79% of Estonian residents believe that human rights are respected in Estonia, 2022

The Estonian Institute of Human Rights commissioned an opinion poll from Turu-uuringute AS in November among just above 1000 Estonian residents to find out what residents think about the current state of human rights in the country. The survey has been conducted since 2012, and this is the fifth of its kind. In addition to the opinion of Estonian citizens, the survey also reflects the views of foreign citizens and stateless people living in Estonia.  

79% of Estonian residents are convinced that everything is in order with human rights in our country. 90% of the respondents believed that ensuring human rights is a necessary precondition to guarantee security in a democratic country based on rule of law, and 77% agree that the Estonian constitution protects people’s rights and values. 70% of all respondents found that in case of war, the interests of the state and society supersede personal interests. 63% of respondents with Estonian citizenship think that a large number of people with dual citizenship may be a threat to state security in certain situations.

This year, people were also asked whether human rights are respected in Estonia, which human rights are most important, and whether ensuring human rights is a necessary precondition to guarantee security in a democratic state based on rule of law.

This time, a new bloc of questions was introduced inquiring what the respondents think about issues related to dual citizenship. Whether dual citizenship gives some citizens significantly more political and economic privileges and rights compared to citizens with single citizenship. The question was also posed whether dual citizenship could fragment societal unity and identity, and whether a large number of citizens with dual citizenship might pose a security risk for the state under certain conditions.

The survey shows that 79% of Estonian residents are convinced that human rights are respected in our country. Same time last year, this percentage was 81. It was  81% among those with Estonian citizenship, 63% among those with Russian citizenship,  69% among people with undetermined citizenship and 69% among people who are citizens of some other country. Also, the majority of 15-19 year-olds (93%) felt this way, 20-29 year-olds (87%) and respondents with higher education (89%). The lowest rates of people who believe human rights are respected in Estonia live in North-East Estonia (60%) and Russian nationals (59%). The corresponding percentage was 84 among citizens of other countries.


The survey client, the Institutes Member of the Board, Mart Rannut noted: “Based on the results, we can presume that the differences primarily derive from poor command of Estonian language, fear of coping in an Estonian language community and restriction of Russian language media and information space. Also, the potential transfer to a fully Estonian language education, the appeals to limit the number of Russian language classes in education institutions and in public services, also value conflicts in relation to Soviet monuments.“

The survey also inquired whether there may be situations where the interests of the state and society supersede those of individuals. One year ago, 75% of respondents stated that during warfare, the interests of the state and society supersede the interests of an individual, but this time, 70% agreed with this statement. At the same time, only 44% believe that this is also important after a terror attack – a year ago, the corresponding figure was 61%. There is a considerable decline in the belief that the society’s interests come first in case of a pandemic (45 % vs. 55%), climate disaster or natural disaster (43 vs. 58%).

Estonians supported placing the interests of society above the individual more than other groups (77%). The lowest support for societal interests was among respondents of Russian nationality (50%), people with undetermined citizenship (46%), and people living in North-East Estonia (58%).

The CEO of the Institute, Aet Kukk: “I must admit that proportionally, the outcome in all groups of respondents has become more individualistic and negative compared to the survey conducted at the end of last year. Individualistic values are at the forefront. Peoples assessment of human rights and security is heavily affected by their primary language of communication, nationality, citizenship, level of education and income, social position and place of residence. We can presume that the respondents opinions have been influenced by Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine and potential construction of large-scale  national infrastructure objects (Rail Baltic, potential nuclear power station, Nursipalu training area, possible construction of industrial buildings and wind farms) have made respondents fearful and people focus on their own welfare rather than the general interests of society.

She continued: “We must admit that sometimes it is necessary to choose between values we cherish, so if there is an existential attack against the state, then it might not be possible to maintain all human rights at the same level as during peacetime. This also applies to property, i.e. homes. We all have experience of an occupation regime when decisions where made unilaterally, private property was expropriated and the residents were never consulted. If the human rights situation were bad, then the state would probably also not be looked after. Ideally, one should not be divided from nor opposed to the other.

The right to life (65%) is still considered the most important right and also the right to free healthcare (64%). What is interesting is that the importance of the right to life has been declining over the years. At the same time, the importance of free medical care has been increasing since 2016.

The importance of the right to education and equality in the eyes of the law has remained consistent, with slight fluctuations. However, only 28% consider the right to work important– in 2016, this percentage was 51%. The share of respondents who consider the right to protection of personal data important has decreased to 17%, in 2018, it was 31%, in 2012 – 28%.

When respondents were asked whether they support allowing dual citizenship in Estonia, then 48% of all respondents answered yes and 45% answered no. The respondents profiles outline a considerable balance in the outcome: 44% of people with Estonian citizenship are for dual citizenship and 49% are against, and among Russian citizens, the support to dual citizenship is 82% and 11% are against. 71% of people with undetermined citizenship are for dual citizenship, and 76% of those who are citizens of some other country. Based on nationality, 37% of Estonians supported dual citizenship, 57% were against. This rate was 73%among Russian respondents, and 20% were against. The support was highest in North-East Estonia (73%), and lowest in Viljandi County (14%). In Tallinn, 58% supported dual citizenship and 35% were against. It was predominantly the younger age groups that supported dual citizenship: pupils, students and respondents working in personal and customer service. Such a big shift also affects the mean outcome, but still shows that the values differ considerably on the basis of different nationalities and respondents with and without Estonian citizenship.

At the same time, 60% of respondents answered yes to the question whether dual citizenship awards some citizens considerably more political and economic privileges compared to citizens who only have single citizenship. We see the same percentage with slight fluctuation among respondents of all nationalities, citizenship, age, gender and place of residence. All questions related to this topic require specification in a focus group survey in order to understand what the respondents who appear to think in the same way mean specifically: is it freedom in travel, freedom to choose the place of residence, freedom to decide where to pay taxes, voting rights, personal welfare or something else.

Could dual citizenship fragment societal cohesion and identity or not? 47% of all respondents find that it could, 43% that it could not. Primarily, it is Russian citizens (75%) and respondents with undetermined citizenship (66%) who do not fear the threats to societal cohesion and identity due to dual citizenship, also people of Russian nationality (67%) and citizens of other countries (84%).

The Institutes Chairman of the Board, Vootele Hansen: “Once again, we can assume that the respondentsmotives and arguments in answering this question are different, based on personal values, assessments and situations. When it comes to the populations opinion, we can speak of perceived human rights. Nowadays, the discussion on human rights is an integral part of the culture that people use to give meaning to the world. The information that reaches us on a daily basis, and the events that happen to us  – it all affects our perception of human rights and may also alter it.