar Emor, down from 5 percent and 4 percent in November and December respectively.
Using this rationale, Parempoolsed polled at 3 percent also, the Greens at 2 percent and EÜVP below 1 percent.
Two percent is also a signal rating as it is the threshold above which a party qualifies for state support, even if it has not been elected (Parempoolsed surpassed this level in the March 2023 election).
Support by demographic
Among native Estonian-speaking respondents, Isamaa was once again the most-supported party, rating at 27 percent. The Reform Party followed on 22 percent, EKRE with 19 percent and SDE with 17 percent.
The Center Party, Eesti 200 and Parempoolsed were neck-and-neck on 4 percent among Estonian-speaking respondents.
While as noted Center's support is very low with this demographic and in particular since the exit of several leading MPs since last September, the result is an indictment for Eesti 200 too.
Center party of choice for voters of 'other ethnicities'
Among respondents of 'other ethnicities,' Center remains first choice at 51 percent.
It is noteworthy from the Kantar results that SDE garnered 19 percent support among respondents of other nationalities, again primarily Russian-speaking respondents to the survey, and more than it did among native Estonian respondents.
EKRE polled at 12 percent with this demographic, Reform and Isamaa just 6 percent and 4 percent respectively, Eesti 200 and the EÜVP at 3 percent each, and Parempoolsed and the Greens at 2 percent apiece.
Support in Tallinn alone
In Tallinn, the highest rated party in the Kantar survey was Center with 24 percent, followed by their coalition partner in the capital, SDE, on 19 percent – in joint place with Reform in fact.
Isamaa polled at 14 percent in Tallinn, EKRE at 12 percent.
Parempoolsed exceeded Eesti 200 in Tallinn, with 5 percent versus 4 percent, while the Greens polled at 2 percent in the capital.
These results suggest that there is an even starker dicision along ethnic lines, in terms of support for the Center Party versus Reform and other parties, than had earlier been the case.
Kantar Emor's survey covered the period January 17 to 24 and polled 1,498 citizens of voting age (above 18, with an age ceiling of 84).
A third of respondents were quizzed over the phone; two-thirds online.
Kantar Emor claims a margin of error of +/- 2.2 percent, using this methodology.
The survey was commissioned by public broadcaster ERR.
Kantar Emor's Aivar Voog joined ERR's Anvar Samost and Urmet Kook on Friday also, to comment further on the implications of the latest survey result.
Editor: Andrew Whyte, Urmet Kook