Public Trust towards the Riigikogu, 1995–2012
The aim of this article is to give an overview of the main trends in public trust towards the national parliament in Estonia in the years 1995–2012, to explain these trends and to analyze the distribution of trust towards parliament between different groups based on socio-demographic position and political views.
Trust towards the parliament has fluctuated between 32% and 57% during this period. Lowest rates appeared during the times of economic hardships, trust peaked after the parliamentary elections of 2003 and 2007.
In 2012, the trust towards parliament in Estonia is 8% higher than the EU average and two times higher than the average of Central and Eastern European Member States.
Main findings about socio-demographic bases of trust are that the respondents with higher education show a slightly higher trust than the people with lower education. Respondents from the wealthiest households trust the parliament significantly more than respondents from the poorest households. Also, Estonians tend to have much higher trust than minorities, after the events that took place in April of 2007. People aged 15–19 have significantly higher trust than all other age groups.
Also, politically right-wing respondents show higher trust towards the parliament, and the trust rate of people with no interest in politics is very low.
Fluctuations in trust rate coincide with the electoral cycle, as it rises in the election year and then descends. That U-shaped cycle has also been noticed in other countries and is thought to be associated with the public perception of government performance: right after the elections, hopes are high as the new cabinet steps into office, but as time passes, the „honeymoon” phase ends and disappointment follows. The correlation coefficient between trust in the parliament and trust in the government government is 0.86 in Estonia, which indicates a very strong connection between the trustworthiness of these institutions in public perceptions.
The assumption that trust towards the parliament may be derived from public satisfaction with government performance is confirmed by data: trust rate shows significant correlations with government budgetary position and unemployment rate.