News for those obsessed with public opinion in Slovakia

may cause drowsinessThose of you who are not deeply interested in how Slovaks vote (i.e. nearly everybody) can tune out.  Those of you who are interested, I understand your pain, and you can now find all of this blog’s monthly public opinion graphs available in one place by clicking the “Dashboard” link on the top of every page.  If it doesn’t work for you, leave a comment that lets me know what browser you are using (I.E. versions seem to have particular problems) and I’ll be glad to send you an updated PDF.  I’ll still be inserting graphs in posts, but this is one way to get the data up quickly without spending time on analysis, and maybe that will prevent me from being so late in posting the data.

Populism and Extremism in Foreign Policy

1177_titleI’ve recently prepared some thoughts on foreign policy of populist and extremist parties in postcommunist Europe and have uploaded an annotated presentation–see Populist foreign policy annotated.ppt or Populist foreign policy annotated.pdf–for those who are interested. It contains some thoughts on definitions of extremism and populism, makes reference to the excellent expert surveys by Hooghe and Marks et al and suggests that the two most important dynamics in assessing extremists foreign policy involve the tension between foreign and domestic policy (with domestic political needs usually prevailing) and the tension between extremist parties and their proximate “non-extreme” neighbors (and the more v. less extreme factions within those non-extreme parties).  An excerpt below:

When thinking about the broader patterns and how policy-makers should approach these, it is important to note that there are two important dynamics, areas of competition whose outcome has a critical impact on party positions and government policy. The first dynamic is the give and take between foreign and domestic policy arenas. While it may sometimes be the case that foreign-policy issues are highly salient and come first in the public mind, the evidence here and elsewhere (see Liang, Europe for the Europeans) that it is domestic policy questions—and quite often the quest for electoral advantage—that drives foreign policy positions. It is notable, however that extremism and populism have distinct patterns in this regard. In cases of purely extremism, the desire to exclude is often a genuine party goal, and parties may take foreign policy positions to reward those who dislike the same enemies or punish those who champion those enemies (as in the case of extremists increasing their opposition to the United States in response to US recognition of Kosovo, regarded as hurtful to Serbs and metaphorically as hurtful to those countries with large, regionally settled minority groups (Slovakia, Romania)

The populist dynamic can be the same as the extremist dynamic, though the populists may be more likely to employing the extremist cause for the sake of votes rather than out of genuine (this is an assumption and therefore likely to prove wrong on further investigation). The populist dynamic may also have another aspect, however that is relatively unique to populism: since populist parties (by the definition I have used) depend on attacks on a corrupt elite, they face difficulties once in power since they become elites themselves. Rather than seek alternative bases of support, the populist parties may seek instead to look for other “elites” above themselves toward whom they can allege corruption and against whom they can campaign. This may cause them to turn their attacks to major powers and supra-national organizations (the US, the EU) so that they can say, “yes we were elected, but now we’re fighting the real corrupt elite: them”

There is a second key dynamic at play here: the dance between extremists and those closest to the extremists on the “non-exclusionary” side of the boundary (a boundary whose location varies depending on the perspective of the observer and the context). The extremist parties themselves are rarely strong enough to shape policy directly, but they can do so in coalition or through their influence on vote-sensitive “flirt” parties. Parties such as Slovakia’s Smer and Poland’s PiS have demonstrated a willingness to enter into coalitions with parties with similar but more extreme positions on “exclusion” issues. The question, of course, is in which direction the influence runs, whether it is the extremist parties that shape the more moderate (but often much larger variant) or the other way around. Extremist parties can also shift the positions of moderate counterparts by forcing such parties into more extreme positions to avoid the loss of voters to the extremes, but only if they think they can do so without losing centrist voters. More work on such dynamics can be found in Przeworski and Sprague’s Paper Stones (1986) among many others).

Of course the interaction between extremists and moderates may also occur within individual parties and indeed most of the “flirt” parties and larger non-extremist populists have internal factions that represent a range of opinions from those near (or as extreme as) the extremist parties to those who hold rather moderate views on the same questions. The resulting policy positions depend on the complex interplay of coalition partners, intra-party organization and decision-making and voter preference. These are obviously highly contextual and so deciphering (much less predicting) these developments in particularly countries requires considerable local knowledge, even as broader, big-N research can help to identify relevant variables.

New Parties: SaS does the electoral math

SaS LogoInteresting post today from Richard Sulik, founder of Sloboda a Solidarita (trendily-colored logo is at left, found not on a party website but on a Facebook page), who responds to the charge from SDKU that SaS hurt the right by causing voters to “waste” votes on a party that did not make it over the threshold (http://richardsulik.blog.sme.sk/c/196401/SaS-oslabila-pravicu.html).

Sulik makes interesting arguments to suggest that SaS voters had good reason to vote in other ways and that they might not have voted at all, but he also makes good use of electoral math to make his point:  he uses the electoral formula to show that  reallocation of all SaS to SDKU would only have reallocated the number of seats that went to the right (SDKU would have gained one but KDH would have lost one) and thus that SaS did not impact the final result.  The math looks solid to me and it is nice to see someone respond to arguments by looking at actual numbers and rules.

Nevertheless, it is not as easy to dismiss the SDKU arguments if they are seen as a warning about future elections.  SaS did not have much impact in the European Parliament elections because there were so few seats at stake (13 [Correction, thanks reader “Richard”).  Had it been a parliamentary election (and yes, many other things would have been different as well), Sulik’s argument is not quite as strong.  I’ve reworked his numbers assuming the 150 seats of Slovakia’s parliament at stake.  According to this, calcuation, SaS would have had a significant impact on SDKU votes (which would have gained 6 seats had it received all of the SaS votes) which is partially but not completely ameliorated by its impact on KDH and SMK (each of which would have lost a seat).  In terms of coalition and opposition, this is almost a crucial difference:  from clear parliamentary majority for Smer-SNS-HZDS to a bare majority that would hinge on the decision of only two deputies.

European Parliament Election Results if 150 seats (the Slovak Parliament) were available for election, according to two hypotheses:

Party SaS supporters vote for SaS SaS supporters vote for SDKU
Smer 56 53
SDKU 30 36
SMK 20 19
KDH 19 18
HZDS 16 15
SNS 9 9
Smer+HZDS+SNS 81 77
SDKU+SMK+KDH 69 73

Of course this is all theory, but the underlying debate is deeply relevant.  The more the fragmentation on the right, the worse it is likely to do (as the left and the Slovak nationals demonstrated in 2002), but it is not a zero-sum game and it may be true that Sulik’s party brings out new voters.  His ability to mobilize certainly is apparent in this election.  The question for me is whether the best use of Facebook/youtube/social networks is enough to attract the 115,000 voters who will likely be necessary to get a party over the 5% threshold in 2010?  The effort is certainly worth watching.

“Ostentatiously New” Parties (in Lithuania)

I have written a bit about new parties and particularly those parties for which being “new” is a feature (as Allan Sikk calls it, “the project of newness”)–and will be writing a lot more about this–but I never imagined that a single party’s advertising campaign could capture almost all of the basic issues involved with newness.  Enter Lithuania’s “National Resurrection Party”(Tautos prisikėlimo partija), a party of political outsiders run by a television performer  and producer Arūnas Valinskas (see him hosting Lithuania’s version of “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire“).

In addition to its origins outside of politics–and in show business–the party single five slide ad campaign offers a nearly perfect summary of the themes of “ostentatiously new” parties across the region all rolled up into a single package which itself breaks the “establishment” political mold with the kind of daring images that get attention and that most politicians would not risk using (the candidates themselves in drag, straightjackets, prison stripes, vampire-teeth and Viking helmets):

Theme 1: Fighting corruption
Caption: We will force the general prosecutor to work.
Behind bars

Theme 2: Honesty and independence (Along with Theme 1:Corruption)
Caption: We won’t steal from you (We can earn our own money)
We won’t steal from you

Theme 3: Tangible improvements in quality of life
Caption: When we rule, the price of heat won’t go up
Out of the cold

Theme 4: Defense of the people
Caption: We will fight for you tooth and claw
Tooth and claw

 Theme 5: Incapacity of the current political elite and its institutions
Caption: Let us enter this ship of fools (the ship is labeled “parliament”)
Ship of fools

These are really great ads–some of the funniest I’ve seen in a long time–but they offer no evvidence that TPP will break the cycle of brand new media-driven parties scoring big, entering government, losing their lustre and collapsing to leave a space before the next election (we’ve seen it twice now).  To the contrary, this party seems to have refined the process even further.  I have never seen an ad campaign that makes it more difficult to imagine the party’s future ad campaign.  It is hard to know where to go from here and so I can only assume that the party’s futures look like the ship in picture #5.  (Of course that’s what I said about Slovakia’s unprecedentedly popular ruling party Smer just after its election in 2006–see the last sentence in http://www.spectator.sk/articles/view/23721/2/).

Hat tip (much belated) to a bit of schadenfreude from The Monkey Cage http://www.themonkeycage.org/2008/10/post_130.html .  Thanks to Marek Rybar for obtaining the translations. Any errors in retranslation are my own.

Chickens, roosting

I was intrigued to see stories about a recent Fico appearance, particularly one in HNOnline entitled, “Fico: There is an artificially created impression that every politician is a thief.”

Fico: They have artificially created the impression that every politician is a thief

How did that impression get created?  I have a partial theory:

As they stole

The points Fico raises in the article are not at all inappropriate:  Politics is hard work and the “perks” of politics in many cases only amount to an amelioration of difficult working conditions (being a good politician–as Fico is–is probably easier than working in a mine, but the hours are long and the demands and stresses are extremely high).  As a political figure who does not appear to be using the office for personal financial gain, Fico must be particularly incensed.  Yet he did not shy away from such attacks while he was attempting to gain power and he must bear some of the responsibility for his own difficult circumstances.

The broader issue here is the question of corruption in the electoral politics of postcommunist countries (and elsewhere as well).  When corruption levels are high (or are perceived as high), corruption becomes an issue in itself and becomes for ambitious politicians to gain support (especially ambitious politicians who have not engaged in obvious corruption themselves).  This is often a pyrrhic victory, however, since success puts those same leaders in the sights of their own weapons: even if they stay clean, their associates may succumb to the temptation, and even if they do not, it is often difficult to persuade voters that the new boss is any different from the old boss, especially when they ride around in the same dark, powerful sedans.  And it is not suprising that Fico, even at the top of his electoral game, feels pressure from precisely the sense of cynicism toward elected officials that he participated in creating, the same sense that allegedly produced somebody to amend the above-mentioned Fico billboard to read “…and so they will also steal under me”

For more on the famous (in Slovakia) Fico advertisement, see:

For more on the dynamics of anti-corruption campaining, see:

New Parties, Again: Liga-Civic Liberal Party

LIGA-OLSDissatisfaction with Slovakia’s current roster of pro-market, cultural liberal parties has produced yet another entrant: Liga-Civic Liberal Party: http://www.liga-ols.sk.  Liga-OLS enters an crowded field, one already occupied by SDKU as well as the smaller, non-parliamentary Alliance of the New Citizen (ANO) and Slobodne Forum (SF).    

Liga’s proto-platform places it squarely in the same political space as those parties but as with KDS in the pro-market, cultural consevative quadrant, it is not entirely clear how Liga will manage to differentiate itself and draw voters from existing parties.  Pravda (anticipating this party’s creation) dealt with this question earlier this year in a brief article (here in Slovak, here in mediocre Google English translation.  Unlike KDS, Liga at least began its public life with a logo and a website, but it will take a considerable effort and probably some good luck for the party to become prominent enough to siphon off more dissatisfied SDKU voters, especially while ANO and SF are trying to do the same thing.  The Slovak socio-economic left was just as crowded by small parties around 2002 and has since seen a dramatic consolidation, but it had the advantage of “a Fico” and of somewhat less concern with cultural issues (which seem to have an asymmetrical impact, dividing the socioeconomic right more than the socioeconomic left).

More on this as we find out more.   October and November polling updates coming soon.

August 2008: Poll Comparisons

Trends and comparisons monthly report

BODY { FONT-FAMILY:Verdana; FONT-SIZE:10pt } P { FONT-FAMILY:Verdana; FONT-SIZE:10pt } DIV { FONT-FAMILY:Verdana; FONT-SIZE:10pt } TD { FONT-FAMILY:Verdana; FONT-SIZE:10FOCUS numbers for August are in and I include them below.  In general the monthly numbers are either unsurprising and when they /are/ surprising it is tempting to dismiss them as somehow exceptional.  Notable this time is the average for UVVM and FOCUS which suggests that the midsummer rise for Smer might have been real (both polls show the same pattern) but that it was also temporary.  August numbers for Smer are back down to the high end of Smer’s normal range.

Multiple-poll+average+ for +Smer+ for the most recent +4+months+ in Slovakia

BODY { FONT-FAMILY:Verdana; FONT-SIZE:10pt } P { FONT-FAMILY:Verdana; FONT-SIZE:10pt } DIV { FONT-FAMILY:Verdana; FONT-SIZE:10pt } TD { FONT-FAMILY:Verdana; FONT-SIZE:10pt } The same numbers suggest that July’s remarkably poor performance for SDKU may have been a blip rather than a genuine change since numbers for both polls in August are back almost exactly to where they were in June.

Multiple-poll+average+ for +SDKU+ for the most recent +4+months+ in Slovakia

BODY { FONT-FAMILY:Verdana; FONT-SIZE:10pt } P { FONT-FAMILY:Verdana; FONT-SIZE:10pt } DIV { FONT-FAMILY:Verdana; FONT-SIZE:10pt } TD { FONT-FAMILY:Verdana; FONT-SIZE:10pt } There has been much higher consistency among polls for SNS preferences and these show a recovery from a downward trend back to the party’s normal range (since the 2006 elections) between 12 and 13.

Multiple-poll+average+ for +SNS+ for the most recent +4+months+ in Slovakia

BODY { FONT-FAMILY:Verdana; FONT-SIZE:10pt } P { FONT-FAMILY:Verdana; FONT-SIZE:10pt } DIV { FONT-FAMILY:Verdana; FONT-SIZE:10pt } TD { FONT-FAMILY:Verdana; FONT-SIZE:10pt } Polls for MK are back in synch, close together near the party’s 2008 average of 9%.  It is notable, however, that this is a full point lower than the party’s 2006 average which, for a party with such an exclusively ethnic base, suggests either the departure of non-Hungarian supporters (unlikely since there were never that many) or a loss in the party’s ability to mobilize its own ethnic base (likely the result of Csaky’s replacement of Bugar, though the long-term numbers do not show any sharp drop in the party’s support around the time that Csaky took charge.)

BODY { FONT-FAMILY:Verdana; FONT-SIZE:10pt } P { FONT-FAMILY:Verdana; FONT-SIZE:10pt } DIV { FONT-FAMILY:Verdana; FONT-SIZE:10pt } TD { FONT-FAMILY:Verdana; FONT-SIZE:10pt } Multiple-poll+average+ for +MK+ for the most recent +4+months+ in Slovakia

BODY { FONT-FAMILY:Verdana; FONT-SIZE:10pt } P { FONT-FAMILY:Verdana; FONT-SIZE:10pt } DIV { FONT-FAMILY:Verdana; FONT-SIZE:10pt } TD { FONT-FAMILY:Verdana; FONT-SIZE:10pt } In August, HZDS polls move from a period of tight convergence to a month of wide variation.  UVVM numbers are at the high end of the party’s 2008 average; FOCUS numbers are at the low end and are, in fact, the lowest level of preference the party has ever received in a major poll.  This may be a blip but the frequency of “record lows” for the party bodes ill.  Nevertheless, even with this data point included, the 1 and 2 year trendlines based on average data still put the party above the 5% threshold in mid-2010 (between 6.0 and 6.8).

Multiple-poll+average+ for +HZDS+ for the most recent +4+months+ in Slovakia

BODY { FONT-FAMILY:Verdana; FONT-SIZE:10pt } P { FONT-FAMILY:Verdana; FONT-SIZE:10pt } DIV { FONT-FAMILY:Verdana; FONT-SIZE:10pt } TD { FONT-FAMILY:Verdana; FONT-SIZE:10pt } KDH has shown fairly wide variation in FOCUS polls but its trendline has remained essentially flat; in UVVM polls, however the party has shown a remarkably consistent climb from its early-2008 low to a level that is at least a point above its 2006 performance.  This recovery may reflect KDH’s own internal recovery from the early-year turmoil related to the departure of Palko and Miklosko coupled with a lack of similar recovery within SDKU, whose members may be shifting to their next-best alternative.Multiple-poll+average+ for +KDH+ for the most recent +4+months+ in Slovakia

BODY { FONT-FAMILY:Verdana; FONT-SIZE:10pt } P { FONT-FAMILY:Verdana; FONT-SIZE:10pt } DIV { FONT-FAMILY:Verdana; FONT-SIZE:10pt } TD { FONT-FAMILY:Verdana; FONT-SIZE:10pt } Between parties above and parties below the 5% threshold we still see a big gap.  HZDS’s decline, pushing its average below the 8% mark, has been matched a decline in KSS, its averages falling below the 2% mark for only the second time since 2006, so the gap between smallest-big party and biggest-small party is still 6%.

Multiple-poll+average+ for +KSS+ for the most recent +4+months+ in Slovakia

BODY { FONT-FAMILY:Verdana; FONT-SIZE:10pt } P { FONT-FAMILY:Verdana; FONT-SIZE:10pt } DIV { FONT-FAMILY:Verdana; FONT-SIZE:10pt } TD { FONT-FAMILY:Verdana; FONT-SIZE:10pt } Among the other parties, SF stays stuck around 1% (despite its small advertising blitz of the summer which did seem to net a few preferences, at least in the FOCUS and MVK polls), HZD has shown a slight rise, perhaps the result of more presidential campaigning by Gasparovic, but still has not cracked 2.5% in any poll since 2006.  ANO no longer figures at all, consistently pulling a smaller percentage of the population than those who believe they have been abducted by aliens, with a flat trend at 0.5%.

Multiple-poll+average+ for +SF+ for the most recent +4+months+ in Slovakia

As always, the actual polling numbers are available online at Google Docs:
http://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=pdhlCClsiyAMi39bLFpY_Zg
And the most recent three months are below in tabular format (using “iframe” which may not work on all browsers).

<br />

Two-thirds Rule

A brief note here to comment on one specific element of Robert Fico’s press conference remarks here regarding contracts received by those close to Smer: “the government coalition will not allow discrimination against two-thirds of the population only because they sympathize with the government party.” (see below in red).

This is notable for several reasons,

  • first because it is a nice example of the power of the current coalition’s public opinion position as political argument (popularity here becomes a justification for actions) and, within that framework, of a particular interpretation of public opinion.  It is certainly fair to say that 2/3 of Slovakia’s current voters support Smer, HZDS or SNS, but to the extent that in any given poll about 30% of voters do not support any party.  Of course this is ordinary political use of numbers and nothing particularly unusual or scandalous.
  • Second, and I noticed the artfulness only in translating and transcribing, there is the notion of government refusing to permit discrimination.  This is a common argument, but it is distinctive here because the prime minister is arguing that he will not permit discrimination against his own supporters.  The powerful subtext here, and what allows this to work despite the fact that in the same sentence he notes that he and his coalition partners have a clear supermajority in public opinion, is the spectre of dominant forces other than 2/3 the people who seek to do them harm.  I have been noting for some time how well Fico has maintained his anti-establishment position despite having almost sole control of the strongest party (and coalition) in Slovakia’s postcommunist history.  Whether he can keep this up is another question (and I have consistently been wrong in predicting that he couldn’t, but that is a question for another post).  The key appears to be his ability to persuade others (perhaps because he believes it to be true) that others (media, the former opposition, the United States, foreign investors) are the ones shaping Slovakia’s destiny.  Balancing that appeal to weakness with appeals to his own efficacy requires a delicate sense of balance.  So far he has proven himself a master.

Nedovolíme diskrimináciu ľudí len preto, že nás podporujú, odkázal médiám Fico

22. augusta 2008  16:28
Premiér Robert Fico sa znovu zastal ministerky práce Viery Tomanovej, ktorá čelí kritike za sporné štátne dotácie ľuďom blízkym jeho strane Smer-SD. Premiér zdôraznil, že nezákonné postupy alebo predražené tendre bude trestať, zároveň však je podľa neho prirodzené, ak sa predstavitelia vlády snažia v súlade so zákonom podporiť obce a mestá, ktoré vedú zástupcovia vládnych strán.

Predseda vlády Robert Fico počas tlačovej besedy, na ktorej oznámil, že vládna koalícia nedovolí diskrimináciu dvoch tretín obyvateľov len preto, že sympatizujú s vládnymi stranami.
Predseda vlády Robert Fico počas tlačovej besedy, na ktorej oznámil, že vládna koalícia nedovolí diskrimináciu dvoch tretín obyvateľov len preto, že sympatizujú s vládnymi stranami.
(autor: SITA)

Vládna koalícia nedovolí diskrimináciu dvoch tretín obyvateľov len preto, že sympatizujú s vládnymi stranami, vyhlásil premiér na brífingu, po ktorom nepripustil žiadne otázky. Predseda vlády chcel len novinárom ukázať prípady “straníckeho klientelizmu” vo fungovaní americkej demokracie a aj tak ich presvedčiť, že za dotáciami svojim nie je nič nemorálne.

Kritiku za podporu sociálnych podnikov v oblastiach s vysokou nezamestnanosťou považuje za zvrhlú. Zároveň oznámil, že už viac nebude reagovať na mediálne útoky a rôzne pseudokauzy, ako boli sociálne podniky či verejné obstarávania. “Vy nemôžete nahradiť Úrad pre verejné obstarávanie,” povedal médiám.

Fico: Nenecháme sa terorizovať médiami

Zdroj: SITA • 5,14 MB • zaznamenané: 22. 8. 2008

Ministerstvo práce podľa tlače pridelilo spolu asi 500 miliónov korún (16,6 milióna eur) na budovanie takzvaných sociálnych podnikov spoločnostiam, s ktorými sú spojení poslanci a členovia premiérovej strany. Tomanová (Smer-SD) však nedávno odmietla úvahy, že žiadatelia ťažili so svojich kontaktov s najsilnejšou vládnou stranou. Sociálne podniky by mali pomáhať znižovať nezamestnanosť. Určené sú napríklad pre ľudí, ktorí sú bez práce dlhodobo.

“Nebudeme považovať za neprípustné, ak napríklad v prípade dvoch rovnocenných projektov s rovnakou kvalitou a rovnakým výsledným efektom člen vlády uprednostní starostu či primátora za vládnu koalíciu,” vyhlásil Fico. Podmienkou podľa neho však je, aby nebol porušený zákon.

Ministerka Tomanová už v minulosti čelila výhradám za vyplatenie štátnej podpory Centru privátnych sociálnych služieb Privilégium napriek tomu, že na ňu nemalo nárok. Za sporné dotácie z verejných zdrojov nedávno musel na žiadosť premiéra odísť Jaroslav Izák (SNS) z postu ministra životného prostredia. Predražené tendre zas stáli miesto ministra obrany Františka Kašického zo Smeru-SD.

Nedovolíme diskrimináciu ľudí len preto, že nás podporujú, odkázal médiám Fico – Pravda.sk – Flock

And yet more populism (now in Slovak!)

Slovak Academy of Sciences, Sociological Institute, 25.06.2008

Many thanks to Zuzana Kusa and the researchers at the Sociological Institute of the Slovak Academy of Sciences for hosting a lively discussion on populism, with the best and most challenging questions yet. Dakujem.

Tu je powerpoint (po slovensky):
http://www.la.wayne.edu/polisci/kdk/populism/SU SAV populism 2008.ppt

I am delighted by the image they chose to advertise the seminar. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

I like this variation too.
Sociological Institute flyer with megaphone