Public Opinion and the Riigikogu
Democratic societies are built on trust. The 47% turnout at the last local elections shows that the trust between electors and elected necessary for successful action is lacking. The perceived trustworthiness of the current Riigikogu will determine how great a share of the citizenry makes the effort in a year’s time to go to the polls and elect the next, ninth membership of the Riigikogu.
The Estonian population has great trust in state structures that perform well-defined functions, but has little trust in political institutions and parties. The public has a low level of knowledgeability regarding the functions of the Riigikogu and opportunities at its disposal. Trust in parliament fluctuates in the same tempo as trust in the government.
Better-educated, younger and better-earning respondents have more trust in institutions of authority. Respondents with a low social status have less trust in the Riigikogu. An analysis of trustworthiness from one type of subsistence in society to another shows that judgments regarding state authorities are made largely on the basis of personal level of subsistence.
As expected, trustworthiness is also related to party preference. Respondents who do not support any party regard the Riigikogu and the government’s activity with mistrust. Trust in the parliament’s actions is highest among the right-wing party constituency, and lowest among the supporters of the Centre Party, People’s Union and the Social Democrats.
Trust is also affected by media consumption. Estonians who keep track of many sources of information, primarily nationwide dailies, have more trust in the Riigikogu. Clear dependencies are not evident in the case of the Russian-language media consumers. Certainly the low trustworthiness of the media itself has an effect here. It can be assumed that it is not the content of the media message that exerts an influence, but rather that the choice of media outlets itself indicates how an individual relates to the state authority.
Even though the level of trust in the Riigikogu is on a good level compared to other European Union states, especially the new member states, there is no point in considering the loss of electors’ trust in state authority an inevitability. Estonia’s social atmosphere has already for some years now had hopes for a coherent and trustworthy state. If we turned into a reality the proposals in the Estonian civic society development strategy and the Sustainable Estonia 21 national development strategy, we could hope for trustworthiness trends to turn in a more positive direction.