Dashboard News: Polls disagree, parties shift (maybe), but blocs stay stable

The blog has been slow lately as I’ve finished up some local and international projects and concluded the semester.  And because Slovak poll numbers tend to be a mid-month phenomenon.  I have lots that I hope to talk about in the coming week but for now I want to get a jump on the numbers that appeared yesterday from Median and today from FOCUS.

While the two polls show a bunch of individual shifts in various parties, the limits of the polls themselves make these suspect to closer scrutiny.  What emerges is some uncertainty about specifics but a fairly clear general picture of stability (one that does not lend much insight into the crucial question of performance of those parties near the edge of viability (the two Slovak National parties HZDS and SNS and the two Hungarian National parties MKP-SMK and Most-Hid) which will affect coalition performance in a major way.

The overall results can be found on the dashboard.  Analysis is below.

Smer. A slight drop in FOCUS, stable in Median.  The difference between the two is about 7 points, one of the wider gaps between FOCUS and Median on Smer, but not the widest.  Median’s method of asking people to name parties should tend to boost the reported fortunes of well known parties (such as Smer).  No great changes or surprises here.

HZDS: Stable in both Median and FOCUS and at what are near-record lows in both polls.  It is interesting (but difficult to parse) that after HZDS’s huge drop in the Median polls between January and February, that the two are relatively close, between 5% and 6%.  HZDS thus stands at the threshold of viability for both a pollster that regularly poll about average for HZDS (FOCUS) and one that has recently polled high for HZDS (Median).

SNS: SME calls SNS’s rise in this month’s FOCUS poll a “second wind.”  Is this right?  Maybe, but not certainly.  This may reflect the recent Hungarian election results, but those have been predictable for so long (a colleague of mine wrote a paper in March in which he put the Orban victory in Hungary in past tense before it had even happened) that I wonder how much that really influences SNS numbers.  but I have doubts about whether this reflects a broader rise in preferences or simply a polling artifact.  Of the major existing parties, SNS poll results have a slightly greater propensity to jump around than do those of other parties.  The party saw a temporary drop of this same magnitude for one month late in 2009 and this may be a similar occurrence (in reverse) or a genuine Fidesz induced recovery.  Polis polls (which should be coming soon) may help us to tell if it is statistical noise.  Next month’s poll will tell us if it is a temporary blip.  It is worth noting, however that an article that says SNS has a second wind blows some of that wind itself.

The current coalition: Extremely stable, the even as individual party results have jumped around in both polls.  In Median polls coalition support dropped by about one twentieth over the last 3 months, from 60% to 57% while in FOCUS polls its support has stayed remarkably consistent: 50.6% in February, 50.1% in March and 50.8% in April (down from the mid-50’s in late 2009).  Losses by any one of these parties seem, for the present, to offset gains by others.

SDKU: Stable, though it is hard to know exactly what that means.  SDKU has gone through big changes lately both in its internal structure (Dzurinda to Miklos v. Radicova) and external environment (the rise of SaS and Figel in KDH) and has jumped around quite a bit.  That said, on this party FOCUS and Median have produced relatively similar results for this party, and continue to do so, putting relatively stable around 13%.  Read one way, Radicova’s arrival has not helped the party; read another way, the party has not lost much despite the emergence of a significant rival (or two) on its own territory.

KDH: Unclear.  FOCUS shows a small drop for KDH while Median shows a big jump.  Hard to parse this as well.  In February and March FOCUS was the outlier on KDH showing lower support smaller gains than any of the other three major polls.  For now FOCUS is all we have for April so it’s hard to say whether to take its numbers seriously.

SaS: No drop yet.  Every poll shows the same trend for SaS: an almost uninterrupted rise during 2009 with a brief pause or slight reversal in February/March 2010.  FOCUS new poll shows renewed growth in April and we do not have any other polls that confirm or deny that movement.  Median shows the same trend, though it’s much lower numbers for SaS are undoubtedly the result of its different survey question (which does not specify any options a priori).  In this case the SaS mechanism may offer a useful corrective for the numbers found by other parties (with lack-of-awareness of a party substituting here for lack-of-commitment to that party).  It is hard to believe that SaS will sustain results over 11% in the final tally if ANO and SOP did not, but this result does seem to put it out of immediate danger of falling below the threshold (thus reducing the number of parties in danger to “only” four.

Most-Hid and MKP-SMK: Stable but polls offer no insight on the key “threshold” question. The Hungarian parties results remain the most difficult to judge, at least with regard to the most important question of whether either party (or both together) will pass the 5% threshold.  FOCUS puts both parties right on the line (MKP stable over 3 months, Most-Hid dropping from a higher position).  I have argued that one of the two should pass the threshold but it is not clear which one.  The current stasis (with both above the threshold) makes it unlikely that one party will be seen as “running away with it” and lower the possibility of something like an 8% v. 3% split (not ideal, sacrificing maximum gain for maximum loss) while maximizing the possibility of either something like a 5.9% v. 5.1% split (a best case scenario) or something like 6.1% v. 4.9% (a worst case scenario).  Median, I think, simply needs to be ignored on Hungarian parties.  There is no basis that I can think of for trusting a result that shows the total Hungarian electorate at less than 8%; Median puts it at 6.2%.

The current opposition: Steady increase.  Averaging parties into blocs shows a lower overall shift (suggesting that volatility is within rather than between blocs).  Median shows very little change for the current opposition over time, and only 0.3% gain in the last month.  FOCUS likewise shows only a 1% gain in the most recent month though the longer term numbers suggest a rise of about one tenth since late 2009, likely consisting of new voters attracted by SaS and Most-Hid.

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