Two Days to Go: What the Polls Show Now

Final-week polls are in from three of the six firms with
regular political polls (including two of the "big three": UVVM, FOCUS and MVK). 
We find little difference in the relative positions of parties and actually
relatively little actual change (the differences between May and June reflect a
change in only 1 in 15 of all stated preferences).   More interesting
is that the trends of the last month correspond quite closely the predictions
that the turnout model makes for party support.  Specifically, those
parties that have traditionally lost support between polls and actual voting
(especially Smer and SF) have lost support in the last two weeks while those
that traditionally gain more support than polls would indicate (HZDS, KDH, KSS
and especially SDKU) have gained support in the last two weeks.  Only SMK
and SNS do not fit the expected plan, but they are not major exceptions
either, since their changes were among the smallest recorded here, though by no
means insignificant for SNS.

Party Poll Average 1-Month trend, by poll # of Polls showing
UVVM MVK Dicio Avg. Upward Trend Downward Trend
Smer 28.2 -3.5 -3.2 -7.8 -4.8 0 3
HZDS 12.0 2 1.8 1.4 1.7 3 0
SMK 10.0 -0.5 -0.6 0.9 -0.1 1 2
KDH 9.2 -1.3 1.6 0.3 0.2 2 1
SNS 9.3 0.5 0.1 1.2 0.6 3 0
SDKU 12.6 1.3 3.6 2.7 2.5 3 0
SF 6.4 -1.6 -0.8 -1.3 -1.2 0 3
KSS 5.1 1.5 -1.5 1.9 0.6 2 1

The open question for me is whether the change we are
seeing is part of the same process measured in the turnout model (which
would then need some renaming and recalculation) or whether it is something
different.  The turnout model relies on the difference between parties’
final poll and the election results, but one thing has changed: never before
have we received the results of polls taken so close to election day.  In
this small way, we are in a new world.  The turnout model assumes that the
increases and decreases are the result of differences in the degree to which
party voters are committed to going out to vote, but the evidence above might
indicate that an almost identical process has begun for some parties even
without the election-day test of party commitment.  I am therefore not at
all certain whether to apply the ratios used in the turnout model to such late
data since it might produce a double effect.  The turnout model, for
example, assumes a significant drop between Smer polls and Smer vote, but if the
turnout model is actually measuring some of the final week preference shift
rather than just the turnout effect, then applying it to the numbers from the
final week will produce an over-estimation, and I should stick with the results
from the pre-final polls which correspond better to the previous elections from
which the models were derived.  It seems a shame, however, to waste great
data from the final week (which is so far remarkably consistent from one poll to
the next), so I include below the (over)estimate derived from the turnout model,
one with SF and one without.



At one level, however, it is remarkable how little
difference this makes.  Whether with or without the turnout model, there is
little chance of a continuation of the current coalition (in its best case
scenario it gets 71 seats), and therefore little chance for a government that
does not include Smer.  It does make some significant differences in
coalition possibilities, however:  if the final results are as extreme as
the graphs above, Smer loses the ability to form a three party government except
with SDKU and another partner.  This would eliminate two of the
most-talked-about coalition possibilities: Smer-HZDS-SNS and Smer-KDH-SMK. 
Since I suspect a slightly more moderate result, I think that at least one of
these coalitions may yet be on the table, but that is a question for another

Update: Beating the Odds

What are the odds-makers thinking?

Working with the betting data from Tipos led me to think
that it was possible to "reverse engineer" the odds given by the odds-makers to
figure out the assumptions behind their choices.  Assuming that the were
working with the same data I was–recent public opinion polls–I attempted to
calculate the degree to which they expected parties to over- or under-perform
their polling numbers.  In practice, this means estimating the share of
opinion polls which show a party exceeding the threshold set for it by Tipos and
setting the threshold at the point where the share of polls in favor corresponds
with the degree of certainty required by the odds (as determined through the
risk-return ratio).  In other and less pointlessly complicated words, how
many more–or fewer–voters does Tipos think will turn out to allow it to make
money from the odds that it has set (these have changed slightly since I did the
calcuation, but in general the changes are strikingly small).

For the sake of simplicity, I have presented the results
of the reverse-engineering below.  They can be read this way:  For
SDKU the bet against ratio is 1.26 and the bet for ratio is 1.39.  This
means that if you expect fewer than 126 voters to turn out for every 100 who
state a preference for SDKU, it makes sense to bet against SDKU exceeding the
threshold of 13.5 set in the Tipos bet.  If, however, you expect more than
139 to turn out for every 100, then it makes sense to bet that SDKU will exceed
13.5.  It is notable that Tipos appears to be banking on positive ratios
for five parties.  It is also notable that these five parties also have
positive ratios in the Turnout Model.  (This is not surprising, since
despite its Capital Letters the Turnot Model not a very complicated model at
all, and one which relies on on easily discernible past performance.  It is
neither rocket science nor, in fact, much political science–though this does
not explain why the Slovak press continues to report poll results as if they
actually meant something in themselves.)  Only HZDS does not have a high
enough ratio in the Turnout Model to make it worth a positive bet.  In fact
the turnout model shows a ratio that is below the bet against threshold,
suggesting that either I or Tipos have made a big mistake.

Party Ratio of actual voters to poll supporters
party if you think
ratio is lower than:
Bet for
party if you think ratio is
higher than:
Ratio used in Turnout Model
KSS 0.93 1.03 1.38
SMK 1.03 1.09 1.08
KDH 1.02 1.04 1.13
HZDS 1.18 1.22 1.03
SDKU 1.26 1.39 1.42

At the same time, there are three parties that Tipos
appears to think will underperform.  These are to be read the same way:
Smer’s bet against threshold is .85 which means that it makes sense to vote
against Smer exceeding the 27% threshold if you think that only 85 voters will
actually turn out for each 100 who say they will vote for the party.  This
suggests bets for Smer and SNS, with SF’s ratio just on the line.  Here my
own numbers conform nicely with Tipos’s.

Party Ratio of actual voters to poll supporters
party if you think
ratio is lower than:
Bet for
party if you think ratio is
higher than:
Ratio used in Turnout Model
SF 0.74 0.80 0.80
Smer 0.85 0.87 0.80
SNS 0.91 0.97 0.82

This means that Tipos implicitly expects parliament
looks something like the following:

Party Vote Seats
Smer 27.4% 44
HZDS 14.5% 23
SDKU 13.5% 22
SMK 10.9% 18
KDH 9.6% 15
SNS 7.4% 12
KSS 5.1% 8
SF 5.1% 8


Party Vote Seats
Smer 27.4% 47
HZDS 14.5% 25
SDKU 13.5% 12
SMK 10.9% 23
KDH 9.6% 18
SNS 7.4% 16
KSS 5.1% 9
SF 4.9% 0

Why care what Tipos thinks?  No reason, really,
except that somebody there stands to lose a lot of money (and perhaps a job) if
the results are wrong.  If I had that burden, I might do a lot more to make
sure my answers were correct.  Or perhaps not.

Finally, it has been noted that I do not deal with Tipos
bets regarding turnout or the future prime minister.  In the case of
turnout, I have so little data that I hesitate to make a call (though
interestingly the assumptions of the turnout model do themselves incorporate a
turnout figure of 65%.)  I suspect that the turnout will not be below the
57% threshold set by Tipos, but I have no reason to offer the 61% degree of
certainty that it would require to make a bet. 

As for prime minister, this
is a question that takes the speculation beyond what I have described as level 1
(correct assessment of poll numbers), level 2 (correct translation of polls into
seats), level 3 (correct prediction how seats translate into coalitions) to a
level 4 which involves the correct prediction of whom coalitions choose as their
leader.  If my level 2 analysis is right, there is strong reason to think
that the next coalition must include Smer but I have not figured out a good way
of calculating odds for this.  At a gut
level, I would put it above 75%.  The question, then, is whether Fico would
allow somebody else to be Prime Minister?  Here my own bias may show
through:  regardless of any worthy programmatic goals of the party, Fico’s
enterprise in Smer has seemed entirely designed to elevate him to the seat of
power.  Since his dominance within the party is, for the moment, extremely
high, I cannot imagine that he would surrender the opportunity in order to make
a coalition or that others in his party would have the power to force a
compromise candidate for the premiership.  I hope I am proven wrong on
this, but here my doubt goes well beyond the standard required by Tipos. 
On the basis of likely coalitions, it is worth betting that Fico will be the
next prime minister, though I wouldn’t necessarily bet that he will still be
prime minister four years from now.

Five Days to Go: The MVK Numbers

I will try to deal with polls as they come in.  Smer suggests that the major numbers may come as soon as Thursday but that some may come on Friday.  We should have several data sources to work with by that point.

Until that point, all we have is the latest MVK, conducted between June 2 and June 8 (last Thursday).   The table below compares it to the most MVK poll and the averages of all polls from April and May:

Party Average of Polls MVK Polls
April May June Change from May
Smer 33.6 30.6 30.4 -0.8
HZDS 12.2 10.7 10.1 0.4
SMK 9.6 10.1 9.0 -1.6
KDH 9.0 9.6 10.2 1.3
SNS 8.0 9.0 8.3 -1.6
SDKU 9.3 9.9 11.4 2.5
SF 7.5 6.6 7.5 0.7
KSS 4.5 5.4 4.8 -1.7
HZD 1.9 2.3 1.6 -0.7
ANO 2.8 2.8 2.4 -0.4

The central story here is consistency:  the June numbers differ little from the previous month, either from MVK’s own polls or from the average of all polls.  Of the differences, many are the direction that the turnout-based model predicts: SDKU, KDH and HZDS show gain (greatest for SDKU) in the final weeks, Smer and SNS show a loss.  The other three parties do not follow the predicted pattern: SF increases slightly, KSS decreases slightly and SMK decreases by a somewhat larger amount.  This last change is an important sign that individual polls cannot be taken too seriously (even if they offer support to a model that the author wants to show is valid).  There is no obvious reason why SMK’s support would drop at all, much less by 1.6 percentage points, and so this is clearly an artifact of the polling methodology and the margin of error inherent in any sampling.  But if SMK’s poll numbers change despite fundamental stability of the party’s electoral base, then this could be true of any of the other numbers as well.  For now it’s best to wait for the other polls for a final average.

In the bigger picture, even if the changes can be taken as real, they have very little effect on the formation of a government.  The parliament that would emerge from the MVK numbers is so close to that which would emerge from the previous month’s average numbers as to make little difference.  As before, there almost is no chance for a SDKU-led coalition, and as before Smer will require three parties to form a government (and as before, my turnout model suggests that a Smer-SNS-HZDS government could not muster a majority).   The only real change suggested by the recent MVK numbers is the possible absence of KSS, but MVK chair Haulik immediately nuanced the numbers to suggest that KSS still had a good chance of making it through.

More numbers will probably tell the same story of stability, but I will nevertheless attempt to analyze them as they come in.

Update: SF on the Verge

One brief note: Despite the internal conflicts within SF, the latest MVK opinion poll shows no decrease, and in fact shows a slight increase over the party’s results in the MVK poll of two weeks ago (from 6.8 to 7.5).  It is notable, however, that MVK chair Haulik singles out SF for its risk of falling below the threshold rather than KSS which actually polled only 4.8% in the same survey.  While MVK is not publishing the data, Haulik alludes to significant weakness in the committment of those who list SF as their main preference.  This is no surprise since it echos the findings of FOCUS/IVO and UVVM.  As before, polls above 5% do not mean that SF is safe (though this one is important for bucking the otherwise emerging trend), but should the remaining poll numbers for SF drop below 5%, the party is in big trouble.

Update: KSS’s Tightrope Walk

Two quick notes:

First, the most recent MVK poll puts KSS at 4.8% which leads Pravda to conclude that "SF would succeed but not KSS" despite the fact that the in an accompanying piece,  the paper publishes analysis by Pavol Haulik which suggests that the party would succeed because of its "hidden voters.  The track record of the past four years suggests that Haulik is probably closer to the truth.  Furthermore, while I argued that  consistent poll showings below 5% will hurt the parties on the margins (as their voters realize the futility and switch elsewhere), a result of 4.8% is probably close enough to be within some sort of "margin of hope" and may actually bring a few people out because they feel their votes might make a positive difference.  This is all conjecture.  The big news will apparently come on Thursday and Friday with the last minute results of major polls

Second, in my previous post on KSS, I argued that if KSS and SF were to fall below the 5% threshold ",a two-party government led by Smer is almost
assured."  In retrospect, this is almost assuredly wrong.   I lazily based that calculation on the opinion poll percentages rather than guesses about parliamentary representation based on past results.  Since Smer is almost certainly over-polling, this correction is necessary.  Using my own estimation (which may be a bit unfavorable to Smer but probably not by much), exclusion of KSS and SF does not create many opportunities for a two-party government.  In fact, as the graph below shows, even the two largest parties according to this estimation (Smer and SDKU) would together reach only 75 votes (and this model may be slightly too favorable to SDKU).  It will take unlikely circumstances to permit a two-party majority government in Slovakia after Saturday’s election.


Update: Best Guess (Boring Details)

Yesterday’s post promised boring details about the prediction models posted there.  I will try to temper the boring details with brevity.

This guess about outcomes is based on polls, but it is not enough simply to take a poll and apply the mathematical formula for calculating the number of seats (an observation that Slovak papers have been frustratingly slow to incorporate).  To make a meaningful prediction based on polls it is necessary to answer several questions:

  1. What are the actual polling numbers?
    In practice this requires predictors to use more than one poll.  I have tried to solve this problem here by averaging all polls for each calendar month.  This throws away some information about trend, since some polls are taken at different times than others, but I tend to think that it is preferable to miss trends than it is to assume that random, sample-based variations in survey results actually reflect trends.  Fortunately, the polling numbers of various firms tend to correspond quite well, with the exception of a few survey firms.  The graph and table below give the average of results from multiple firms.



  2. How do polling numbers translate into votes?
    This question is much harder.  We can use a variety of data sources that determine the degree to which those who specify a particular party (or a disinclination to vote) will actually go out and vote for that party.  Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, I have only been able to obtain some of the information: the degree to which party voters are attracted to other parties as an alternative.  An even more relevant question is the degree to which party supporters are willing actually to go out and vote.  I’ve been able to glean some of this from news sources (many firms have promised this information to clients on a proprietary basis) and from analogies to extensive 2002 data sources, but these are woefully incomplete. 

    Without the information necessary to get into voters’ heads, the best alternative–and the mainstay of my analysis here–but simply to assume that voters will both speak and act in the way they have in the past, in other words that polling numbers will translate into votes at the same rates as in previous elections.  The limitations of this approach are so obvious that they need little comment, but with little else available this is where my efforts at prediction begin.   This way of answering the question requires answering two further questions

      1. To what degree will party supporters turn actually vote?
        My efforts here begin from the baseline that if everyone voted, the results would look like polls (this is a flawed beginning, but not entirely implausible, especially if you believe, as I do, that campaigns do not have a particularly large effect).  From there, I look at levels of actual turnout and actual vote for particular parties and use the results to calculate to what degree a drop in overall turnout will correspond to a drop in the turnout of likely voters for a particular party.  This, of course, depends on which election is used for a baseline.  I have created models based on the 2002 parliamentary election and the 2004 Europarliament election.  The former suggests extremely high turnout effects for particular parties (major losses for Smer, gains for SDKU); the latter shows relatively low turnout effects, but the patterns tend to be quite consistent with 2002.   In an arbitrary, but I hope not unjustified, choice, I have based my own predictions on an average of these two models.  Inserting the most recent polling average into these equations produces the following results, displayed here both as graph and table.



        These calculations differ from my earliest model not only in the use of the most recent polling data but in the modification of assumptions for SF.  Since the party did not campaign in 2002, I used a zero-slope for that part of the equation but in retrospect it is clear that this is not sufficient.  For lack of better data, I have assumed that the behavior of SF voters would resemble that of other new party voters and so have based the assumptions on an average of voter behavior for the new parties of 2002 (ANO, HZD, SDA and Smer).  This is highly questionable, I know, but better than leaving the answer blank.

      2. To what degree will Slovakia’s electorate actually vote?
        One advantage of this model is that it allows for some degree of sensitivity to turnout.  The tendency of parties to outperform or underperform their polling numbers obviously depends on a number of factors and is not the same from election to election.  A turnout-based model allows us to incorporate, for example, Smer’s significant under-performance in the 2004 Europarliament election (28.3% in polls but only 16.9% of votes cast) without assuming that the party would experience such significant losses in a larger turnout election.

        Employing these assumptions, however, requires a meaningful guess about the actual turnout.  Here I am limited by available data.  My only basis for predicting turnout is to look at figures from polls for those who say they will not vote or do not know who they will vote for (often a good proxy for staying home) and to compare these to the previous election.  Current data shows the average number of "won’t vote and don’t know" in multiple polls for May to be  just over 30%.  In 2002 at a corresponding time period, the average was just under 27%.  All else being equal–which it never is–this suggests a turnout about 3% lower than last time, or about 66%.  This is the baseline that I have so far used in my predictions.

        Another, baseline, less secure but nevertheless interesting, can be derived from more nuanced questions about participation itself.  Here, however, we have only partial data and approximate comparisons.  The most recent results reported by MVK suggest that 38.2% of respondents would certainly vote.  In a corresponding poll from 2002 by FOCUS, 46.6% of respondents announced their firm intent to vote, suggesting a difference of 8.4% or a turnout of about 61%.  Unfortunately, however, the question asked by FOCUS offers different options, including "probably will vote" and "probably won’t vote" and so the results are not strictly comparable.  Still, this comparison suggets that MVK’s estimates of 46% to 54% are probably too low.

        A final brief note:  this sort of comparative baseline, while always flawed, is absolutely necessary to make any reasonable guess.  Stories like Pravda’s "60% would come to the ballot box" make the same mistake as the other analysis of polling numbers discussed above, taking respondents at their word without seeing how their word translated in the past into votes.  For this consistent oversight, much of the Slovak press deserves low marks.

What does it all portend?
As the above analysis indicates, there are many sets of assumptions, and error in any of these will produce faulty results.  My hope, however, is that best guesses in each based on contextually-grounded comparisons will yield a fairly accurate outcome from the model without too much ad hoc tweaking of guesses for individual parties (though of course as my SF modification shows, ad hoc circumstances may cause me to change the model).


In developing this model, I have been pleased to see that the results correspond to certain presumptions that I share with others who follow these developments: 

  • that SMK, KDH, and HZDS will gain from low turnout because of their stable electorates but that they will not gain enormous amounts
  • that Smer will not do as well as its numbers predict (Interestingly, Pavol Haulik of MVK   has been emphatic on this point–which is understandable since he will be judged by the performance of his polls–and on numerous occasions has suggested directly or indirectly that Smer will fall short of its current numbers, including an interesting recent suggestion that late polls showing a Smer victory may lower the party’s margin since "Slovaks do not like it when somebody wins too much")
  • that KSS has some hidden strengths that may allow it to cross the 5% threshold regardless of its current weakness, particularly in a low-turnout election.
  • that SNS is reaping some benefit from its position as a non-parliamentary party and that these, as with Smer, may be reflected in voting that is lower than the polled numbers.
  • that SDKU somehow manages to pull rabbits out of hats (even when the data offers little reason for expecting it). 

Obviously this last point–the expectation of magic–is the weakest of
all here, and therefore the most suspect.  At a certain point, however
it may not be that relevant since even the best prediction for SDKU will not put it in a position to form a government, and only a limit case analysis of numbers would even allow it to form a two-party coalition with Smer.

But more on that in another post.

Six days to go: Best Guess

Time to abandon caution and jump.  If I were to bet on Slovakia’s election based on the information we have now, I split my money between two results: 

this one…


or this one…

Before the tedious details about how I reached these conclusions, a few thoughts about what they signify:

  • Ambivalence about the electoral chances of SF.  A month ago I had few doubts.  Now, the combination of recent internal turmoil and longstanding weakness of voter support, the party appears to be in serious trouble.  Hence the two result hedge.  Should new poll results this week show a declining trend, I will abandon the first set of results and go with the second.
  • Unambivalence about coalition possibilities.  Whether SF makes it into parliament or not actually does not much affect coalition possibilities.  It eliminates the possibility of coalitions with SF, of course, but beyond that not much is different: there is still no viable two-party coalition (even in the no-SF variant, Smer+SDKU musters only 67); there is still no way for the current coalition to remain in power without taking on an additional partner (which, as long as Meciar remains head of HZDS, means only Smer); there is still no likely coalition without at least one member of the current coalition (the Smer-SNS-HZDS coalition still does not manage a majority though without SF it falls only one seat short).
  • Expectations of Smer’s weakness.  The main difference between the models above and those based on straight-up poll results (the kind constantly appearing in the Slovak press) is that these incorporate past relationships between polling and actual results.  In both of the last elections, the party has fallen far short of its preferences and this model assumes that it will do so again (though not by as great a degree).  This, of course, assumes in turn that nothing else has changed and such assumptions are always dangerous.  Still, there are reasons to believe that the party has maximized its support among the discontented and that many of these simply will not bother to go out and vote.
  • Expectations of SDKU’s strength.  This is the weakest part of the model.  Polling data just does not show much reason to expect that SDKU will pick up huge numbers of voters in the last minute, but the data was almost as silent on this in 2002 and 2004 and still the party significantly exceeded its polling totals.  So I allow history to guide this part of the prediction, though (as with Smer) to a more moderate degree.
  • Ambivalence about purely mathematical models. My thoughts about SF demonstrate the difficulty of analysis from abroad and the degree to which political science’s models are heavily dependent on .  As I worked on SF’s poll numbers, I saw some weakness but did not really give it as serious consideration as I should have until I received a report from a friend in Slovakia expressing serious doubts about the party’s electoral viability.  I then went back and reanalyzed the numbers and found it to be worse than I thought.  But without that report and the subsequent renanalysis, I might not even have bothered to create the "No SF" option that I now think to be the most probable.  Fingerspitzgefuhl remains essential, thought technology does sometimes help make it easier to do something productive when the fingers have no choice but to remain on another continent.

Party Preferences and Trends: SF on the Verge

Two months ago, Slobodne Forum’s electoral fortunes
seemed secure. Its support stood
comfortably between 7% and 8%, not quite enough to join the traffic jam of
other parties at the 10% mark, but enough to ensure its entry into parliament despite certain structural weaknesses.

One month ago, all three major polls (UVVM, FOCUS, MVK)
showed a drop in SF’s electoral fortunes; this month all three polls
showed a further decline.  Except for dropping support for Smer (which can afford the losses), this is the most consistent evidence of
decline for support for any party in Slovakia in the past year. As the graph below shows, the only bright
spots for the party have been increases in the results recorded by the less
regular, and less consistent results reported by Dicio and Median. Nor is

are the firms in the second tier of survey
providers unanimous in predicting higher support. In fact OMV for May shows a drop of more than
2.5% to the very margin of electoral viability.


Of course in comparison to KSS, SF’s fortune’s still seem
secure. Whereas KSS’s poll results
cluster above and below 5%, SF’s tend to be at least 1.5% above the danger
line. According to the graph below, the
party’s three- and one-month trendlines show decline, but even these, when
projected June 17, still put the party above 5%.


This good news, however, must be weighed against several
other factors that suggest the party’s support is weaker than it looks:

  • Weak voter loyalty toward new parties
    Smaller and particularly newer parties in Slovakia frequently underperform their polling numbers as voters decide at the last minute to stick with larger and more established parties. In 2002, Smer’s average polling numbers
         dropped by 25%, as did those of SDL and SDA and the divided SNS. ANO’s dropped by 11%. (Only KSS and PSNS showed an increase and both of those could arguably be understood as somewhat more-established parties, KSS having campaigned in most previous elections and PSNS led by the past president of SNS, Jan Slota.) In 1998, SOP averaged 16% in UVVM surveys over the three months before the election but received only 8% of all votes cast, a drop of 50%. SF may not experience this significant a drop, but even the common 20% drop would mean electoral failure.
  • Weak SF voter loyalty
    A variety of surveys suggest that SF has a particularly weak base. One publicly available such survey, that of the Institute for Public Affairs (,
    see also Pravda 19.05.06) suggests that of those preferring for SF, 7% would
    certainly vote for the party, 65% would probably do so, and 28% might vote
    for somebody else. Not only is this
    the lowest share of “certain” voters for any party in Slovakia
    (by a significant margin) but it is also the highest “maybe not.” Notably, it is also significantly worse
    than /any/ of the new parties in 2002 at a corresponding point in the electoral cycle (Smer, which lost 25% of its poll support had 28% certain, 53% probable, and 18% maybe not; ANO, which lost 11% of its poll support had 14% certain, 68% probable, and 18% maybe not).  Not only are SF voters relatively
         uncommitted to their party, but many have recourse to an easy alternative. As in 2002, voters for new parties tend to have net positive evaluations only of other new parties.
         In 2002 Smer voters expressed sympathy for ANO by a ratio of 63:37; ANO voters expressed sympathy for Smer by a ratio of 61:39. Among April 2004 supporters of SF, the  ratio of sympathy to antipathy for Smer is even higher than these past marks: 64:34 (and this is a slight decline from the 71:27 ratio of  November). SF voters also offer relatively high and increasing levels of approval for Smer chair Robert Fico: 22% in
         November 2005, 35% in April 2006.
  • Divided SF leadership
    On factor that is difficult to calculate but sure to affect the SF’s outcome is its recent bout of internal turmoil. Some observers believe the problems to be so severe as to make it “hard to see SF crossing the threshold now.” 

Given these problems, it is not a surprise that Tipos odds,
recalculated as probabilities, offer a 46.6% chance that SF will clear the
five-percent threshold and that the odds have worsened by almost two percentage
points in the past two days. The true
test will come when polls emerge that cover the last several weeks of turmoil
within the party. Even strong numbers
will not guarantee the party’s success, but continued or increased weakness
will doom the party.  The question then would
be the degree to which the remaining SF voters would stay with their chosen
party or shift. If the latter, the
question is where, and Smer looks set to reap the most.

Party Preferences and Trends: KSS’s Tightrope Walk

In the coming days, I will look at polling results for each
party with an eye to trends in indivdual series of polls and composite polling
averages for each month.   This analysis will stay at what I will
call "level 1," which is the compilation and assessment of polling
numbers, and only rarely moving to  "level 2," which is the
assessment of how polling numbers might translate into actual votes and seats,
and no attention to "level 3," which is the assessment of how seats
might translate into an actual government.  These will be the subject of
other posts.

I start with perhaps the most interesting and consequential of all election
questions: whether KSS will gain enough votes to pass the 5% threshold for

KSS poll results are tantalizing and in themselves offer no
clear answer about whether the party will pass the 5% threshold. This uncertainty is reflected in current
betting line on Tipos ( )
which gives identical odds for KSS’s success and failure.


The betting line here seems well
calculated. As the first graph shows, the
average of poll results for each month has remained within 0.5 percentage
points for all of 2006, though individual polls show the party as much as 2
percentage points above or below. Nor do
those polls show consistent patterns. Within 2006 alone, every major polling series except Dicio has shown KSS
to be above the threshold in some months and at or below the threshold in at
least one another month. (Within this
variation, Dicio and UVVM produce results that are consistently below the
others for the last twelve months. Over
the last three years results for KSS were lowest on surveys by Median and UVVM
while FOCUS and MVK showed higher-than-average KSS results.)  As the graph below shows, even trendlines are
mixed, with otherwise quite different 1-month and 12-month trend lines both suggesting
a result above the 5% threshold, and almost identical 3-month, 6-month trendlines
suggesting a 4.5% result.


This inconsistency itself may have some effect on the vote
since voters who are uncertain of a party’s viability may opt for an
alternative.  This is especially
important since Smer’s adoption of a more clearly “social democratic” name and
platform might make Smer a slightly more palatable alternative for worried KSS
voters than it had been in the past. In
fact comparisons with 2002, while limited in their applicability suggest that the
KSS voters were more ambivalent about Smer in 2002 (the ratio of positives to
negatives averaged 56:44 with a declining trend as the election neared) than
they have been in 2005-2006 (the ratio of positives to negatives in recent IVO
surveys shows a much higher and rising trend, from 61:34 in November 2005 to 71:27
in April 2006).  

Figures from 2002 also suggest that while KSS voters were
less likely than major-party voters to shun a party that was not viable, they too
were not entirely immune to considerations of viability (in May 2002 nearly 100%
of KSS voters agreed that “One should vote according to his/her convictions,
and not by the party’s size” but at the same time nearly 70% of KSS voters
acknowledged that “It make no sense to vote small parties, because this would
mean just a waste of the votes” (the same share as the in the overall

With half of all recent polls showing KSS below the
threshold, and headlines like Pravda’s June 1, “KSS
would not get into parliament
,” enough KSS voters may become sufficiently
discouraged to push the party’s numbers down further.  The available information suggests a slight
presumption against KSS in parliament
but there simply is not enough data to make a firm assessment. 

Whether KSS succeeds or not may have a fundamental affect on
the composition of Slovakia’s next government, not because there is much chance
that KSS will be in the government (too many parties have categorically
rejected cooperation with KSS) but because the redistribution of seats that
might otherwise have gone to KSS will enlarge the totals of all other parties
and increase the chances that Smer could drastically reduce its negotiation
costs and form a coalition with only one other party.  Indeed if recent trouble in SF pushes that
party below the 5% threshold, a two-party government led by Smer is almost