Electoral Availability in the Estonian Parliamentary Elections, 2015 *
Estonian electoral system seems to be very stable when looking at the volatility of parliamentary elections. However, the individual voting behaviour indicates a different situation. The process behind the discrete vote in the parliamentary elections is far more complicated because voters differ in the level of political availability. Some voters are strong supporters of one specific political party and other parties probably do not have a chance to change their preferences. Other voters are more flexible in that matter and they are open to giving their vote to different parties at different elections. The latter is the main focus group for electoral competition because there is indeed a higher probability that they would change their voting preference.
This study empirically evaluated the available electorate in Estonia by using quantitative approach and the survey conducted after Estonian parliamentary elections in 2015. The available electorate is defined as a group of voters who with a high probability would make a choice between more than two parties when voting. The opposite group of voters are loyal voters who would give their vote only to one specific party. In addition to available and loyal voters, there is also a third group consisting of voters who with a high probability would not give their vote to any party. The analysis shows that almost one quarter of the Estonian electorate is available to electoral competition, half of the voters are loyal voters and the rest of the voters do not have clear electoral preferences.
After defining these groups, the analysis continues with the empirical evaluation of the sociodemographic characteristics, political attitudes and electoral preferences of these groups. The analysis shows that compared to loyal voters, the available voters in Estonia are more likely Estonian, well-educated, young and with a higher salary. Political attitudes differ more between the electorates of different parties, and are not affected by the political availability of the voters. The analysis of electoral preferences shows that the Estonian Centre Party has the most stable electorate, and the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union has the most unstable electorate. When looking at the attitudes of each party’s electorate towards other parties, we can observe an interesting pattern. It implies a strong gap between the voters of the Centre Party and the voters of any other party: those who vote for the Centre Party are unlikely to vote for any other party, while on the other hand, those who do not vote for the Centre Party, most probably have a very negative attitude towards this party.
The study proposes that political parties as a whole should concentrate first on their loyal voters because of their significant proportion in the electorate (especially the Centre Party where roughly 75% of the voters are loyal). Additionally, they should also focus on the available electorate because these voters are more likely to change their vote (especially the Pro Patria and Res Publica Union where 43% of voters are politically available).
* Peer-reviewed article.