Dashboard News: Telling the Wrong Story in the Slovak Press

Dashboard NewsSometimes it pays to stop and think before sitting down to write.  Every major Slovak daily yesterday reported on the results of the February poll by the firm FOCUS.  And every one told the same story.

Unfortunately, that story is wrong in two significant ways.

  • First, the decline of SDKU started long before Smer attacks. As the data shows (http://www.la.wayne.edu/polisci/timeplot/skp_sdku_db.html) nearly every poll shows the party declining steadily from a peak in early-mid 2009.
  • Second, the decline of SDKU did not (yet) accelerate after Smer attacks. We only have two polls for the post attack period–Polis focus sdku 2010and Focus–and both show SDKU within 0.2 percentage points of its December levels.  The appearance of a steep drop was created not by unusually low results for SDKU in the February FOCUS poll but rather by unusually high results for the party in the January poll.  FOCUS can’t really use this as an explanation lest they undercut their own polling methodology (though some noise is simply part of the business), but as the red arrow in the graph below shows, January stands /way/ out.  As the blue arrow shows, FOCUS’s December and February results (and November as well) stand in an extremely relatively narrow band.  Of course the scandal may still hit home, but there is very little in the available data to suggest that it had any effect.

The story is right in one way, but even that is misleading.

  • There something of a reciprocal relationship between SaS and SDKU support
    SDKU’s decline is certainly related to the rise of SaS.  Except for that one month, Focus has shown a steady decline for SDKU from around 16 to around 12.  Polis has shown a decline from around 18 to around 14 (but interestingly did not show a decline for February when the scandals hit).  MVK has shown a decline from around 15 to around 9 (from a poll that emerged /before/ the Dzurinda scandal).  This is almost perfectly parallel with the rise of SaS.  The scandal may contribute to an SDKU decline in the long run but it is one that was already occurring because of the emergence of a relatively plausible non-Dzurinda pro-market party.  And of course the scandal may also indirectly contribute to an SDKU revival if it shifts the face of the party to somebody who is not connected to Dzurinda.
  • …But the tradeoff is not zero-sum.  SaS is also finding other supporters. sk bloc vote roughThe most interesting thing about the SDKU-SaS relationship (along with KDH) is that support for these three “right” parties has actually seen a significant collective rise over recent months, as the highlighted portion of the graph shows.  It would appear that SaS has helped to bring new voters into the mix and re-energize some disillusioned SDKU voters (and Figel’s new energy in KDH has helped a bit as well.  So as long as all three parties remain above the threshold, this is a welcome step for Slovakia’s opposition parties.  It is interesting that Slovakia’s right has only been able to attract above 25% when there has been a third right party other than KDH and SDKU (specifically ANO and later SF) (The same dynamic incidentally applies in the Czech Republic with the Christian Democrats, ODS and a non-ODS right wing party–ODA, then US, then SZ then TOP09).

Finally, the graphs that demonstrate the positive contribution of SaS to the Slovak “right” also demonstrates another story that has gone largely unreported in the Slovak press because it’s development has been more gradual:

  • The most significant shift has been the decline of ethnic Slovak national parties. sk bloc vote smoothThe same graph here, smoothed using the LOESS technique (thanks to Charles Franklin of http://www.pollster.com for the advice and Jon Peltier of http://peltiertech.com/WordPress/ for the Excel add-in) shows this in high relief.  Perhaps the smoothing is a bit too great for comfort here but the patterns are not different from those of the month-by month graph: until mid 2008 Slovakia experienced a fairly stable pattern of increase by the “left” and slight declines by the “right,” and the Slovak and Hungarian national blocs; in mid-2008 this began to change, first with sharper declines by the Slovak national parties followed by recovery by the Slovak right (likely thanks to Radicova in the spring and SaS in the fall) and recovery by the Hungarians (thanks to the emergence of Most-Hid, though if it fails to get into parliament or pushes SMK out it will prove to be a highly mixed blessing) and most recently by a reversal of the left as the party dropped from its early 2009 peak.  I suspect that these trends are leveling out more than the graph would suspect but the smoothing does help to take out some of the monthly noise (see above) and help us figure out what’s going on.  More on that in the coming ppp posts.

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