Representative survey: Centre Party still ahead of Reform

Reform Party chairwoman Kaja Kallas and Prime Minister Jüri Ratas, February 2019.
Reform Party chairwoman Kaja Kallas and Prime Minister Jüri Ratas, February 2019. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The Centre Party is entering the final spurt of the election campaign with 28% support in the latest representative ratings, compared to Reform's 24%. Coming in third is the Conservative People's Party (EKRE) with 17%, followed by the Social Democratic Party (SDE) with 11 and Isamaa with 10%. Estonia 200, the Greens, the Free Party and Richness of Life now are below the 5% threshold.

The survey, carried out by pollster Turu-uuringute AS for Estonian Public Broadcasting (ERR), included some 4,700 respondents all over Estonia. Part of the survey was carried out using the Omnibus methodology, which means that pollsters met respondents face to face to ask them about their preference in the upcoming general election on 3 March.

Combined result: Centre in the lead, Reform 4% behind, newcomers below threshold

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas' Centre Party is still in the lead with 28% support, compared to the opposition Reform Party's 24%. The shrinking difference between Estonia's two major parties has the potential to further fuel speculations that the next coalition may well be between these two.

Although past habits will make some think that this would be a major achievement, it actually isn't unheard of—the two parties have successfully governed eg the city of Tartu for a good while.

Looking at the results of the survey, what is immediately apparent is that Isamaa have recovered, with a combined result of 10% in the February ratings. SDE has also improved somewhat, now at 11%.

While newcomers Estonia 200 could still hope for at least a few mandates late last year, their support seems to have evaporated. The survey has them at just 4% support in the combined results, which would mean that they come in below the 5% threshold and won't enter the Riigikogu at all. At this point, the Greens, the Free Party and Richness of Life seem to be sharing Estonia 200's fate.

The Conservative People's Party (EKRE) has some 17% support, but there have been speculations that it likely won't be able to translate this into mandates in the next parliament, as it lacks a sufficient number of popular or at least well-known candidates locally.

In the case of Isamaa, the situation is the reverse: while their national ratings have been less than encouraging, they still have a pool of well-known candidates and may get a better result than the ratings suggest.

All of the different parts of the survey combined, the share of those respondents either not willing or unable to name a preference was 38%.

February survey most thorough yet

While surveys thus far attempted to gauge the popularity of political parties, this time respondents actually commented on candidates, taking the outcome of the survey a lot closer to the actual situation.

The Estonian election system gives every eligible citizen one personal vote, which means that voters pick a party list by voting for a particular candidate. This has vast implications, as it means that the immediate personal popularity of candidates defines how much support a political party has in a given district.

As mentioned above, in the case of EKRE there is the possibility that its relatively high rating of 17% won't translate into a corresponding number of mandates, as it still is relatively new on the national political scene and doesn't have a pool of candidates comparable to those of its competitors.

Isamaa, on the other hand, have plenty of strong candidates, which may well mean that they will get a better result than party ratings suggest.

The combined result of the February survey also includes the outcome of a face-to-face Omnibus poll as well as an online survey.

Face-to-face poll: Centre 6% ahead among those intending to vote

The Omnibus face-to-face poll has support for the Centre Party at 29%, for the Reform Party at 25%, EKRE 16%, Isamaa 11% and SDE 9%.

Among those respondents who said they are sure they will vote or have done so already, support for the Centre Party reached 31% and for Reform 25%, followed by 16% for EKRE, 10% for Isamaa and 9% for SDE.

The remaining parties didn't make it past the 5% election threshold in either category. Support for Estonia 200 and the Greens reached 3% each, for the Free Party 2% (3% of those intending to vote), and for Richness of Life 1%. The face-to-face survey interviewed 1,000 respondents.

Online survey also has Centre in the lead

The online survey, carried out between 7 and 20 February, had the Centre Party at 26%, the Reform Party at 23%, EKRE at 18%, SDE at 13% and Isamaa at 10% support.

Again, Estonia 200, the Greens, the Free Party and Richness of Life came in at below 5%, which would mean they won't make it into the next Riigikogu. The online survey had 3,700 respondents.

Survey used samples with comfortable margins

Turu-uuringute AS' Juhan Kivirähk told ERR that both the Omnibus and online survey have their pros and cons: "We started from the assumption that we would get the most accurate result by weighing both the face-to-face and online surveys at 50%. This meant that we needed to bring the more than 3,000 respondents of the online survey to the level of the face-to-face survey's 829 respondents," Mr Kivirähk said.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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