Slovakia’s Presidential Election: What the numbers say.

I thought there was not much to say about the results of the recent presidential elections in Slovakia, but I after writing the 2000 words below, I seem to have been wrong (or I have written a lot of words about nothing. Having taken a closer look at the numbers, I see in them both a confirmation of conventional wisdom—the strength of the right-wing vote, the weakness on the left-wing vote—along with often overlooked considerations about the role of political supply in addition to political demand and the pivotal role of new faces. 

The Big Picture:
Fico gets some voters back, but Kiska takes the center right

After the first round, I made the (rather obvious) argument that this election would be decided by 1) the degree to which Fico the degree to which he could mobilize his own voters and simultaneously 2) could delegitimize Kiska and thereby pry center-right voters away from him, and that some combination of both would be necessary.  The results of the second round suggest that his efforts fell short on both counts, but especially on the second.  On the first front, Fico managed in the second round to increase his support in areas where he was already popular, suggesting that he did manage to increase turnout among his own supporters by a significant, but even among these he did not reach the mobilization levels he obtained in the (admittedly unusually pro-Smer) 2012 parliamentary election. On the second front, Fico’s efforts appear to have failed completely: evidence suggests that in the second round Kiska won nearly all of the votes of the supporters of other center-right parties in addition to his own (relatively fewer) first round voters.   In a way that is not surprising since voters of the Center Right are unlikely to listen to critiques coming from the mouth of Fico.

Several tables and charts provide an effective overview of the election.  These are, in a way, massively oversimplified, suggesting, among other things, an undifferentiated spectrum within the center right, when in fact it ranges from strong Catholics to strong agnostics, from doctrinaire free-marketeers to those who are willing to accept a social market hybrid, and from ethnic Hungarians (whom I classify under Center Right for convenience) to ethnic Slovaks with a strong national sense.  It also suggests there is /any/ connection between the ‘other’ presidential candidates from the Communist Party with those of more nationally-oriented forces, with a series of rather idiosyncratic efforts).  In the case of the Center Right, there are enough similarities and historical ties of similarity that the comparison is warranted; in the case of the “others”, the number of such voters is so small as to not have great impact on the overall outcome.

Table 1. Votes and percentages for candidates in the first and second rounds of Slovakia’s 2014 presidential election
Raw votes (rounded to the nearest 1,000)
2nd round vote compared to first round vote
Round Change, 2nd-1st rounds
1st 2nd Narrow (candidate only) Wide (candidate and associated)
Kiska            456,000          1,307,000 +851,000 -15,000
Right            866,000  –  –
Fico            532,000            894,000  +362,000 +316000
Other              46,000
2nd round vote compared to first round vote
Round Change, 2nd-1st rounds
1st 2nd Narrow (candidate only) Wide (candidate and associated)
Kiska 24% 59% 35% -10%
Right 46%  –  –
Fico 28% 41% 13% 10%
Other 2%

Source for all tables and charts:, and

What does Table 1 show us?  Assuming my a priori logic about the existence of a programmatically coherent bloc of Center Right voters (taken as a bloc the largest single group), it appears that the bloc shifted en masse to Kiska, and gave him his second round victory.  Surveys ( suggest that Kiska was a viable option for nearly all voters of the Center Right whereas Fico was not, and the number of voters gained by Kiska nicely matches the number of those who supported losing Center Right candidates (differing by a mere 15,000).  Since we do not know who these voters are, however, such evidence is purely circumstantial unless we go deeper.   What we discover is that while appearances may sometimes be deceiving, in this case they are not.

A Collage of Small Pictures:
Little pieces tell the same story

The second table shows a new set of patterns based on correlations between vote share among candidates at the municipal level.  These compare patterns of performance of Kiska and the Right, Fico and the other candidates and do so across the first and second rounds.

Table 2. Correlations between municipal-level votes in various categories
in the first and second rounds of Slovakia’s 2014 presidential election.

Relationship between candidate vote and potentially associated candidates in the first round:

  • No relationship between the Kiska vote and the Right vote
  • No relationship between the Kiska vote and the “Other” vote

Relationship between the combined vote of the candidate and associated candidates in the first round and the votes for the candidate himself in the second round

  • A very strong relationship (.94) between voting for Kiska and the right in the first round and Kiska alone in the second round.
  • An identically strong relationship (.94) between voting for Fico and the “other” candidates in the first round and Fico alone in the second round.

Relationship between candidate vote in the first and second rounds

  • Moderate relationship for Kiska (.41) suggesting that something major affected his geographical appeal (and since his vote total rose, it suggests that it is related to the new voters)
  • Strong relationship for Fico (.94) suggesting that his vote increased across the board without changing geographical patterns

Relationship between candidate vote and gain in the second round

  • No relationship for Kiska (.04)  suggesting that new votes came from areas outside the candidate’s initial base
  • Moderate relationship for Fico (.34) suggesting that the 2nd round efforts tended (at least more than in the case of Kiska) to mobilize voters from the candidate’s base.

Relationship between “related vote” in first round and candidate gain in second round

  • Extremely high for Kiska (.92) suggesting that most new voters came from the base of the right candidates (if not the same exact voters)
  • Moderate for Fico (.30) suggesting that some new voters may have come from the “other” candidates but that these were drowned out by those coming from the candidate’s base.

So this gives quite direct evidence for what I already strongly suspected (and what other pollsters knew long before I did, that Fico’s new voters in the second round came from newly remobilized supporters in his existing regional support bases while Kiska’s new votes came as a transfer of the already mobilized first round center right voters  (Of course not all of Kiska’s vote came from previous center-right voters: some of those no doubt stayed home and some new voters no doubt turned out, but the overall pattern is remarkably strong and so they appear to have canceled each other out.)

A few graphs can help make this rather concrete (I’ve decided to put the labels in even though they are mostly illegible where the cases bunch up.  It’s ugly but it allows for a look at some of the outliers, mainly the Hungarian cases, but explaining those is a job for another day).

Figure 1. Kiska first round and second round. Vertical cluster suggests that improvements were largely independent of first round performance

Figure 1. Kiska first round and second round. Vertical cluster suggests that improvements were largely independent of first round performance

Figure 2. Center right first round and Kiska second round. Diagonal pattern suggests that Kiska's second round was closely related to first round performance of the center right.

Figure 2. Center right first round and Kiska second round. Diagonal pattern suggests that Kiska’s second round was closely related to first round performance of the center right.

Figure 3. Fico results first round and Fico gain second round.  Diagonal pattern suggests that Fico's second round performance was closely related to his first round performance.

Figure 3. Fico results first round and Fico gain second round.  Diagonal pattern suggests that Fico’s second round performance was closely related to his first round performance.

Figure 4. "Other" first round and Fico gain in second round. Vertical cluster suggests that improvements were largely independent of gains from "Other" candidates.

Figure 4. “Other” first round and Fico gain in second round. Vertical cluster suggests that improvements were largely independent of gains from “Other” candidates.

These snapshots of “obvod” (subdistrict) level voting show a strong correlation between right candidate support in round 1 and Kiska gains in round 2, but they do not show much of a relationship between Kiska’s own results in round 1 and 2 (more of a vertical distribution).  The opposite pattern is apparent for Fico with a very slight contribution from “other” candidates and a strong correlation between his round 1 and 2 results.  Fico drew second round voters where he had already drawn first round voters, but he drew more of them.

A Moving Picture:
Old patterns filtered by new choices

The patterns here draw attention to the ways that this election fits into the broader sweep of Slovakia’s political history.  Looking at the ways in which Fico’s second-round presidential vote followed first round patterns tells us something about the stability of his support (and the lack of influx from other sources).  Looking at the relationship between candidates’ 2014 performance and that of their respective parties in 2012 helps explain why the election was so (unexpectedly) lopsided.  As the graph below shows, the Fico’s results in 2014 almost perfectly followed his party’s results in 2012, but they were lower, much lower.

Table 5. Fico vote share in first and second rounds compared to Smer vote share in 2012. Note that in most obvods even Fico's second round performance falls short of the diagonal line that indicates parity with 2012.

Table 5. Fico vote share in first and second rounds compared to Smer vote share in 2012. Note that in most obvods even Fico’s second round performance falls short of the diagonal line that indicates parity with 2012.

In the first round, Fico received an average of fewer 11,000 votes per sub-region.  In the second round that gap dropped but Fico still turned out 5,000 fewer voters per sub-region than his party had in 2012.  Of course some drop is natural since presidential elections usually have lower turnout levels than parliamentary elections in Slovakia, but it only works if your opponents also have lower turnout levels than in the past.  As the third table shows, the 2014 vote did not work that way.

Table 3. Presidential candidates’ 2014 vote totals as a share of the vote totals of their respective parties in 2012
2014 vote as a share of 2012 vote
First Second
Fico 47% 79%
Right 84%
Kiska 127%

After turning out fewer than half of his 2012 voters in the first round, Fico managed to increase that in the second round to nearly 80% of his 2012 performance, but—and this may be the single most interesting statistical result of the election—the six candidates of the center right had together already achieved a mobilization level above 80% in the first round, not including votes that went to Kiska.  In fact, the candidates from center-right parties attracted nearly as many votes in the first round as Fico did in his much improved performance in the second round.  And when the center-right voters shifted joined with the already significant share of voters who had already opted for Kiska, Fico did not have a chance.

Even without Kiska in the race, Fico faced big challenges—bigger than I saw at the time.  In running for president, Fico needed to outperform his own party’s parliamentary support level by something over 5% (since Smer had only managed 44.4% in the previous election), and the degree of necessary outperformance increased with every drop in Smer’s support.  By early 2014, the Smer’s preference levels had dropped to the high 30%’s , requiring Fico to outperform his party by at least 12 percentage points.  In the second round, Fico probably did outperform his party, but if we use the latest FOCUS polling numbers ( that outperformance was probably in the neighborhood of 3% rather than 12%.

Of course elections are not about the level of preference alone but about comparative preferences.  The right seems to have managed its high first-round mobilization not through skillful campaigning or inspiring candidates but through a wide degree of choice (each slightly different flavor bringing out a slightly different group of voters) and a common enemy (the prospect of Fico and his party occupying every major political institution).  Had a center-right candidate gotten into the second, however, Smer could have benefitted from some of the same logic in the second round: the right could no longer provide such a high degree of choice and Smer voters would also have had a common enemy (the prospect of, say, Prochazka, occupying the presidency).  This might have increased the Smer turnout above 80% and also limited the gains the center right could make in the second round, and at least produced a close election.

Instead, it would appear, the presence of Kiska in the second round gave the center right the best of both worlds: it preserved the first round center-right mobilization by offering a (marginally) acceptable candidate who could promise to stop Fico, and who could also attract voters for whom center right candidates were also anathema.  At the same time, Kiska presented Smer with significant problems since, for all the claims about scientology, usury and inexperience, he was apparently not frightening enough to push Smer voters and sympathizers to the polls.

Previews of Coming Attractors?
What this election might tell us about the next one(s)

Let me finish with some half-baked speculation that deserves to be looked at with a very critical eye.  For all its infighting and its poor choices—of which there are many examples—Slovakia’s center right has managed to remain a player because it has managed to retain the allegiance of the Hungarian minority and has managed to accommodate the emergence of multiple, sequential new players (SOP, ANO, SaS, OLaNO, and now Kiska) who provide outlets for dissatisfied voters whereas with the exception of the period between about 1999 and 2003, the opposite side of the political spectrum has been dominated by a single party that tries (successfully in the case of Smer, ultimately less successfully in the case of HZDS) to present itself as an unstoppable force and to prevent the emergence of rival players.  The result on the right has been a surprising degree of success (1998, 2002, 2010, now Kiska in 2014) usually followed by paralysis among the multiple players whose presence in the electoral market allowed the victory in the first place.  The result on the left has been political forces that win big pluralities but often lack sufficient allies to create a majority.

Toward this end, Fico’s poor performance in the 2014 presidential election may hold a certain perverse hope for Slovakia’s left.  If the result of this election is to produce cracks in that party or even just to open a space in the minds of some voters (and, especially, some funders), then we might see an end to Fico’s skillful institutional monopolization of political space.  If Fico and his party cannot preserve their one-party parliamentary majority, then the emergence of new parties on the center left might be able to sop up some of the dissatisfied voters who seem to have decided that Fico is just the same as all the others.  Kiska, a candidate not unfriendly toward the center right picked up those pivotal floating voters in this presidential election.  New center right parties such as Prochazka’s and NoVa will try to pick them up in the next parliamentary election but with varying degrees of success.  Fico can hope that the center right continues its intra-familial feuds and ends up with a bunch of parties just below the threshold (not necessarily a bad bet given the past track record of the right), but by relinquishing a little control on the left and allowing a new party somewhere on that side of the spectrum might actually help him remain prime minister.  (As to whether that’s what Fico actually wants, I’ve decided to stop speculating on matters that exist only in the heads of distant leaders.)

Slovakia Presidential Elections: Morning-After Thoughts on Results

A few quick supplementary thoughts:

  • What can we expect in the second round?  I’ll try to avoid speculating on the nature of the campaigning except to say that I suspect all gloves are off.  What I am more interested in is the nature of the shifts in voters between this round and the next. 
    • If we assume that both Fico and Kiska votes who turned out yesterday will turn out again, that gives us 530k votes for Fico and 455k votes for Kiska, a difference of 75k votes. 
    • But of course we have to look at other voters.  Some of those are voters who did not vote in the first round.  Between the first round and the second round in the 2009 election, turnout rose from 1890k to 2240k, an increase of 350k I would guess that we could assume a similar increase this time.  

      Turnout for various elections in Slovakia, 1990 to the present. Note that turnout in every election category has stabilized since 2005. In the 2009 presidential election, first round turnout was just over 43% and second round turnout was 55%. In the 2014 presidential election, first round turnout was also just over 43%

    • We also have to look at what happens to those who participated in the election but voted for candidates other than Fico and Kiska now have the option to vote for the candidate closest to them or to stay home. 

      • The voters for candidates who were in clear opposition to Fico (and who more or less agreed to encourage their voters to support the not-Fico candidate) actually total about 850k, divided among 400k (Prochazka, formerly KDH) + 240k (Knazko, formerly DU, SDKU) + 100k (Bardos, SMK) + 60k (Hrusovsky, KDH, a surprisingly small share perhaps showing the strains within KDH between old and new guards), + 40k (Mezenska, OLaNO) + 10k (Carnogursky, formerly KDH, a not surprising but rather humiliating total).

      •  The voters for candidates with more pro-Fico or overall less readable voter profiles total about 45k: 12k (Jurista, KSS), 10k (Fischer, formerly HZDS, but also ZZ), 9k (Behyl, apparently formerly Smer), 8k (Melnik, formerly HZDS), 5k (Simko, unclear to me but formerly supported Gasparovic), 3k (Martincko, unclear). 

  • What can we say from these numbers?  Let us make some unrealistic but clarifying assumptions

    • that 1/2 of voters for losing candidates will simply stay home because they no longer care about the outcome if their candidate isn’t in the race,

    • that about 1 in 1o voters of losing candidates will shift across the aisle from an anti-Fico candidate to Fico and from a non-right candidate to Kiska.  This seems odd but in my experience about 1/10 voters do things that seem odd to the outsider but for which they have their own idiosyncratic reasons.

  • This yields the following results:

    • For Fico, 40k from right wing candidates, and 18k from non-right wing candidates;

    • for Kiska, 5k from non-right wing candidates, and 160k from right-wing candidates. 

    • That yields a new balance of 588k for Fico (530k+40k+18k) and 620 for Kiska (455k+160k+5k). 

  • But that depends heavily on the assumptions above.  If, by contrast, only 1/4 of losing candidate voters stay home, the balance is more in Kiska’s favor:

    • 597k for Fico against 700k for Fico. 

  • Of course this does not factor in the new voters who will come into the electorate in a second round.  Between the first and second round in 2009, the vote total rose from 1890k to 2240k.  Assuming a similar increase and given the kinds of dropoff discussed above, this means an influx of about 1 million voters who did not vote the first round.  What can we say about these?

    • If Fico wins those in the same ratio that votes were distributed between him and Kiska (about 7:6 or 1.16:1.00) then he could expect about 80k more than Fico among the new voters, which is enough to beat Kiska if right wing voters stay home at the 1/2 ratio, but not if they stay home only at the 1/4 ratio.  

    • If Fico wins votes only in the same ratio that votes were distributed between him and Kiska plus the right, (about 2:3 or 0.66:1.00, then Fico loses the second round no matter what.   

  • It doesn’t take a political scientist to figure out that the key to the next round will be Fico’s ability to demobilize the right-wing voters who voted in the first round and to prevent any non-voters on the right from turning out in favor of Kiska.  If he does that absolutely perfectly, he can win without any additional turnout on his side, but perfection is unlikely, so he is also going to have to fire up the Smer turnout machine.  For every potential right-wing voter he can’t demobilize (and that number probably ranges from 400k to maybe 800k, he is going to increase his own turnout by the same amount).  This is a party that has pulled in 1.1 million before, and probably had a lot of complacent voters in this last round, so an addition of 400-600k isn’t impossible, but it is going to take a lot more work.  The challenge for Kiska is now going to be getting the full /and active/ support of the right, not only their tacit recommendation but the efforts of their own (rather less effective) turnout machines.  If the right can provide even a modicum of unambiguous support, then they have a decent chance of winning a mid-term political victory and a creating counterweight to what they see as an over-reaching left-wing majority government.

  • Why Slovakia has Never Had A Centre-Right President.   This doesn’t even require morning-after “thought.”  Why? Because they rarely get to the second round.   Because–as with nearly everything else on Slovakia’s centre-right–they can’t agree who should get to campaign.  In a very practical sense (and here I discard any attempt at theorizing), Slovakia has a rough balance between two camps, (earlier it was democratic-cosmopolitan against more authoriarian-national, now it is economic left versus economic right with some residual feelings that the former is authoritarian-national and the later is democratic-cosmopolitian).  In each case  the former has often been better at organizing around a single individual: Meciar in the first case, Fico in the second (which is not to say that these two represent the same values or the same camp).  At times the right has managed to do the same in more of a “first-among-equals” model (Dzurinda in 1998, Radicova in 2009 and 2010), though these came almost by accident, and only when the powers that be were willing to compromise on a second-tier but electorally gifted common candidate.  The success of the right has also depended on the emergence of a third-force willing to work with the established right parties but able to attract votes from those who were disillusioned with both sides: Schuster in 1998, Rusko in 2002, Sulik in 2010 (this also happened with Matovic in 2012 but it still wasn’t enough).  These additional draws helped the established parties of the right in each case to form a majority in parliament even when the opposing force was numerically stronger, sometimes by a large margin.  It is fascinating to me the degree to which the strengths and weaknesses of both sides are so linked together.  The left has, at the moment, a large and fairly coherent party, but its organizational near-monopoly leaves fewer opportunities for attracting  those who are sympathetic to the side but do not like those who are actually in charge of it.  We may see that in this presidential election where Fico’s reservoir of active supporters of losing candidates is significantly smaller than Kiska’s.  The right, has, at the moment, a very wide spectrum of offerings that attract people of many different stripes and that probably helps them attract a few extra voters (though again it was insufficient in 2012 in the wake of gorilla scandal), but a poor track record of coordinating those multiple streams into a single voice (hence the coalition disarray in 2011, and the inability to avoid multiple candidates in 2004 and 2013).  It will be interesting to see if a loss by Fico (or even a tiny-margin victory) will produce some move toward a new force that can attract those disillusioned but left-leaning voters, either from within Smer or from without.  As for the right, perhaps this most recent example will bring some move toward consolidation, but that’s hard to envision as long as every single ambitious person on the right believes that /he/ is the only one who can accomplish the task.

What little they have shall be taken away from them

While it has not always been easy to feel sorry for Vladimir Meciar’s Movement for a Democratic Society, this week’s FOCUS poll offers yet another way in which insult has added to injury.  I have waited for some time for the results of the October FOCUS poll and when it did not come out around the end of October, I guessed that the firm had waited for things to settle down rather than conduct a poll during the collapse of a government.  Yesterday’s early release of November numbers seemed to confirm that, but a look at the actual FOCUS press release reveals that they /did/ conduct an October poll and simply did not release it during the turmoil.  So now we have yet another set of numbers.  For the most part these are nothing interesting, falling roughly in between the numbers for September and those for November, but in one case they are quite different: in October 4.7% of respondents opted for Meciar’s HZDS.  Does this mean anything?    Probably not, since the month before it got 3% and the month after it got 2.5%.  But the only reason it was ignored is that we did not get the October numbers until after we got the November ones which showed October to be simply an irrelevant blip.

I take two things from this:

First, I have commented frequently on the tendency of the Slovak press (and to be fair, the press of any country) to treat polls as if they are a real, actual indicator of political attitude rather than simply a sample that must be understood in context of other samples.   The Slovak press ignores blips only if they are clearly just that, but without context we have a harder time knowing whether they are simply a blip.  With context, we can make a better judgement.  Had I in October received the news of a 4.7% score for HZDS, I would have looked at the numbers and said a) This is at least a full point out of line for HZDS for FOCUS polls and a reversal of the trendline and b) all of the other polls are mixed, showing either a small rise or none at all.  I hope I would then have said, “this is probably a blip” and then taken the easy way out by saying “time will tell.”  Had the Slovak press received this news in October, I would not have been surprised to read a headline saying “HZDS back in the game” (though to be fair the article might have contained somewhere below the fold a quotation from one of the usual suspects of Slovakia’s political commentary that said “this is probably just a blip but time will tell.”)

Second, I take from this a sign that HZDS simply cannot get a break these days:  after months of irrelevance its one (in-retrospect meaningless) piece of good news, a story that might have helped its chances at election (by persuading some people that it had a chance at election) gets wiped out by a change of government.  Alas.

Volby 2012: FOCUS poll actually does show what Slovak press says it does… but context matters more

According to press reports in SME and Pravda, the most recent FOCUS poll shows the party Smer-SD with a commanding lead and the capacity to gain a majority of seats in parliament.  And for once those press reports are correct.  This does not mean that Smer will win the majority, but this FOCUS poll is a fairly strong sign of the party’s raw level of support.

Three quick points:

  • First, this is the first time I have seen a convincing suggestion of the possibility of a one-party government for Smer, because here Smer manages to go above 75 even without have all other factors in its favor.  In many scenarios, Smer is able to get into power on its own only if all of the small parties (including SNS) should fail.  In this case, however, Smer’s gains its majority at the same time that SNS narrowly beats the threshold.  I would still put the odds well against this outcome, but I am now at least willing to take it seriously.
  • Second, it points to the relative role of the two factors that will affect Smer’s success: it’s own level of support and the support of those around it, particularly those near the threshold.  Smer’s 45.1% in November translated into 79 seats while its only slightly lower performance in previous FOCUS poll in October–43.1%–translated into only 70 seats.  Why the 9-seat difference?  The 2% rise in Smer’s preference actually contributed only 2 or 3 seats and would not alone have given the party a clear majority.   What is crucial here is that in the November poll 13.8% of the population supported parties that did not exceed the 5% threshold, whereas in October the share was only 7.4%.  That, plus a few small differences in the way the opposition vote is distributed explains 5-6 of Smer’s seat total.  In a rather literal sense here, it is not the size of the Smer vote, but the motion of the small waves around it that make a difference.  
  • Third, it is worth noting that if Smer becomes convinced that it can achieve a consistently high level of support at this level, it may begin take a different approach toward SNS.  In 2010 Smer’s failure to form a goverment had quite a bit to do with the significant drops of both SNS and HZDS–drops that Smer helped to encourage–and its inability to find other partners.  According to that thinking, Smer has clearly set out to make sure that other parties might consider it (particularly Most-Hid and perhaps KDH or even SDKU), but it has always kept SNS in its pocket as well, if only as a bargaining chip.  According to the current FOCUS scenario, however, at any level of Smer support above 35%, the failure of SNS to pass the 5% threshold actually help Smer, because half of the 8 seats that would have gone to SNS go to Smer and raise it to majority status.  It might be a bit too early for Smer to gamble on undercutting its closest political partner, however, because as the previous point suggests, relatively minor changes in circumstances have a big effect on the level at which SNS goes from hindrance to help.  Even having both Hungarian parties exceed the 5% threshold would give Smer pause, since in that case Smer would need over 41% to be able to regard SNS as a hindrance.   But don’t take my word for it: try your own scenarios in the online calculator: online results calculator.

Slovakia and the Euro Bailout: What happened? What next? (Part II, Making a short story long)

Work in progress here, but I wanted to get out the first half while anybody was still interested.  Before I get to that, however, a bit of news:

Slovak media is reporting an agreement: Smer will support the EFSF package in a vote to be held Friday at the latest in return for early elections on March 10, 2012.

Those with no interest in Slovakia are now free to go.

If you’re still interested, know that Slovakia’s upcoming electoral environment is not far distant from its environment five months before the 2010 election (one that seems just months ago). The parties of the current opposition, the left-national Smer and far-national SNS (along with their ever-shrinking ally, Meciar’s HZDS) are together polling at a level that would secure them 82-84 seats, about 8 more than half. On one hand, this is actually /lower/ than level that the same parties polled at the same time distance ahead of the 2010 election. On the other hand at that time those parties were in government and liable for any and all scandals that emerged. This time the “incumbents” will be the parties that are now behind. Once again the key to the Slovak election results will be the performance of small parties. There are five parties hovering within 2 points of the 5% threshold: the Slovak National Party, the SaS (which just voted against the EFSF), Most-Hid (the Hungarian party in government), SMK-MKP (Most-Hid’s rival currently out of government but making up ground) and, probably out of contention but still hanging around, Meciar’s HZDS. There is also the spectre of at least two new parties: Igor Matovic’s Ordinary People (OL) (which emerged when OL delegates unexpectedly gained parliamentary seats on the SaS through extensive use of preference votes) and Anna Belousovova’s Nation and Justice (NaS), a splinter of SNS. Both of these just might have a chance of picking off disaffected voters.

Any combination of SNS, NAS or HZDS in parliament probably means a Fico government. The absence of all three would make a Fico government very difficult, but a non-Fico government that includes the members of the current coalition and SaS and/or SMK-MKP would require a lot of willingness to forgive recent, raw wounds.

I have now finished the unfinished analysis of 12 October and moved it here:

Slovakia Dashboard News, May 2011: In the Direction of a Majority?

Big poll yesterday from FOCUS and I’m trying to get back into the habit of updating these posts when big polls come out, so here goes a try at a quick review of recent public opinion polling events.

The big picture is, as it has been in the past 12 months, a shift away from the government coalition toward the opposition, a shift that has cost the coalition 10 percentage points over the last year and benefited the parliamentary opposition–especially Smer–by about the same amount.  The pattern is an almost mirror image of the last months of the 2006-2010 Fico government, though (as the graph below shows) slightly shallower.  With this month’s polling results, put the current coalition and opposition and opposition almost exactly where they were in January 2010, just six months before the election.

As I noted previously, this can’t be good news for the Radicova government or bad news for the opposition–especially Fico’s Smer–but it is interesting to think how pleased the then-opposition was in January 2010 about its gains in the previous year.  Of course now it’s in the same numerical position and sliding.

As before, the other noteworthy point is the internal composition of the coalition and opposition according to these polls.  Compared to January 2010, Smer has strengthened at the expense of SNS and HZDS.  Within the current coalition, the party strengths have remained surprisingly stable, and the drop has come largely from the ebb in support for SaS, which is not unpredictable but a bit worrisome for the coalition since its current majority would have been impossible without a new party to woo to the polls those secular pro-market voters who were disillusioned with Dzurinda’s SDKU.

Since I am moving now into individual parties, it is relevant to talk about some significant points in the month’s new data:

Parties Below the Threshold:
So one month after describing HZDS and MKP-SMK as “perennials in decline” both parties demonstrate a recovery.  Neither is back above the threshold, and neither is likely to be (except in coalition with somebody else) but they are not in free fall.  For both parties it is notable that two very different polls show parallel patterns of stabilization (for MKP) and slight rise (for HZDS), but also that the absolute levels are very different.  For HZDS, the Median polls have been consistently about a point higher than those of FOCUS, whereas for MKP it is the FOCUS polls that show results a stable 2+ points higher.  The firm Polis has only issued results of one poll this year, in early May, so we do not have a closer trendline, but the overall results are in line with the other polls: for MKP-SMK Polis has tended over time to find a middle level and does so again (an almost perfect mathematical mean of FOCUS and Median); for HZDS, Polis tends to find lower results than other polls (and in this proved the most accurate in the 2010 election) and it does so again in May with a result of 2.5.  A few more Polis polls would help the trendline, but it does not seem to be in their current plan.

The New Parties:
As may perhaps be expected of new parties with less stable electorates (though in retrospect that is simply conjecture and not something I know to be true from any research), Most-Hid and SaS have shown considerable change over time and almost random differences among polls.

All three recent polls put Most-Hid between 5 and 7 percentage points, but the range and patterns vary: FOCUS polls show a sharp decline from last month which was a sharp rise from the month before (suggesting a certain amount of noise around the 6% mark); Median polls show a drop and recovery.  Polis shows stabilization around 7% but with few monthly polls to show any recent pattern.

The decline of SaS has begun to look more serious.  A high result from Median in April contrasted with a low result from FOCUS so it was hard to tell.  This month all three polls show a drop, extremely sharp in FOCUS and (especially) Median and significant for Polis (which had shown the significant drop already late last year).  Given its current level and trajectory, the party will need significant positive news not to fall below the electoral threshold in one of the next two or three polls and produce the headline “SaS falls from parliament” which can itself encourage further out-migration.  Will its voters go to SDKU or to yet another new party?

The Small Perennials

Among the small but enduring parliamentary parties there is often not much to say.  This month is not much of an exception.

KDH tends to float between 8 and 10.  It is coming off a recent bulge last year when it moved above 10 for awhile, but now it is back down below 10.  There has been a bit of noise here: FOCUS put it below 7 last month but now has it back near 10.  Median has shown it consistently around 10.  Polis, showed a sharp drop last year and has it below 7.  The real answer is probably around 8 or 9, but that’s been the best guess for KDH for about the last 17 years whether one reads polls or not.

The overall trajectory of SNS is flat (which is good news for SNS since its trajectory has been one of consistent decline over the last 2 years and since it does not have too far to go before it falls below the 5% threshold).   Polls seem to take turns being the outlier.  This month the outlier is FOCUS with 8% (last month FOCUS put SNS at 6%).  Median has maintained a more consistent level of around 6% in recent months.  Polis, which consistently polls low for SNS (though as with HZDS was most accurate in predicting election results) puts it below 5%.  The party may gain as voters forget its corruption scandals, but it is not at present built to sustain much more than 5% of relatively extreme voters for whom “the nation” is everything.

The Large Perennials

There’s no unifying story for the poll results of the two largest parties, so I won’t try to tell one.  Polls disagree this month about how much SDKU has dropped, while they all agree that Smer has risen.

SDKU has dropped in all three polls but beyond that there is no consensus.  Polis shows a small drop from a high level, keeping the party above 18%.  Median shows a slightly larger drop from a slightly lower level, putting the party just below 16%.  FOCUS shows a huge drop from about the same level, dropping it to just above 12%.  Quite frankly for a party leading an rather fractious coalition this is less of a drop than I would have expected, though they do appear to have solid economic results on their side.

The big story, of course, would seem to be Smer so it is rather unfair of me to leave it to the end.  Smer has made quite a show of raising May poles in recent years and so it is perhaps fitting (if bad punsmanship) to note that in this case the May polls raise Smer, and by significant margins: two points in FOCUS, to 47% four points in Median, also to 47%, and five points (over 6 months) in Polis to 45%.  Even more significant, perhaps, is that for once this improvement does not come at the expense of similar parties such as SNS and HZDS, both of which also rose or stabilized this month.  Of course Smer is the natural recipient of those discontented with the current government. It has been relentless and extremely effective in its pressure on the government in a whole variety of realms, with multiple and fairly significant social policy critiques each week, constant pressure on the national issue and with battles over the general prosecutor and an impressive ability to join forces with dissenting coalition deputies on particular votes. Smer’s work over the last year demonstrates the potentially of a disciplined, leader-driven party better than almost anything I’ve seen, and poll results in the 40% range should help it to keep that discipline by allowing it to promise the rewards of office after the next election.

And at present Smer can at least promise the rewards of a solo-government, which must sweeten the deal even more, reducing the worries of some (in the more cosmopolitan/international wing of Smer) about the need for a coalition with SNS.  The question, though, is whether Smer will act on the assumption of a solo government and go after the voting base of HZDS and SNS, perhaps only to find itself achingly close to forming its own government but lacking a few crucial votes and no easy partners, or whether it will try something new: either bolstering (or at least not undercutting) SNS to make sure that it returns to parliament, or cultivating potential allies among existing parties such as Most-Hid or KDH, or perhaps cultivating (even covertly seeding) a new party that could fill the gap potentially left by SaS in the next election.

New life for party systems (and blogs): Annuals and Perennials in Slovak Public Opinion

The beginning of a semester often means the end of active posting, and such was the case during the winter and spring of 2011–though indeed I took the absence of activity to rather absurd lengths–but the semester is now over and so I can again begin to post from time to time.  Although much happened in Slovakia and the Czech Republic in the last 4 months: coalition crises and fear of government collapse in both countries, not that much has happened in terms of public opinion (which—since others are much better positioned to handle the day-to-day political dynamic—is the main focus of my posts).

New season, same garden

Almost one year after the election, the polls suggest that elections would return a parliament relatively similar to the one Slovakia has now.  There are some shifts in relative proportions, and though these are not overwhelming, they deserve attention.  I will begin with the newly “locked-out” cases, then address the newly “locked-in” and finally take a brief look at the long-standing parties in the system (my colleague Tim-Haughton and I have taken to calling these “perennials” to describe their ability to withstand difficulties, as opposed to annuals that die each year and whose “type” survives only by reseeding).

The graphs are in the dashboard:

As often happens in Slovakia, electoral periods lock in an equilibrium for a period of time, particularly with reference to the 5% electoral threshold.  Parties that fall below the 5% threshold in elections tend to stay below (no party has returned to parliament without a coalition once it has fallen short of the threshold, and KSS is the only example of a party that has entered parliament after previously campaigning and falling short.  Indeed with the exception of KSS, SZS in the early 1990’s and HZD for 4 months in the summer of 2004, I can find no party that has even broken received 5% in opinion polls after previously having fallen short).  The same phenomenon works in the opposite direction—parties, once elected, tend to stay above the 5% threshold for a time—though the floor is far less stable than the ceiling.

Perennials in decline.

Two parties fell below the threshold in 2010 and show no sighs of being able to return at any time in the near future:

HZDS has maintained its steady decline after the election.  In some polls it now is no longer even listed.  This is remarkable feat for a party that once won a near majority of parliamentary seats—sustained, gradual decline over 7 election periods.  It is a testament both to the ability of its party leader to hold the party together and to what happens when there is only a party leader to hold a party together.

SMK is a fascinating case.  The party that dominated the Hungarian electorate for 10 years (and 10 years previously as an electoral coalition) has fallen to extremely low levels, suggesting an overall shift to Most-Hid.  Of course it doesn’t hurt that Most-Hid is run by the leader who led SMK during its dominant period and so in many ways this is merely a reshuffling of the same cards.

Annuals in bloom, but for how long?

The long-term exclusion of sagging older parties is far more likely than the long-term success of at least some new ones.  The asymmetry appears to affect SaS more than Most-Hid.

Most-Hid has the advantage of a relatively captive audience.  Hungarians in Slovakia have not typically voted for non-Hungarian parties, and so the decline of SMK and the rise of Most-Hid are nearly isometric.  Recovery by SMK might simply reverse the fortunes of these two parties or it might—if not too much blood has been shed or if enough time has passed since the bloodshed—lead to an electoral coalition of the sort that Hungarian parties in Slovakia used profitably for several election cycles in the 1990’s.  It would appear that Slovakia’s Hungarian population may be just a bit too big for only one party but too small for two fairly (but not perfectly) matched competitive parties).  The attached, rather ad hoc table helps to define the dilemma.

In countries where the population of a particularly captive (political scientists would use the world “encapsulated”) group is the leaders in the system have relatively little freedom to split without endangering the representation of the entire population:  if the encapsulated population is, for example, 7%, then even a gain of 30% of the population by an upstart party will push both old and new parties below a 5% parliamentary threshold.  If, on the other hand, the encapsulated population is more than twice the threshold, then even a nearly equal split will at worst reduce the representation of the group in half but will not eliminate it entirely.  If the encapsulated population is relatively large, say 17%, then even a 70%-30% split will allow both parties over the 5% threshold and there is little cost to the split.  Slovakia is right in the middle of these cases.  It’s 11% Hungarian population made a split within the SMK thinkable—it would likely not result in the elimination of both parties from parliament—but not safe, since anything less than a near perfect split would (and did) knock one party from parliament.  What happens with SMK and Most-Hid will likely depend on two factors: 1) the degree to which Most-Hid can capture the remaining share of the Hungarian vote (if it captures all of it, there is no incentive to change), and 2) the degree to which Hungarian leaders seek partisan advantage (one party triumphing over another even at the expense of a smaller Hungarian delegation) or ethnic advantage (one party accepting the other as a partner to maximize overall votes at the expense of party dominance).

SaS has seen a slight post-election decline after a rapid pre-election rise.  We have seen this pattern before in many similar parties—ZRS, SOP, ANO and Smer—but we have also seen two different endings.  In the case of SOP and to a lesser extent ZRS and ANO, party support followed an almost pure parabola (y=100-(x-10)^2), but in one other party—Smer—we saw the beginnings of decline followed by a subsequent rise.  Of course Smer ended up out of government after its first election and became a reservoir for disaffected voters and those who left HZDS.  SaS, by contrast, is saddled with governing responsibilities, few resources for party-building activities, and three deputies (until recently four) who were never part of the party to begin with and who have one foot out the door.  SaS has so far at least stayed out of the kind of internal trouble that will likely kill Veci Verejne in the Czech Republic (more on this in the next post) but its preference trajectory is not all that different from VV.  The matter is serious: as the graph shows, only one major new party has survived infancy and SaS does not possess the same favorable characteristics or the same preference trajectory.

The Small Perennials

There are only four parties in Slovakia that have managed a consistent level of preference and parliamentary representation, and even these are not exactly the sort of “stable, long term” party that is often extolled in the political science literature.  Two of these parties are relatively small but otherwise quite different: the Slovak National Party and the Christian Democratic movement:

About KDH there is little to say.  The party continues to demonstrate a noteworthy stability.  It ebbs and flows, largely in response to the attractiveness of adjacent parties such as SDKU and the success of its own political initiatives, but it stays between 8% and 10% in almost every poll.  While there is no clear proof of the proposition, KDH lends weight to inverse relationship between party stability and party leadership:  whereas other leader-centered parties have fluctuated wildly in the past (based in part on the decisions and reputation of the leader), KDH has changed its leader 3 times in regular cycles while remaining relatively consistent in terms of its policies, its electorate and, perhaps as a result, the size of that electorate.

About SNS there is more room for speculation.  SNS has, at least in some polls, halted the sharp decline in support that began in the 2008s, but the party’s support remains extremely close to the 5% threshold despite the continuation of sharp action by Hungary’s government (of the sort that conventional wisdom has linked to increases in SNS support). It is unlikely that former SNS president Anna Belousovova’s proposed new party will draw away too many of the faithful but SNS does not need to lose much to eliminate its parliamnentary representation.  The losses to Smer and the LS-NS in 2010 brought it within 2000 votes of the threshold.  A few additional losses to Belousovova could eliminate it entirely from parliament (as happened in 2002).

The Large Perennials

The two larger parties—Smer and SDKU—have engaged in sustained battle for the last 9 years, each vying for leadership, though the nature of “leadership” is different: Smer’s outsized lead over all parties, foe and friend alike, has allowed it to dominate its side of the political spectrum since 2004 or so, whereas SDKU must operate as a first among equals among its potential partners.  Ironically, the election of 2010 left Smer with a larger parliamentary delegation but pushed it out of government while allowing an electorally weaker SDKU lead the next government.

SDKU benefited from its “victory” with an increase in the share of its preferences to the highest sustained levels in the party’s history.  That this high-level should hover around 16% is an indication of the party’s lack of overall strength, but at least gives it a 2:1 lead over its next nearest coalition partner.  It is hard for me to judge why SDKU should be relatively successful while it leads a government that has been notable for its internal weaknesses and difficulty in achieving relatively clear-cut goals (such as the election of a general prosecutor), but it while it has had its share of minor scandal, it has at least stayed clear of deep level corruption (or at least the publicization thereof) and has addressed many of the more difficult allegations head on.

Smer has also risen in the last 10 months and by a relatively significant amount.  After receiving nearly 35% percent in the 2010 elections, it has increased its preferences until they nearly approach the party’s previous highs in early 2007 and early 2009.  The growth is impressive and Smer has done everything it could to remain actively part of the news cycle, with almost daily press releases, allegations and proposals and a party leader who is more accessible to (and less outraged by) the press.  But there are several reasons to view’s Smer’s resurgence with a bit of skepticism.

The first of these is that the party consistently does worse than its polling.  For several years this exhibited itself as a surprise in the elections.  Since 2006 it has been more a case of voters shifting their opinion (or their decision to vote at all) during the election campaign, so that Smer has not necessarily done worse than its election week polling but it has done considerably worse than its polling in 3-6 months before the election.  Of course in each case this could be the result of circumstantial changes (perception of a worsening economy likely had some effect on Smer support in 2010) but the pattern is fairly consistent and suggests a softness in the support for Smer that may remain: the party tends to attract the disgruntled but does not necessarily keep them on election day.

Even if Smer does keep all of its preferences, there is a second reason for caution about the share of Smer supporters.  As in the two previous elections, the big question for Smer is not its own success but that of its partners.  The collapse of HZDS and near collapse of SNS left Smer without any options for a governing coalition in 2010 even though it won by far the largest share of the vote.  The situation has, if anything, gotten worse.

In March of 2009, the ruling coalition of Smer-SNS-HZDS had 61.9% of the vote and could expect to win 110 of the 150 seats in parliament.  Of those, Smer alone had 45.2% of the vote and 73 seats, while its partners together had 16.7% of the vote and could expect 27 seats.  Exactly two years later, after a decline in 2010 and recovery through 2011, Smer again has 44% and which would give it 73 seats in parliament.  But its former coalition partners can now expect only 9.2% of the vote and only 10 seats.  And those 10 seats hang by a less-than-1% margin.  The graph below offers a clear picture of how the “national” and “extreme left” portion—the parties at the bottom—of the political spectrum have weakened over time.  Smer has likely absorbed much of the decline, but the segment has diminished even when Smer is added into the totals.  Its absorption of the nationally oriented segment of the electorate has come at some cost, apparently (or if not, then it has lost other voters for other reasons).  Smer is thus bigger but not so big that it can govern without others.  Smer still needs partners if it hopes to gain a parliamentary majority, but it has not yet figured out how to keep old friends (or at least keep them alive) or cultivate new ones.


One final note that will prove to be of great importance to this blog: I owe a debt for the collection and analysis of public opinion data over the last six months to Jozef Janovský, student of political science and international relations in the Faculty of Social Studies at Masaryk University in Brno.  Over the coming months I hope to work woth Jozef and several other colleagues to broaden the kinds of resources that are available in this blog.  I’m thankful to Jozef for reaching out and offering his extremely capable assistance and I look forward to our collaboration.

Slovakia Election Update: Fico’s point of no return?

With  56.5% of the vote counted, Smer shows a gently declining trend while SDKU, SaS, and Most-Hid show gently increasing trends. If these trends continue, then those three parties plus KDH should have enough seats to form a government.  Even if the trends do not continue and the lines merely flatten out, the current ratio of SDKU-SaS-KDH-Most-Hid seats to Smer-SNS seats is a bare minimum majority of 76:74.  The current trend and Smer’s 2006 record suggest that the party will not begin now to recover its seat share (indeed Smer dropped 0.3 in the last 10% of the precincts in 2006 as Bratislava and Kosice reported results) and so the election is probably over.  And the government formation process may be relatively uninteresting as well, but I am getting way ahead of myself wotj  40% of the votes still to count.

Slovakia Dashboard News: At The Last Minute (or Catch a Falling Smer)

This is, I think, the last “dashboard” post for quite some time.  The next time you see me post on this kind of thing, it will be an “election” post, but for the moment we have the kind of unusual situation we usually only see just before elections: three major polls appearing on the same day.  Let me follow my usual pattern and deal with these party-by-party with a few words about coalition v. opposition.

Smer took a huge hit this month, with its lowest results in years: since May 2005 in FOCUS, since June 2006 in Polis, and October 2006 in MVK, an average drop of 4.5 (slightly more in FOCUS and Polis, somewhat less in MVK).  Why the drop should be so large is a bit of a mystery to me.  some journalists attribute it to party financing scandals, but I have a hard time believing that that news was particularly surprising or likely to pry voters away from the party.  I’m more inclined to think that it’s a bit of frustration by soft Smer supporters forced finally to think about making their choice (and it’s notable that SDL has risen significantly in the polls for which we have information, suggesting voters looking for the next best alternative, particularly those with more culturally liberal values).  It’s important to remember that in 2006 the final-week drop in Smer did not play out in the actual election and that the more accurate poll was one taken two weeks before the election, so some of this may be ephemeral.  But nobody in Smer can be happy today.  And for a party which has embodied the slogan “nothing succeeds like succcess,” some must be thinking of how to avoid failing like failure.   I reprint the graphic from the dashboard here only because it is so dramatic:

SNS gets a reprieve this month, probably thanks in part to the assistance of Hungary’s Fidesz, with a 1.5 point gain in FOCUS, a .7 point gain in Polis and no gain at all in MVK (which, however, showed a 1.2 point gain in its previous poll).  National issues may count more than clientelism for some voters and the SNS campaign on this question (which some see as quite effective) may have helped here.  It is hard to say whether the party will lose more from time in opposition (lost clientelist revenues, but time re-purify its image and play the outsider) or another stint in government (posts and money but ever more chances for people to find out how those were obtained).

HZDS also gets a small reprieve losing slightly in FOCUS but recovering to some degree in MVK and Polis, for an overall average of 5.2, far too close for anyone’s comfort.  This recovery may actually help it a bit as those who were on the fence for the party feel comfortable voting for it one last time, but its overall negative momentum and air of decline may be to hard to overcome.  This one is very tough to call

Overall the current coalition dropped three full points in June, to an overall average of 42.0, a remarkable drop for a coaltion that in less than two years ago polled 69.8.  Smer alone had poll averages of 41.0 as recently as January of this year.  The drop is so quick that it is hard to fully accept it and I suspect the overall election final will be a bit more, but we need not wait long now.

Polls of SDKU usually lack a clear monthly pattern and this month is no exception: stable at a high level in Polis, dropping from a middle level in FOCUS, rising from a low level in MVK.  The median stays around 14 where it has been for quite some time.  For SDKU it is especially hard to say whether poll numbers are related to final numbers as for the past 4 elections the party has outperformed its poll, though Martin Slosiarik and others note that the emergence of SaS may diminish that undercounting based on last minute shifts.

KDH has some of the same low-level chaos as SDKU.  No big trends like Smer or HZDS, but lots of movement and poll shifts ultimately adding up to 10% (as it has more or less for almost two decades).  This month the pattern is converging: Polis and MVK dropping from high levels to just over 10%; FOCUS rising from low levels to just under 10%.

SaS finally falls back into the earth’s gravitational pull this month, still rising but by a lower margin (.60) than in all but one month since October 2009.  Both FOCUS and MVK show it stabilizing at around 12 points and while Polis still shows a rise it is to that same 12 point level.  How much of this the party will sustain in the election is an open question: past new parties in Slovakia have lost in the voting booth, but as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, TOPo9 and VV in the recent Czech election managed to mobilize voters.  Could this have something to do with their mastery of social networks and other technological turnout mechanisms?  Hard to say, but if it does, then SaS might manage the same trick.

It is interesting that despite the significant drop in the current coalition, the Slovak right did not see corresponding gains this month.  In fact it dropped slightly from 36.7 to 36.1 (suggesting that supporters of the current coalitions are going elsewhere, either from Smer back to HZDS and SNS or to “new” parties like SDL).  This probably is not bad news, as it suggests a certain solidity to the overall vote total of SDKU, KDH and SaS (and indeed the core vote of this population has been quite solid at about this level from one election to the next and its relative success in seats has been affected more by the distribution of the vote between parties over and under 5%.  This year despite lots of expectations to the contrary even a year ago, the right is relatively coherent and, thanks to the small/new party vacuum effect of SaS, should lose little to small parties and so has a good chance of getting seats in proportion to its base).

Both Hungarian parties continue to pass the threshold in all major polls, if only by a hair.  This continues to astound me: if you take two parties whose total support averages 10.6 for the last year and divide the 10.6 at random the chance of getting two parties above the 5% threshold is itself only about 5%, and yet these two parties continue to manage that 1 in 20 shot at not undercutting Hungarian parliamentary representation in exchange for a small chance at maximum gain (though this of course is not what the two party leaders themselves are thinking).  We will see very soon whether their luck will hold out.

Finally, I think it is necessary to say a word about SDL about which I have said nothing for the entire campaign, largely because until this month it averaged less than 2% and never exceeded more than 2.8%.  Suddenly, the party has jumped by a significant margin in every poll and stands at 3.8% and is staring closely at the 5% threshold.  Only two other non-parliamentary parties have exceeded even 3.3% in the past four years and both of them–SaS and Most-Hid–have a good chance of getting into parliament.  It is doubtful that SDL will be able to cross that remaining 1.2% in the final week (SPOZ in the Czech Republic could not manage it, though that’s not much of a guide here) and it is likely that its preferences reflect frustration that will translate into staying home or reluctant Smer voting, but its emergence is a sign of weakness that Smer does not wish to have revealed:

Slovakia Election Update: Pictures worth at least 300 words

I love polling results and I am always surprised and unhappy when they are abused.  Recent articles in SME and Pravda put needless stress on these results by, on the one hand, treating them as unique and absolute indicators of a party’s success or failure (at least until the next one comes out) and, on the other hand, lumping them together into time series regardless of their origin or methodology.  Toward this end, I propose that we fix this by, on the one hand, treating each poll as a unique series which is to be compared to other series, and, on the other hand, when we do lump them together into time series, we smooth them out and look less at individual polls and more at overall trends.  I’ve tried to do both of those things here with some overall coalition/opposition graphs that, I think, speak for themselves in various ways (though that probably won’t stop me from trying to speak for them at some future point.

Coalition, Slovak Right and Hungarian total support according to various polling agencies (and averaged), 2008-2010

Monthly averages of public opinion preferences, smoothed with LOESS, in Slovakia 2002-2010

Monthly averages of public opinion preferences for all major parties in Slovakia, 2002-2010, smoothed with LOESS

Opposition party support, smoothed