Legal Consciousness of the Estonian People
The social and market polling company Saar Poll has, since 1996, been carrying out a public opinion trend survey “The State and the People”, dealing with the problems related to the work of the Riigikogu. The survey has been conducted at the request of the Riigikogu Chancellery.
On the basis of the survey, the present article takes a closer look on the topic of the legal consciousness of the Estonian people or, in other words, legal culture of the Estonian population.
The Estonian society has undergone very quick and fundamental changes in the past ten years – in principle, one social order is being replaced with another. How does the legal consciousness of the Estonian people look in such a complicated situation? The results of the survey revealed that looking from the angle of legal consciousness, there is rather anomia than “order” in Estonia. It is partly an inevitable situation caused by rapid changes in the society. On the other hand, the situation is a result of people’s dissatisfaction with our legal system. People believe that too many laws are created and used to implement power, and too few to help organise the society and help people adjust in the social environment. Estonian people are badly informed about laws and they do not especially trust the Estonian legal system – dissatisfaction can be noted both regarding the “content” of laws as well as their functioning.
When laws are implemented, both positive and negative sanctions play an important role. It may be gathered from people’s opinions that presently sanctions of negative character dominate over positive sanctions in Estonia. People sense very little the existence of positive sanctions. Rather often laws remind of their existence through penalties.
The legal system may be regarded as an institution of the Estonian state. Similarly with other institutions, the legal system is more trusted by young people and people with higher social status, and by those who are optimistic about Estonia’s course of development.
Andrus Saar, born 1946, sociologist, University of Tartu 1970, post-graduate studies 1977. Work: Docent of the Department of Journalism of the University of Tartu 1976-84, head of the department of sociology of the Information Centre of the Estonian Radio and Television 1976-89, founder and head of the Media Information Centre 1989-91, docent of the department of public sciences of Tallinn Pedagogical University 1991-, docent of the Institute of Law 1994-, professor of the Higher School of Commerce 1999-, head of the Saar Poll company 1991-. Affiliation: American Association of Public Opinion Researchers (AAPOR), World Association of Public Opinion Researchers (WAPOR).
Anu Rentel, born 1973, sociologist, University of Tartu 1995. Work: Saar Poll 1995-, Estonian Higher School of Commerce 2000-.