More January 2008 UVVM

More UVVM Monthly Report for January

Google’s new graphing application makes it easy to add a few other graphs, so I offer them here. More analysis in future posts.

UVVM+poll+data+ for +coalition+support for the most recent +24+months+ in Slovakia

non-coalition parties shows three clear intervals: the small advantage held by today’s coalition parties (though they were not then in coalition) before the 2006 election, the narrowing that occurred in the election itself (suggesting that perhaps the current coalition party lead is not as big as it seems), and the current post-election interval with a 30 percentage point advantage for the coalition parties that has held stable for the past year at least.

UVVM+poll+data+ for +coalition+support for the most recent +4+months+ in Slovakia

The above short-term graph of poll results for coalition and non-coalition parties shows the dominant stability of the present interval.

UVVM+poll+data+ for +party+'blocs'+ for the most recent +24+months+ in Slovakia

The long-term graph of poll results for (loosely defined) party “blocs” parties breaks this down in a slightly different way, suggesting an overall stability for the Hungarian National SMK and for the Slovak National (apparently reciprocal) pair of SNS and HZDS, though overall numbers would suggest that a small share of this bloc’s support has been lost to Smer in the last few months (as the graph below shows in more detail). It is the “right” bloc of SDKU, KDH and ANO and SF that has faced the biggest losses over the last two years (corresponding to Smer’s gains), but results for individual parties suggest that the gains came not from SDKU or KDH but rather from ANO and SF. This is not surprising, as ANO and SF both (in their own way) appealed to voters who opposed Meciar’s authoritarian and nationalist inclinations (and clientelist corruption) but had low expectations of (or were disillusioned by) Dzurinda. It is possible that ANO and SF served as a halfway house for some of these voters’ shift to Smer, peeling them off from the previous coalition and forcing them to make new choices as those two parties declined below electability. This is only a conclusion from overall numbers (which often do not tell the whole story). I will try to find more detailed information about transfer of voter allegiance to answer this question, but if this is true, it is an important mechanism to study. (If it is true, furthermore, it suggests, that these voters may be rather fickle Smer supporters as well and may bolt if the party proves more corrupt. I predicted this too publicly in fall 2006, however, and it has yet to come true.

UVVM+poll+data+ for +party+'blocs'+ for the most recent +4+months+ in Slovakia

Bratislava, Fico and January 2008 UVVM

I am just now beginning to realize how fantastic it is to be here and why I have loved this place since the first time I came here (actually not the very first, but I will leave that story for another post). After a balmy winter weekend of walking around the city, I am now ready again to plunge head-on into Slovakia’s politics.

Tonight marked my first real chance to watch Slovakia’s news since the 2006 elections and by sheer luck I got the TV working just in time to watch Fico interviewed on TA3 and give quite a performance. Much has changed since I had a daily diet of Slovak TV news in the mid-1990’s, but not everything (more on that as well).

And if that were not enough good news, I have now had a chance to work with google’s magnificent Charts API which, with a bit of work, allows me to create really beautiful chart graphics directly from a url without having to produce the graphic, save it and upload it. I am hopeful that this will streamline the process of uploading survey results and help me to get them out in a more timely fashion. I will go into more detail in future posts, but the process should be consistent with about two posts a month: one about the late-middle of the month when UVVM, like clockwork, publishes its monthly poll results and one later (sometimes never) when FOCUS or MVK results become available for comparison. I am not convinced that poll results offer much information in themselves and so it is necessary to treat them only in comparison, either to past results from the same firm or to poll results from other firms. While I am not convinced that UVVM’s numbers actually reflect likely vote (they differ rather considerably from the work of FOCUS and other firms), I value their results for detecting trends. The UVVM posts will focus on the trends; the UVVM-FOCUS posts will also look at comparative trends as well as comparative support levels, with an eye toward assessing what the polls might mean for actual electoral outcomes.

Preliminary Monthly Report: January UVVM

UVVM poll data for all parties for the most recent 24 months in Slovakia

This overall long-term graph of poll results for UVVM shows no major changes in the overall pattern. The relative positions of and distances between parties are almost identical to the previous month and Smer maintains its remarkable lead, though it shows a slight dip from last month’s near-record high. Since Smer towers above the rest, changes in the others are best seen in a graph that omits Smer.

UVVM poll data for all parties except Smer for the most recent 4 months in Slovakia

There is nothing too surprising here. Support for SMK and KDH remains flat and not far from traditional levels (if a bit on the low side) as befits parties with strong structural bases and little activity this month. SDKU rose slightly, perhaps because of the SPF scandal, but not so much that it can be distinguished from poll noise.

Support for SNS and HZDS, however, shows considerable movement, with relatively big changes by the standards of medium-range parties. Actually, last month’s slight increase for HZDS was surprising in the face of scandal, but the decline this month suggest that opinion (at least within UVVM’s polling base) has caught up with the results found by FOCUS and MVK for December. HZDS’s 7.2% marks the least support that the party has ever received in a UVVM poll and is just a bit higher than the 6.8% recorded for the party by MVK last month.

As might be expected, SNS would again appear to be the beneficiary of HZDS’s slide, gaining a 2.8 percentage points (even more than HZDS’s 2.1 percentage point loss).

This shift has produced, at least for the time being, a slightly different configuration among Slovakia’s parties. Instead of the traffic jam around 10% that we saw this summer, the surveys now show at least the possibility of the emergence of two strong “second tier” parties, each representing an ideological (and only vaguely structural) alternatives to Smer: SDKU, with its emphasis on markets, and SNS, with its emphasis on the nation. These parties have the strongest opportunities for growth, but they also face bigger risks, especially SNS since every month in government increases its chances of one of its officials being caught in a major clientelism scandal a la HZDS. Of course it also possesses the countervailing advantage of visibility in government and access to various resources. We shall see which prevails.

Goat Street

Note for the New Year: as part of a grant to study Slovakia’s political parties (funded by the Fulbright Program and organized with great efficiency by the remarkable staff at Fulbright’s Bratislava office: I have committed to regular posts on my research and other impressions of life and work in Slovakia. This is what I want to be doing anyway, so it’s a happy task to undertake.

We arrived in Bratislava one week ago last night and I am just now finding the time and energy to record that event. Of course the last week has been devoted to finding a flat, furnishing it, making initial contacts and helping the kids get adjusted to European time. Some of those tasks proved easier than expected (the flat) and others far more difficult (the time change). But we are now Bratislavcani, at least for the next half-year.

Of most note at present is our wonderful newneighborhood. We have settled on Kozia ulica—Goat Street—which was once indeed a path for herders from the city into the hills but is now part of the city’s core, just outside the old moat (now a very busy road) and just below the castle hill. Our street consists primarily of 4- and 5-story blocks of flats on a relatively narrow street, very much an early 20th century urban streetscape with buildings built between the late-19th century and the mid-20th (ours is in the latter category, concrete, glass and brick but not too terrible for all that because the streets are narrow enough that there are no grand vistas to call attention to how unimpressive it is). The apartment has 3 bedrooms, a living room and a kitchen with lots of glass and lots of light (even with the ubiquitous gauze privacy curtains). The back of the apartment faces a courtyard formed by about 8 other similar blocks containing a kindergarten and a park(though we cannot exactly see the park because the kindergarten is in the
way). The front faces the kind of streetscape I normally only dream about: some lovely 19th century flats fronted on the ground floor by a pharmacy, a greengrocer, a flower shop and a sandwich shop (all of which have lovely, colorful things in the windows. The flower shop and greengrocer are attractions in themselves). On our street we have 2 more pharmacies, a wine café, a Czech pub (pretty much in the old style), Bratislava’s best bookstore, and a
library. Around the corners are banks,small grocery stores, shops with antiques and office supplies. Down the way are more cafes, a few churches, Slovakia’s English-language bookstore and just about everything else I could think of. There is constant pedestrian traffic and a lively interplay. This is why people live in cities. Future posts may reveal more about why not everybody lives in cities, but for the moment this comes closer to “where I wish I could live” than anywhere I have ever lived before. (I hope future posts will also say less about me and more about this remarkable place. With any luck I will manage to post on poll results within the next 24 hours.)

p.s. We will occasionally be posting more of these “life in Slovakia” updates at the temporary “Goat Street” blog: