It’s probably a bit early to care about polls again–it’s only been a month since the election, but where there’s polling data there’s usually misanalysis to go with it and one of the purposes of this blog is to address the problems. The poll we have is FOCUS, which did fairly well in the recent election in producing poll numbers that resembled election results (though worse that some, including, most notably, Polis). The big papers have “horse race” headlines today that Smer shows big gains while the coalition parties have fallen. That’s only half true and it’s only slightly more than half relevant. The problem is that the analysis is comparing the poll numbers to the recent election numbers when the election itself demonstrated that polls and elections are not exactly the same thing. It is no more useful to compare post-election polls to actual results than it is to compare pre-election results because polls and election results do not measure the same thing (of course we try to do that comparison as best we can because we want to know who’s going to win, but it is still an approximation). The true comparative test is to compare the post-election polls with the pre-election polls. Perhaps this is what the papers should have done because it shows an even bigger change, at least for Smer, which rises from below 30 to above 40 in the FOCUS poll numbers. This is offset somewhat by a three point drop for HZDS–now way under the 5% threshold, a point it may never reach again in reputable polls–and a point-and-a-half drop for SNS, but whatever the calculation, it is a big jump for the current opposition. Interestingly, looking at polls rather than election results for comparision, the new government actually sees a slight improvement as well: SDKU up two-and-a-half, Most-Hid up half-a-point, and SaS and KDH both stable. The big losers here are the losers: HZDS and SMK, firmly below the 5% threshold, SDL back down under 2 points and no other party showing a significant result (including KSS which had stayed above 1% for all but one of the polls conducted between 2006 and 2010 but is above that line no more). This is fairly normal in the post-election period and some of these parties may spring back (I see some possibility for a slight recovery in SMK if it doesn’t do anything ill-advised). Since the SDKU-led coalition did not suffer in this poll, the Smer gain probably came from the supporters of smaller parties who were lured away in the final weeks of the election campaign or whose voters have finally given up hope. Given Smer’s rapid recovery, it is tempting to note that the party’s voters appear to have stayed home at just the wrong time, but this may in fact be the nature of many of Smer’s voters, who are willing to settle for that party because there is none better within their ideological framework, but who are easily drawn either to other parties or to staying home on election day. Either way, it’s good to know that reportage on polling results in Slovakia continues to need a watchful eye.
The results are on the dashboard but here’s a quick overview