That’s what the headlines of Slovakia’s papers should say. But again they don’t. Still, what we get now is better than before since the nature of differences in polling methods in Slovakia has begun to seep into the Slovak press. Now at least the major sources specifically mention the poll by name in headlines before announcing the exciting “news” that certain new parties will not get into parliament. Pravda announces “Median: SaS and Most do not pass into parliament” while SME says almost the same thing: “Median Poll does not let SaS or Most-Hid into parliament” and TA3 writes “Median SK: SaS and Most would not get into parliament” and both SME and Pravda mentioned somewhere in the article that this differed from the results of other polls.
This is better than nothing, but not good enough. The Dashboard contains the results including February Median poll, and what that shows is the following:
- Median remains far from the other major pollsters on 3 important parties: SaS, Most-Hid and SNS. This is probably because of the poll’s method of not listing party choices for respondents and requiring them to name a party without prompting. It may be that Median is right in doing this and that the others are wrong, but Median’s past performance in predicting elections (worse than the other major pollsters: http://www.pozorblog.com/?p=684) suggests not. So its predictions of parliamentary failure for Most-Hid and SaS, must be taken with a large grain of salt.
- SaS: Despite its raw numbers, Median confirms the upward trend of SaS. Median has always polled low for SaS but even with this the party now is near the threshold even for that pollster and shape of the lines (if not their locations) are roughly the same. All major pollsters show the party with a big upward jump in January or February:
- SNS and HZDS. Likewise despite differences in raw numbers, Median shows a significant downward shift for both SNS, conforming to the trends in other surveys. HZDS is now at the lowest level it has ever been in available Median polls (2005) and SNS is at its lowest level since 2007. If Median had not showed these declines, it would be worth looking twice at the others, but the unanimity here cannot be good news, even if its raw numbers might hearten Meciar and Slota by suggesting that they are actually several steps short of the abyss.
Otherwise Median numbers are not wildly different from those of the other pollsters: in Median, as in FOCUS but not in the other two, Smer showed some recovery in February, and MKP-SMK showed signs of stabilizing above the threshold. SDKU and KDH moved little.
Congratulations to the major papers for noticing that polling firms are different, but they still have work to do if they don’t want to miss the big story.
No time to do a thorough post right now but a Polis came out yesterday and FOCUS came out today. Click the Dashboard above for the graphs. Here are few thoughts:
- Smer. Both polls show the party slightly down but not by much. The party has averaged between 38 and 41 for the last 6 months. It is now on the low side of that but there are no signs of either a precipitous drop or a recovery. Of course it will all depend on the likelihood of the “soft” Smer voters (of whom there are probably quite many) to go and vote.
- SNS. Polis shows a further drop to just above the threshold (but Polis has usually polled low for SNS compared to the others). FOCUS shows it holding steady around 6%. It probably does hang just above the threshold and its future may depend on an unlikely combination of Orban and Meciar. We all know Orban is going to win but the tone of the campaign could help SNS a bit; if Meciar begins to fall repeatedly below the threshold, some voters might also shift to the next nearest “national” party, which is SNS. There is still some degree of reciprocity between the voters of these parties, as with KDH and SDKU.
- HZDS. Polis again shows it below the threshold, but Polis has usually polled low for HZDS. FOCUS shows it with 5.2, the firm’s lowest result for the party since summer of last year. Together these produce an average of 4.9 and so HZDS does not appear on this month’s roster of parliamentary parties. Of course the upcoming Median survey will put the HZDS average back above the threshold, so there will not appear to be much of a change, but HZDS is clearly on the brink, and a drop like that of summer 2009 (and from a lower starting point) could knock the party out, especially if the April and May polls show it low and a few voters start to balk.
- SDKU. Polis shows a drop from a high point; FOCUS shows a rise from a low point. It is somewhere between 13% and 15%. FOCUS, in particular, has shown a yo-yo, alternating between over 14 and under 12 since Fall. Of course SDKU has been a bit of a yo-yo, with scandal followed by recovery. Next month will help show whether the recovery shown by FOCUS is a “Radicova” bonus or just noise.
- KDH. In typical fashion the headline writer at the paper SME trumpeted KDH surpassing SDKU (along with a picture of Dzurinda pulling out a chair for Figel–they have pictures of elites interacting that serve every possible combination of events), but of course it probably doesn’t mean anything. Polis puts KDH at a record high (and SDKU a bit low). FOCUS puts KDH slightly higher. Since FOCUS tends to poll slightly low for KDH and Polis tends to poll slightly high, the story–not one worthy of headlines–is KDH slightly up.
- SaS. Very little SaS news this month but that in itself is news: FOCUS and Polis both show the party slightly down from last month, suggesting that Feburary may have been its peak. A pre-election peak is a natural near-inevitability and is assisted by the election of Radicova to head the SDKU campaign during this period. Watch what happens next here. From the party’s position, the good news is that its peak and the resulting visibility is fairly high, permitting the party to sustain some losses.
- Most-Hid and MKP-SMK. Both FOCUS and Polis show both parties slightly up, which seems unlikely in reality but which may be noise or a reaction to Hungarian-Slovak disputes. In any case, MKP-SMK stands rather close to the threshold–too close for its comfort, I’m sure–but holds the organizational base, while Most-Hid stands higher but with a weaker voting base. Either (but probably not both) could fall below the threshold… which brings me to a final thought.
The Importance of Thresholds.
As is to be expected these days, the Pravda headline writer announced yesterday, “Yet another poll shows opposition victory; HZDS remains below the line.” And that is correct, as far as it goes. The problem is “yet another” in this case means “yet another from the same polling firm” which is less surprising and that this firm has traditionally polled low for HZDS. This is not to say that HZDS is not in trouble, but the lack of analysis is, as usual, unfortunate. The really interesting point here–one which I do not blame newspaper writers for covering just yet–is that many parties are near the threshold and a .1% difference may shape Slovakia’s next government. This month is an example. The opposition and coalition are balanced closely enough that if one party from either side falls below (and there are two parties on each side near the line), it could mean victory for the other. In the Polis poll dramatized by Pravda, it is HZDS that has fallen below, meaning that its seats get redistributed and Smer loses a partner, pushing it narrowly below the line. Were HZDS 0.6% higher (7 more respondents in the poll), HZDS would stay above the threshold and the current coalition remains intact. Such a small difference is not detectable by polls (even if we could get a perfectly representative sample and perfectly predict turnout behavior, it is still well within the margin of error).
It is also worth noting that an equally slight difference in SMK would put that party below the threshold and make it impossible for an “opposition” government, even if HZDS also fell below.
I hope to post more on threshold math in the near future. Some preliminary calculations appear near the end of the Slovak Politics in a Nutshell post.
Today’s Pravda has a useful listing of the 18 political parties that will be contesting the 2010 parliamentary election. The list is incomplete and bit hard to use, though, so I reformat it here. See Pravda’s story for a bit more information including a summary (in Slovak) of parties’ origins. As one thing leads to another, so this chart has led to a more detailed analysis of the more recent comings and goings among Slovakia’s parties which will appear here as soon as I have finished a separate project.
A new report from the polling firm MVK (the only company I know without a web address or logo) puts the current coalition down almost 5 points and the current opposition up by 6. Here’s the poll: http://spravy.pravda.sk/mvk-zostava-smer-hzds-a-sns-by-po-volbach-nezlozila-novu-vladu-pbp-/sk_domace.asp?c=A100309_094511_sk_domace_p12 . But does it fit what we know from other polls? More or less.
As the dashboard shows, MVK’s numbers are within a plausible range nearly all parties.
- Smer: MVK shows a nearly 5% drop between mid-January and late February which seems rather large. The other two polls we have (FOCUS and Polis) show the party with a slight recovery rather than a major drop during the same month, though MVK’s results did come late, however, and it’s possible that something happened (not clear what that would be from the news) to reduce Smer support in a way that isn’t recorded yet in the other polls.
- SNS: MVK shows a smaller loss for SNS but in some ways a more significant one because as far as I can tell from my records it is the first major poll since August 2004 to show SNS below the threshold. Whether SNS is really that low is an open question (and one openly disputed by SNS which regards this poll as yet another election tactic by its opponents) but it is clear that every major poll has shown SNS down in recent months and the MVK poll certainly fits the trendline. Of course the party have low numbers because voters do not want to admit voting for it (this seems to have happened for HZDS during the 1990’s) but it could also have something to do with the party’s frequent scandals. Political commentators in Slovakia have argued that the party is immune to scandal because of its national message but that has struck me as rather condescending to nationalist voters. The fate of SNS will be–both for coalition development and for the overall tone of Slovakia’s politics–one of the most important questions in the coming election.
- HZDS: MVK shows the party up a bit which is actually likely if SNS is really down. If one of these parties drops, the other is likely to be a minor beneficiary. It is fascinating, however, that the combined vote total for these parties is now down to around 10%-11%. Just two years ago the combined total averaged around 19%-20% in MVK polls.
Most of these numbers, too, seem plausible though there is a bounce here that seems slightly unlikely:
SDKU: The poll shows this party up more than three points from last month which seems unlikely during a period of scandal, but last month was an exceptionally low month for SDKU in MVK and this merely returns the party to its levels for late 2009. Since the low poll came before the scandal and this more recent poll has come after (but before Radicova’s election), this would seem to offer some confirmatory evidence that the scandal did not hurt SDKU too badly, which makes some sense and gives some credit to Dzurinda for leaving the electoral list and more or less taking the scandal away with him.
- KDH: The party’s 12.7 is the highest total (by a two point margin) that the party has received my 8 years of records of MVK polls. If SDKU were down this would make more sense to me, but it is hard to see this as anything other than a blip, even for a party that is doing better than it had in the past.
- SaS: Is the same as last month suggesting that 1) the party has some staying power and 2) that the growth may be over. If this is SaS’s peak (and I have no way of knowing or thinking that it is) we now need to watch to see if the pre-electoral slide of new parties which hit ZRS, ANO, SOP and HZD will hit SaS and whethe it is enough. It is good for SaS that they are starting the slide from a relatively high point–at 9.2 they can lose nearly half and stay above the threshold–but not so good that there are 3 months in which to do it.
- MKP-SMK and Most-Hid. Both are down slightly from last month’s MVK and Most-Hid is near the threshold of viability by these standards. I have no way of evaluating what the right level is; other polls have tended to put Most-Hid above SMK in recent months so MVK is different but not to be discounted for that reason. The real question is whether one of these two parties begins to fall short of 5% whether voters will flock to the other. The worst case scenario for Hungarians (short of both parties falling short of 5% which I still think is unlikely) is for one of these two parties to get nearly but not quite 5%. Right now the numbers make that a strong possibility. This means we have a 50%-50% chance of the best and worst-case scenarios (both in v. one weak party in) as opposed to a much stronger chance of a middle-of-the-road scenario (one marginally stronger party in, one weak party out).
Finally, a plea: Would MVK please include full results in its press releases as FOCUS and Median do. Perhaps it would help if journalists demanded them.
Everything you never wanted to know about politics in Slovakia and were therefore afraid to ask (lest I’d tell you). I’ve finally had a chance to annotate an absurdly long and detailed presentation on Slovakia’s politics which derived in large part from the exercises I’ve been conducting on this blog (and past efforts). The questions, some of which are rigorously answered in this presentation (and others of which I speed through hoping you’ll take my word for it):
- What is politics in Slovakia about? What is the struggle
- Where is the power?
- What are the parties like? Their history, organization, voters, recent poll performance
- What coalitions are possible after the elections? Which are most probable? Why?
Much of this is conjecture on my part, though I’ve tried to ground it as well as I could in data. As always, I crave comments lest I write out into the void.
There are two versions:
I am a comparativist by training and so it is not particularly surprising that I am fond of T. S. Eliot’s famous quatrain from Little Gidding:
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
And I am therefore extremely grateful to Michal Kovacs of the Introduction to North America class at the Economics University of Bratislava for the chance to reverse the normal equation and talk about my own country using the tools that I usually use to talk about Slovakia. Thanks, too, to the students who paid close attention and asked excellent questions (but I’m still not telling whom I would vote for if I were a citizen of Slovakia). For those students who participated and for anyone else odd enough to care, a hasty, non-annotated (and therefore probably incomprehensible) .pdf of the talk is available here:
Since this is in many regards just a highly abbreviated version of lectures in my Citizenship class, the truly foolhardy can find a more extensive treatment at http://waynehonorsgold.pbwiki.com (login: firstname.lastname@example.org, login: abercrombie)