Survey: over 60% Estonians ready to defend their nation

The annual opinion poll commissioned by the Estonian defence ministry shows that support for armed resistance among the Estonian population remains at over 80%, with more than 60% of people prepared to defend the country.

“Readiness and motivation are critical to ensuring national security, so I’m pleased to see these numbers are so high, especially among reservists, who make up the bulk of our defence force,” said Susan Lilleväli, undersecretary of defence for readiness, in a statement.

More than 60% of the population would be prepared to defend the nation: 12% in active military defence, 22% in defence support roles (such as rearguard support and logistics) and 26% in non-military defence (such as medicine and organising evacuations).

Furthermore, 81% of respondents support armed resistance in the event of an attack.

“These are very promising figures when you consider that in wartime our defence forces would comprise 44,000 people, or just 6% of the working population,” Lilleväli noted.

The need for military service is supported by 87% of respondents, an increase of one percentage point since the 2023 survey. There is also a high level of support (86%) for reserve forces, and the requirement for reserve forces to take part in training is supported by 79% of the population.

An Estonian soldier at a military exercise. Photo by the Estonian Defence Forces.
An Estonian soldier at a military exercise. Photo by the Estonian Defence Forces.

Misinformation and cyberattacks the main threats

“This level of support and appreciation for our reservists shows that people in Estonia recognise the importance of national defence and defence preparedness,” Lilleväli added.

There is also widespread public support for other aspects of defence: 76% for allied air exercises; 74% for the wearing of military uniforms in public; 72% for the movement of defence equipment; 70% for the establishment of a Baltic defence line; 69% for military exercises in the respondent’s area; and 56% for the expansion of training areas.

The spread of misinformation and cyber attacks continue to be seen as the main security threats by 86% and 84% of respondents respectively. While a total of 29% of respondents considered a large-scale military attack on Estonia likely in 2023, this figure has now risen to 39%.

“People have a heightened sense of risk, but it’s worth noting that they still have as much trust in defence and security institutions, which is necessary to ensure both a sense of security and the country’s ability to defend itself,” Lilleväli said.

The most trusted institutions are the Rescue Board (97%), the Police and Border Guard Board (86%), the Defence Forces (80%) and the Defence League (76%).

The Rescue Board is the most trusted institution in Estonia. Photo by Silver Tambur.

Support for NATO sky high

“It is also reassuring to know that the vast majority of Estonians – four out of five – value not only our own national defence organisations, but also our relations with our allies, which are one of the pillars of our defence capabilities,” Lilleväli said.

Estonia’s membership of NATO and the presence of allied forces in the country are supported by 80% and 79% of the population respectively. In addition, 94% of respondents aged 15-19 support Estonia’s status as a NATO member state, and this was the first survey to record zero opposition to the country’s membership of the alliance among this age group.

The survey was conducted by Eesti Uuringukeskus on behalf of the defence ministry in March and early April 2024. The sample included permanent residents of Estonia between the ages of 15 and 74, with a total of 1,200 respondents.

Similar surveys have been regularly commissioned by the ministry since 2000.

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