3/24/06 Slovak Election Update: Voting and Turnout

Before I begin, a note about file format.  Several readers have requested a “to go” version
and so a full .pdf file containing this post is available here:  Download 3_24_06_slovak_election_update.pdf

Second, a note about background.  For your information I have attached a briefing
document prepared by Tim Haughton and myself during the summer of 2005.  Much has changed since then but the document
offers a brief visual primer of Slovakia’s
political scene.  It is available here: Download slovak_politics_primer_2005.ppt

Now to the heart of the matter.

Voting and Turnout
Last week’s post addresses recent trends in polling
according to party and bloc and the way those poll numbers would translate into
party seats. However it also begins to
address the problem that polling numbers have not automatically translated into
seats: some parties have gotten more votes than polling would suggest while
others have gotten less. This week, I
attempt to take what little data is publicly available and attempt to figure
out what current polling numbers suggest for the final tally of votes.

Polls, Votes and

There are a variety of ways in which we can attempt to
predict actual votes on the basis of polls. The most direct, though not necessarily the most accurate, is to use
past elections as a baseline. Because of
the significant change in Slovakia’s party system in the past six years, and
the unusual configurations of coalitions in elections to regional councils,
only two elections—the 2002 Parliamentary Election and the 2004 European
Parliament Elections—are plausible objects of comparision. Each of these have their problems,
furthermore, since the rapid change of Slovakia’s political scene makes 2002
ancient history (the parties Smer and ANO were relatively new at the time) and
since the very low—17%—turnouts of
the 2004 Europarliament election give that election a rather different
character. Nevertheless, this is the
only electoral data we have to work with and so like the drunk under the
lamppost, I will look for keys where there is the most light. The table below compares the results of
elections in 2002 and 2004 with the results of public opinion polls from major
polling firms that immediately preceded the elections:


The results show better-than-expected performance in black
and worse-than-expected performance in white.  Some parties consistently received more votes
than polls would suggest (SDKU, KDH, SMK) while others consistently received
less (Smer, HZD, SNS), while for others the polls tended to produce fairly
accurate results (HZDS, SF) and another was uneven (KSS). It would appear that despite their stated
preferences, voters from some parties are less likely actually to go and vote
(polling evidence suggest that last-minute vote switching does occur but that
it neither has a systematic bias in favor of any party, nor is it predictable,
so it would be difficult to build it into a model in any case). From these election baselines, it is possible
to construct a variety of models for actual performance..  For the purposes of this post, I have created
a simple model that takes poll results as the baseline for 100% an election
with turnout and then calculates the drop in turnout for each party necessary
to produce the actual results with the actual turnout (69.1% in 2002, 16.6% in
2004).  By these calculations, every 1%
drop in overall turnout in 2002 translated into a loss of nearly 1.5% of turnout
among Smer supporters but only a 0.8% drop of turnout among KDH supporters and no
drop at all among SDKU supporters. Because
of the very low overall turnout rates for 2004, the drop-per-percentage is
actually smaller but with pretty much the same patterns. To draw out the implications of these
calculations, the graphs below extrapolates from the most recent polls to estimate
levels of actual electoral support for all parties at any given level of overall
turnout between 50% and 100%. To read
the graph, simply guess the level of turnout for 2006 and trace upward from
that number to see what share of the vote your party is likely to get. Because the 2002 and 2004 models produce
estimates that are different in degree (though not in direction), I have
included both models here as well as a “combined” model that averages the two. 

Notable here is the weakness Smer in all three models surveys:
at rates of turnout comparable to 2002 its current 33% estimate translates into
a range no higher than 30% and as low as 23% depending on the model. By the same standards, SDKU’s current 11%
looks more like 12% to 16%. 





Polls, Votes and Blocs

Because the parties of the current coalition tend to benefit
from lower turnout, the combined effect for the entire coalition is even
greater, and the three graphs below show the overall effect for ideological
blocs, again according to the three models. I use the “bloc” notion as shorthand for the time being and do not
suggest that parties within these blocs are more likely to seek each other out
as future coalition partners (though their voters do seem to cluster together
in patterns something like these, but that is a story for next week).

In the most extreme of the models, any turnout lower than 80%
actually produces a numerical advantage for Right (SDKU, KDH, SF, ANO) over
Left (SMER, KSS) with the Slovak (HZDS, SNS) and Hungarian parties relatively
unchanged.  It is noteworthy, however,
that even in this fairly extreme model the current coalition and its offshoots would
require an exceptionally low turnout–below 60%–to have a chance at an
electoral majority.





Polls, Votes and Seats

The graph below translates these vote estimates into seat
estimates for the moderate “combined” model but I’d be happy to supply the
others to anyone who wants to see them.


The Question of

Not only are the estimates in the graphs above fairly crude
and based on only one source of information, but they are dependent on a second
set of estimates regarding turnout.  This,
too, is an highly inexact science, but it is possible to make some rough
assessments.  The first graph below
suggests that on similar polls conducted by UVVM in 2002 and 2006, the
percentage of the population that is not interested in voting in 2006 exceeds
the percentage in 2002 by an average of nearly 6 points.  As the second graph suggests, however, the
share of undecided voters is actually smaller than in either of the two
previous election cycles.  The third
graph below suggests that the sum of survey respondents who had decided not to
vote or had not decided on a party was an excellent predictor of turnout in
2002, but that this measure significantly underpredicted turnout in 1998.  In either case, however, the total number of
undecideds and non-voters for 2006 has exceeded those for 2002 by approximately
2%.  Using 2002 as a baseline would therefore
suggest a turnout of around 67%. This is
not a very well-grounded estimate but it as good as the available public
resources allow. 




What Kind of

Using the most recent polling data along with a turnout of 67% and the “combined” model above–a "best guess" given the information available–would yield parliament that looks like the one below.  While this does not tell us directly about
probable governments, it does tell us that the options for government formation
are manifold. There is virtually no
possibility for any ideological bloc to form a government on its own, and limited
chance that any two blocs could form
a government (the fairly ungainly combinations of Left-Slovak [Smer+KSS+SNS+HZDS]
or Left-Right [Smer+KDH+SDKU+SF], suggesting the strong possibility of a combination
of parties within three ideological blocs (Slovak-Left-Right or
Left-Right-Hungarian) or a minority coalition that involves parties two blocs
with a party from the third other as a silent partner. Data does allow for closer scrutiny of
the cohesion and electoral chances of particular coalition combinations and these will be the subject of the next post.


1 thought on 3/24/06 Slovak Election Update: Voting and Turnout

  1. Why not consider the last presidential elections? In those the candidate of SDKU and an overwhelming favorite (Kukan) had not even make it to the second round. The victor (Gasparovic) was supported by an ideological (but not necessarily along the right/left axis) coalition of patriotic and left leaning voters.

    This coalition may be important in the forthcoming elections too. Those voters primarily prefer SNS and SMER. There is no SNS base data from the last parliamentary elections for two reasons. SNS did not run for following reasons: Firstly due to the infighting among the leadership but more importantly because of administrative sabotage by the government. Therefore, the question remains, had there been an SNS candidacy in 2002 which party would suffer? Or in obverse, where did the patriotic voters find their home. Possibly, they stayed at home.

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