Isamaa/Pro Patria and the Social Democratic Party (SDE) candidates add the most value to their parties, according to research by pollsters Kantar Emor. The two parties, both junior coalition government partners at present, see their support rise the most when comparing answers to questions on which candidate a respondent would pick, versus simply which party they would vote for.
The data, collected in late January, shows that whilst support for Pro Patria as a whole stood at 7.5% of respondents, when naming candidates, support jumped to 10.6%. The same figures for SDE were 9.7% for the party as against 11.4% by named candidate.
The situation is the reverse for most other parties. The two non-parliamentary parties, Estonian Greens and newcomer Estonia 200. Support for the latter party stood at 7.2%, but naming specific candidates brought the figure down to 5.3%. Green Party overall support fell from 4.4% to 2.8% when making the transition from party support to candidate support.
Smaller drops are seen with the Reform and Centre parties, and the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE).
According to Kantar Emor, general support for Reform stands at 26.3%, falling to 25.5% by candidate. With Centre the same figures are 24.4% and 23.5% respectively. Centre is the majority coalition party and Reform the largest opposition party, indeed the largest overall party by seats.
Opposition party EKRE sees a more significant drop in support from its overall level of 18.2%, to 17% when naming candidates.
Overall rankings and changes - parties above the 5% electoral threshold
Reform is the largest party in popularity according to Kantar Emor, on 26.3%, though this has fallen a couple of percentage points since the start of the year.
Centre remains in second place according to Kantar Emor, on 24.4%. It has also seen a small drop in support since the new year, by about a percentage point.
Interestingly, the other major market researchers to provide party ratings data, Turu-uuringute, place the main two parties the other way round, with Centre top on 33% and Reform second, on 25%.
EKRE is in third place on 18.2%, but haslost a couple of percentage points since the beginning of the month and year, Kantar Emor says.
Junior coalition party SDE is at 9.7%, with yet another drop of a couple of per cent since a month ago.
The other coalition party, Pro Patria, is at the 7.5% mark putting it in fifth place, though experiencing only a slight fall since the beginning of the year.
Where has the dwindling support for all the parties listed above gone? According to Kantar Emor, Estonia 200 must be the beneficiaries of at least some of that leaching, as it is on 7.2%, compared with 6.6% a month ago.
This marks a more optimistic level than Turu-uuringute's figure of around 5%, which would keep them just above the electoral threshold needed to obtain any seats at all. It seems that we are not done with the fallout from the Estonia 200 poster controversy from early January.
Overall rankings and changes - parties below the 5% electoral threshold
Of the rest of the pack, as noted the Green party gets a better rap when looking at its overall figure, which at 4.4% means that Riigikogu seats would be on the horizon.
The Richness of Life Party, the other eco-focussed group, which is a newcomer on the scene, is on 0.7% according to Kantar Emor.
The party standing to lose most is the Free Party, which has half a dozen Riigikogu seats at present. Its support is at 1.7% according to Kantar Emor, which if that translated into votes on election day, means it would lose all its sitting MPs.
Kantar Emor measureed party support by candidate by presenting five names from the party list to the respondent, and giving them the opportunity to name a sixth candidate of their choice. Political parties run lists of candidates in all 12 electoral districts in the Estonian general elections. Seats are distributed via a modified version of the d'Hondt system of proportional representation. A minimum of 5% of the vote in any district is required to clinch any seats at all.
Respondents polled only included those with a political preference, so ''do not know'' answers are eliminated in order to give a more accurate picture. That said, the ''do no know'' share in late January had fallen to a 12-month low of 14.3%, Kantar Emor says.
Kantar Emor shows the percentages of political parties that have party preference, so the percentage of "do not know" respondents is eliminated. This way of displaying data makes the political parties' rating percentages comparable to the results of the Riigikogu elections. At the end of January, the share of "don't know" was 14.3 percent, the lowest of the last 12 months. The maximum statistical error was ± 2.7 percent.
1001 Estonian citizens were interviewed by Kantar Emor from 24-29 January, in the age range of 18-84.
Why the difference in Centre support between two market research firms?
When asked about the differences between the recent results from the two market research companies, specifically why Centre enjoyed a significantly larger share of support in the Turu-uurigute data, than that of Kantar-Emor, Juhan Kivirähk, head of Turu-uuringute, suggested it was primarily due to differences in age structure and access to technology.
Mr Kivirähk said that his company's data, compiled for ERR, is not conducted online, whereas Kantar-Emor's is. Mr Kivirähk opined that since many voters above the age of 60 are not online. At the back of that is the assumption that Centre attracts a disproportionate number of older voters. Consequently, many potential respondents who might have chosen Centre are in effect excluded from the research, in his view.
Aivar Voog of Kantar-Emor, whose research was conducted on behalf of daily Postimees, for his part pointed towards the 25-34 age group. Here, support for Centre is about double the figure, at 30%, by Turu-uuringute's methodology, than it is with Kantar-Emor's. This age group are 100% internet literate, he says. Some caution could be exercised with Kantar-Emor's research as regards the over 70s, he conceded, and for the reasons given by MR Kivirähk. However, he claimed that Kantar-Emor's results paint a more accurate picture, as they had with the 2017 local elections, he said.
There are two other, undisputed, differences in the two companies' methodology. The first is related with age demographic: Turu-uuringute put no upper limit on the age of respondents; with Kantar-Emor the limit is 84. At least 25,000 females and about 8,000 males are above that age limit in Estonia, according to CIA World Factbook data, regardless of their ability to use the internet.
At least some of this figure will overlap with the 80-90,000 persons of indeterminate citizenship in Estonia (the so-called 'grey passport' holders), plus a similar figure for those who hold citizenship of the Russian federation. Neither of these groups are eligible to vote in the general election on 3 March.
Second, Turu-uuringute's data collection period is over double that of Kantar-Emor's, 14 days versus six.
Editor: Andrew Whyte