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
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.
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.