Dashboard News: What to make of Median (again)

The final April poll is out in Slovakia and because it is “Median” it is more or less what we might expect, which is to say that for the parties whose numbers are most interesting, Median’s numbers are utterly unreliable.  Actually in technical social science terms they are quite reliable in that they “measure the same way each time” and almost certainly invalid in that, at least from the perspective of somebody who is interested in how people will actually vote they are almost assuredly not a good “approximation to the truth or falsity of a given inference, proposition or conclusion” (For more on the differences, see http://www.socialresearchmethods.net/tutorial/Colosi/lcolosi2.htm).  In other words–and this is much the fault of the Slovak media as it is of Median–DON’T RUN STORIES ABOUT WHO WILL GET INTO PARLIAMENT OR NOT USING MEDIAN DATA.

(For a prime example, see SME prieskum-medianu-nepustil-do-parlamentu-smk-a-most-hid.html, though the headline does at least specify that the poll is from Median, which is a warning to more informed readers.  Slightly less irresponsible, but rather odd is the TA3 headline, PRIESKUM: Keby boli voľby v apríli, vyhral by ich Smer-SD which emphasizes that Smer “would win” despite the fact that this is the one thing everybody does know and that the Median data for this month actually shows the largest single drop in support for Smer of any Median poll I can find.)

So what can we make of Median’s numbers.  In the spirit of Stephen Stucker, we can still make something.  Median’s trendlines are not usually out of line with the rest of the parties.  So here’s what we learn.

In Median’s poll Smer shows an enormous drop–almost six points.  This comes after two months of Smer numbers in Median that were unusually high and bucked the trendline of the other polls, so this is probably simply a return closer to the norm for Median on Smer and brings it in line with the other polls, though it is worth noting that Median always polls high for Smer (with the exception of only two months in the last year it has produced the highest numbers for Smer, usually between 3 and 4 points above the average of the other three polls).  So Median confirms Smer’s drop but doesn’t tell us how far, though around 36 or 37 looks like a good current guess.

SNS shows a big rise in Median’s numbers, one that pulls it back to January levels.  The curve is almost exactly the same–though a bit higher–as that of FOCUS, suggesting that the FOCUS number is more than just statistical noise and that SNS may have actually benefitted from the Fidesz victory in Hungary.  Only Polis showed no SNS bounce in April and so we can probably take the bounce seriously and perhaps move SNS slightly higher in its probability of passing the threshold, though its long-term trend is still resolutely negative.

Median is the only poll to give HZDS a bounce in April–the other three show stability or a slight drop.  In this case it may be the Median trend that is out of line.  As with Smer and SNS, Median consistently polls high for HZDS and so its claims on all three of these need to be discounted a bit.

Current coalition parties overall.  It is notable that even though Median tends to poll high for the coalition parties, and does so again this month, the overall trend (small graph at the right) shows an unbroken drop in total coalition preferences over the last 5 months by about 9 points overall (A disclaimer: it matters where you begin your trendine.  Carry this graph back two months and it appears that January was actually an unusually high peak compared to the months before or after.  But carry it back 6 months and the trend of decline re-emerges quite distinctly.)

For SDKU the situation is muddled.  Median polls very high for SDKU this month, but it does not always do so, suggesting that the party may have shown an increase.  The evidence from the other polls is mixed: Polis also shows an increase, though not as big as the one in Median; MVK and FOCUS show slight decreases.  This is one party without clear trends at the moment.  It appears to be holding steady between 13 and 14.

Like both MVK and Polis, Median shows a drop for KDH but from the highest level the party has ever received in a Median poll.  FOCUS also showed a drop for KDH (but from a much lower baseline).  Here we have significant disagreement, with FOCUS pulling the lower end and MVK near the higher with the two less established polls both showing higher.  It is hard to say what this means. I will have to think about it.

This is the first Median poll to show SaS above the 5% threshold, but Median has consistently polled very low for SaS (as do all new and small parties), and what is important here is that the party shows the same almost unbroken upward trend and degree of increase in Median as in every other major poll.  The party will fall back some degree when voters are in the booth, but it is hard to imagine it falling so far short that it misses the threshold.

The overall rise for the “right” parties is almost perfectly reciprocal to the decline of the coalition, a steady increase of 6 points since November and more from the summer of 2009.  This conforms quite well to the findings of every other poll.

Median has a big Hungarian problem. About 11% of Slovakia’s population is Hungarian and past elections show that the Hungarian parties/coalitions together receive about the same percentage of the vote.  Yet only three times in the last year has Median’s total of preferences for Hungarian parties exceeded 8% and five times (including this month) it has been below 7% (this month the two sum to 6%).  This suggests a major problem with Median’s methodology or its network or both and so it is hard to give credit to its numbers for Hungarian parties or its trends.  For the record this month shows a slight drop for MKP-SMK and a slight increase for Most-Hid but these likely mean little and they certainly do not merit the SME headline mentioned above.

From my college era I remember a slogan (likely propagated by beer companies to prevent excesses that would hurt their PR and inspire anti-drinking legislation), “If you must drink, drink wisely.”  A note to SME (and Pravda and TA3 and all the others:

If you must cite Median, cite Median wisely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dashboard News: Median offers different numbers but confirms decline of SNS and HZDS

That’s what the headlines of Slovakia’s papers should say.  But again they don’t.  Still, what we get now is better than before since the nature of differences in polling methods in Slovakia has begun to seep into the Slovak press.  Now at least the major sources specifically mention the poll by name in headlines before announcing the exciting “news” that certain new parties will not get into parliament. Pravda announces “Median: SaS and Most do not pass into parliament” while SME says almost the same thing: “Median Poll does not let SaS or Most-Hid into parliament” and TA3 writes “Median SK: SaS and Most would not get into parliament” and both SME and Pravda mentioned somewhere in the article that this differed from the results of other polls.

This is better than nothing, but not good enough.  The Dashboard contains the results including February Median poll, and what that shows is the following:

  • Median remains far from the other major pollsters on 3 important parties: SaS, Most-Hid and SNS.  This is probably because of the poll’s method of not listing party choices for respondents and requiring them to name a party without prompting.   It may be that Median is right in doing this and that the others are wrong, but Median’s past performance in predicting elections (worse than the other major pollsters: http://www.pozorblog.com/?p=684) suggests not.  So its predictions of parliamentary failure for Most-Hid and SaS, must be taken with a large grain of salt.
  • SaS:  Despite its raw numbers, Median confirms the upward trend of SaS. Median has always polled low for SaS but even with this the party now is near the threshold even for that pollster and shape of the lines (if not their locations) are roughly the same.  All major pollsters show the party with a big upward jump in January or February:
  • SNS and HZDS.  Likewise despite differences in raw numbers, Median shows a significant downward shift for both SNS, conforming to the trends in other surveys.  HZDS is now at the lowest level it has ever been in available Median polls (2005) and SNS is at its lowest level since 2007.  If Median had not showed these declines, it would be worth looking twice at the others, but the unanimity here cannot be good news, even if its raw numbers might hearten Meciar and Slota by suggesting that they are actually several steps short of the abyss.


Otherwise Median numbers are not wildly different from those of the other pollsters:  in Median, as in FOCUS but not in the other two, Smer showed some recovery in February, and MKP-SMK showed signs of stabilizing above the threshold.  SDKU and KDH moved little.

Congratulations to the major papers for noticing that polling firms are different, but they still have work to do if they don’t want to miss the big story.

Dashboard News: Unhappy Median, January 2010

medianFor once I’ll get the lead on the Slovak press and talk about a poll first, the results of which I have added to the Dashboard.  Median published its January poll results today and they have their effects on the overall averages, pushing the MKP-SMK average below 5% for the first time in my dataset, while flattening out the sharp rises of Most-Hid and SaS and softening the drop of HZDS and SNS.  We shall see how the press covers it (“CSAKY, BUGAR AND SULIK FALL SHORT!”) but in the context of other polls, its’ rather hard to accept.  There are lots of ways to analyze this but for the sake of time and simplicity I’ll simply compare Median to the other three polls taken at approximately the same time (MVK, FOCUS, Polis).  On the two biggest parties, Smer and SDKU, the Median result is right in line but on all the rest it stands out to a remarkable degree.  Long-established Slovak parties (SNS, HZDS and KDH) score high in Median’s poll.  Very high.  Meanwhile newly established parties (and SMK) score low.  Very low.  In fact, for all six of these parties, the Median poll result is not only the outlier, but its addition more than doubles the range of poll values or more (x3 for HZDS, x4 for SAS and x6 for SNS).  In other words Median results are more different from the nearest of the three other polls than any of those polls are from one another, as the graph below shows.

Where Median polls high Where Median polls low
Median 9.6 9.3 11.3
Highest of other 3 polls 6.2 5.8 10 6.7 6.4 9.6
Lowest of other 3 polls 5.6 4.1 8.9 5.1 5.6 8.1
Median 3.3 4.3 2.7
Largest difference between other 3 polls 0.6 1.7 1.1 1.6 0.8 1.5
Difference between Median and nearest of other 3 polls 3.4 3.5 1.3 1.8 1.3 5.4

As I’ve discussed before, this may have a lot to do with Median’s unorthodox procedure of not providing a list of parties to choose from.  But  what to do with these results?  I’m loathe to eliminate them as I suspect they capture some kind of political truth (some people when shown names of new parties in polls pick them but revert to long standing loyalties and remembered names in the voting booth) but they do ignore another (the inability of people to remember the name of the new party they’re interested in).  And the firm’s past performance suggests that it’s take on the political truth does not much help us predict final results (http://www.pozorblog.com/?p=684).  Median may thus act as a useful corrective but simply cannot be looked at in isolation.

Polls, Politics and Parties, Part 4: Poll Predictiveness by Party, Pollster and Time

p16How well do public opinion polls in Slovakia predict election outcomes?  Well as the previous post suggests, not too well.  But they’re all we’ve got.  Of course we could always wait until the future comes to us, but, frankly, where’s the fun in that.  So rather than sit around and wait or make faulty predictions, we can try to figure out where and when the data we do have is most useful.  We can get a bit more mileage out of the data if we understand its strengths and limitations on three dimensions: time period, pollster and party   (It is theoretically possible to go further and divide it by categories within the surveyed population, but that requires the original data which is available only for limited periods and certain pollsters and so I will hold off on that for the moment.)  It is no surprise that recent data is better than old data, but even that generalization has its limits.  And while we can’t assume that polls will err in the future in the same way as in the past, it is important to know where the diversion between poll and reality crept in.

Time: Polls get better closer to elections.  Sort of.

As we elections near, shouldn’t polls become more predictive?  Yes, but not in a purely linear fashion.  I do not have a lot of data on this–only 3 elections, two of which were for the European parliament–but what I do have suggests that increases in predictiveness really only begins about 6 months before the election.  The graph below shows the differences in raw percentage points between poll “predictions” and actual results extending backward from election day.

Predictiveness of average poll results or major parties, approaching election

Predictiveness of average poll results or major parties, approaching election

There is quite a bit in these finding are news to me:

  • Improvement is not linear. I did not expect the “reversal” that occurs between one and two years out in each case–such that in each elections predictions made about 500 days before the election would be better than those made 200 days before the election.  Of course it is impossible to predict on what day to make the best predictions (for Slovakia’s parliament in 2006, T-500 days was better than T-700 or T-200, but this was not true for the 2009 Euroelections.
  • Europarliament predictions do not get better over time; Slovak parliament predictions do. Nor did I expect, though I should have, that predictions in Europarliament elections actually don’t get any better over time.  This is clearly related, I think, to the low voter turnout in Euroelections.  In this case the polls are considerably more representative than the elections themselves.  The results for Slovakia’s parliament, by contrast, have plateaus and valleys but do get closer to actual results with time.  (And one small footnote:  I worried that the results above were the result of differences in polling patterns: Slovak parliamentary elections have more polls and might therefore be more accurate.  But when I re-ran the numbers with only a single polling firm–UVVM–I got essentially the same results, suggesting that the patterns do not depend on the polling density).
  • Sharp increases in predictiveness come in the last 150 days. For two of the three polls, the best increase in accuracy came in the final five months and since today we are at entering month 4, we are already in that period.  Using these models (a rather thin basis for comparison) we could guess that we are just leaving the period of relatively low predictability and so any judgments made on the basis of polls to date should be taken with some care.  By a month out, we can make guesses about the final result that are not overwhelmingly different from the final rush of polls.  That’s not true today.

Pollster: Some firms are better than others, but not by too much

The second big question of accuracy depends on the pollster.  It may be that some firms are simply better than others and that to average them together is to inject unnecessary noise.  The graph below shows the errors in poll predictivness for each major polling firm’s final pre-election survey in four elections:  Slovakia’s parliament in 2002, Europarliament in 2004, Slovakia’s parliament in 2006 and Europarliament again in 2009.  Gray boxes mark “final” polls taken more than a month before the election.

Poll predictivness by pollster 2002-2009

Errors in poll predictivness by pollster 2002-2009

In this case the data–closer to the bottom means less error and more predictiveness–lends itself to several relatively clear conclusions (the full data set is at the bottom):

  • Slovakia’s parliamentary elections produce small differences. During parliamentary elections–the first and third clusters–all firms tend to cluster closely together with a very small difference among them.  These surveys tend to be large enough and carefully-enough framed, and with voters sufficiently politicized that the polls tend to converge around a single answer.   The only exceptions here–Median and FOCUS–are not exceptions at all since these (like Median in 2009) are polls taken a month previously and (as the previous section shows) a month makes a some degree of difference (about 0.5 or so).
  • Europarliament elections produce bigger differences. During Europarliament elections the spreads are much greater and the number of pollsters much smaller.  Here the differences among pollsters would matter (if Slovaks felt that the elections themselves actually mattered, which most appear not to do).

With regard to specific pollsters, two stand out, but they have either ceased their work in this or work quite infrequently:

  • UVVM was an excellent pollster and the decision by the Slovak Statistical Office not to continue these tests is a big loss.
  • OMV does good polls.  It’s a pity they only do them immediately before elections.  (As an aside, no matter how good its polls may be, they cannot be used as a substitute for exit polls, as STV tried to do in 2006.  Even the best, biggest pre-election poll seems destined to miss something).

Of the pollsters who still regularly poll (and with the exception of MVK, post results with increasing regularity) we can say the following”

  • FOCUS has done a mediocre job in parliamentary elections but an excellent job in Euroelections.   Without UVVM it is at the most reliable remaining pollster
  • MVK, by these same calculations has done slightly worse than FOCUS but it too remains fairly solid.
  • Median has not done as well and has been the high-end outlier in the two most recent elections (in 2009 its poll was taken a month before the election but its errant 2006 poll was taken in the final rush).  This may be the result of Median’s open-ended preference question that does not as closely resemble the ballot process.
  • The big surprise, and perhaps it is simply a coincidence, is that the telephone poll conducted by Polis in 2006 actually came close to the mark.  Telephone polls have faced considerable criticism in the past, including my own, but this one worked.  The 2010 election will provide a major test of its reliability.

Finally on the question of pollsters, it may be that no pollster is better overall but that some may be better or worse in detecting support for particular parties.  As the Dashboard shows to even a casual observer (and as I will try to analyze in greater depth nearer to the election), some parties tend to do consistently better in some polls than in others.  Does this translate into differences in electoral predictiveness?  Again we face here a lack of data but what we have yields several conclusions about past patterns, though these are not particularly useful predictors for the future as they reflect a difference of at most a few points from the results of other pollsters.  Nevertheless, we can say that compared to other pollsters,

  • UVVM’s estimates for SDKU in all elections are less than those of other pollsters and its estimates for SNS and KDH are less than those of other posters in parliamentary elections.  UVVM also overestimated HZDS in almost elections.
  • OMV has underestimated Smer in parliamentary elections and underestimated SNS and KSS in parliamentary elections
  • FOCUS has consistently underestimated HZDS and KDH, and has slightly overestimated Smer in parliamentary elections (while slightly underestimating the party in Europarliament elections).  It has also slightly overestimated KSS in parliamentary elections
  • Median has overestimated Smer in both elections for which we have its data and has underestimated SMK and HZDS and KDH (all rural parties, suggesting a weaker rural network of poll takers)
  • MVK has overestimated Smer and KDH in parliamentary elections and underestimated SNS and KSS.
  • With only one poll in, we have no way of making a broader assessment for Polis,  but I for one will be very interested to see what happens next.
  • Postscript: Just discovered this article about accuracy of presidential election results.  It corresponds roughly to parliamentary election results with reasonable results for FOCUS, MVK and, surprisingly, Polis.  See http://volby.sme.sk/c/4360649/statna-agentura-odhadla-vysledky-katastrofalne-a-facebook.html

Party: Some parties outrun the polls (sometimes)

The most interesting question is whether polls as a whole tend to over-estimate or underestimate the electoral support of particular parties.  This is a rather easy circumstance to imagine:  the networks of pollsters do not extend to the ethnic or class group in which a particular party is strong, or a particularly segments of a party’s support base are overwhelmingly less (or more) likely to actually get out to the polls.  The graph below lays out the differences between the averages of the final polls (white circles) and parties’ actual election results (color coded circles) for four elections: the parliamentary election in 2002, Europarliament in 2004, parliament again in 2006 and Europarliament again in 2009.  The arrows (thick for parliamentary, thin for Europarliament) point from the poll prediction to the actual result.

Poll predictivness in Slovakia 2002-2009
Poll predictivness in Slovakia 2002-2009

Only for a few parties do these arrows show clear patterns over time:

  • SDKU has been underestimated by polls all four times, though the gap has narrowed considerably.
  • SMK has also been underestimated, though by smaller amounts (and the gap in 2009 is the result of the emergence of Most-Hid which did not run candidates)

For several other parties patterns are less distinct:

  • KDH and HZDS have been underestimated in Euroelections but results in parliamentary elections produce no clear result.
  • For SNS there is likewise no clear pattern in parliamentary elections but a pattern of overestimation in Euroelections.

The biggest question, of course, is Smer, a party whose poll predictivness becomes an intensely political question.  The results here suggest:

  • A pattern of consistent overestimation in the polls by significant numerical (and even percentagewise) amounts in Euroelections and the 2002 parliamentary election…
  • BUT (and this is a very important but) in the well-polled 2006 parliamentary elections the polls actually slightly underestimated Smer’s performance.

The Smer problem here is simply a large-scale representation of the problem that we find here in trying to make predictions against a moving target (the relationship between party poll support and voter turnout) and with very little data (N=2 for each kind of election).  (Still, for those who are interested, I include the full data at the end of this post.)

This question has driven experts to find a variety of proxy measures to figure out how to adjust polling numbers to reflect the final outcomes.  This post is already too long, however, so that will have to wait for another post (and lest this seem like an unfair cliff-hanger, know that the efforts so far have not produced a particularly compelling answer).

Data Tables for the Obsessive (by the obsessive)

Election Party Major parties Smer SDKU SNS SMK HZDS KDH KSS HDZ ANO PSNS SDA SDL SF All Parties
Average +2.0 +3.8 -4.7 +0.8 -0.9 -0.8 -0.8 -2.1 +2.0 +0.8 -0.5 +0.3 +0.6 +1.5
OMV-SRo +1.8 +2.3 -5.6 +1.6 -0.4 +1.0 -0.5 -1.2 +1.9 +0.3 -0.5 +0.6 +0.6 +1.4
UVVM +1.8 +1.7 -6.6 +0.3 -1.1 -0.8 -1.1 -1.4 +2.1 -0.2 -0.7 -0.4 +1.4 +1.5
Markant +2.0 +4.3 -4.2 +0.7 -2.3 +0.5 +0.4 -1.8 +1.1 +1.0 -0.4 +0.2 +0.6 +1.5
Dicio +2.1 +4.2 -2.8 +0.4 -0.8 -2.2 -1.4 -3.0 +2.8 +1.4 -0.6 -0.2 +0.2 +1.7
MVK +2.3 +5.0 -4.7 +0.4 -0.8 -1.9 +0.1 -3.5 +1.2 +1.0 -0.3 +0.8 +0.2 +1.7
FOCUS +2.3 +5.2 -4.6 +1.4 -0.1 -1.4 -2.3 -1.5 +2.8 +1.2 -0.6 +0.7 +0.8 +1.9
Average +4.3 +9.0 -8.5 +1.8 -1.7 -0.9 -7.0 +1.1 +2.4 +0.5 -0.4 +3.5
FOCUS +3.0 +0.7 -7.9 -1.1 +0.4 -1.4 -8.4 -1.3 +3.2 +1.6 -0.4 +2.6
OVM +4.5 +8.5 -7.3 +3.4 -2.9 -1.6 -5.6 +2.0 +2.1 +0.6 +0.4 +3.3
UVVM +5.0 +13.3 -9.2 +2.7 -2.1 +1.0 -6.9 -0.1 +2.6 +0.1 +0.2 +3.8
Dicio +5.7 +13.4 -9.6 +2.4 -1.9 -1.5 -7.1 +4.0 +1.8 -0.3 -1.8 +4.4
Average +2.2 -1.6 -5.3 -1.7 -1.4 +2.7 +1.4 +1.2 +0.7 +0.8 +2.6 +2.0
OVM-Sro +2.0 -2.4 -4.8 +0.1 -1.7 +1.5 +1.3 +2.0 +0.9 +1.3 +0.8 +1.7
Polis +2.2 -2.5 -4.7 -1.1 -0.4 +2.5 +3.3 +0.6 +1.4 +0.8 +0.3 +1.8
UVVM +2.2 -0.6 -5.7 -2.0 -1.4 +4.1 +0.6 +1.2 +1.7 +0.9 +1.1 +1.9
MVK +2.3 -1.1 -5.9 -1.7 -1.7 +2.7 +2.2 +1.1 -0.6 -1.4 +2.5 +2.1
Dicio +2.4 -1.1 -5.7 -3.5 -2.0 +2.7 -0.2 +1.2 +0.4 +2.7 +5.0 +2.5
FOCUS +3.2 +2.6 -8.9 -3.6 -1.9 +2.3 +1.4 +1.6 +1.6 +2.0 +2.5 +2.8
Median +3.4 +0.7 -10.6 -3.6 -3.2 +1.8 +1.1 +2.7 +3.5 +1.1 +5.5 +3.4
Average +3.9 +11.9 -2.6 +5.0 -3.5 -2.2 -1.6 -0.2 -0.4 +3.6
FOCUS +3.3 +8.4 -1.2 +3.4 -2.7 -3.7 -2.6 +1.1 +0.8 +3.0
UVVM +3.6 +11.7 -4.5 +5.0 -2.8 -0.5 -0.3 -0.0 -0.4 +3.1
MVK +3.9 +11.0 -1.6 +4.8 -3.0 -2.9 -2.7 +1.0 +0.9 +3.5
Median +5.0 +15.8 -2.0 +6.5 -4.8 -2.6 -1.9 -1.7 -1.6 +4.6


Party Parliamentary Election Year Poll Avg. Result Raw Poll Error % Poll Error Average Poll Error Consistency
Smer Slovakia 2002 17.3 13.5 3.8 28% 12% Mixed
2006 27.6 29.1 -1.5 -5%
EU 2004 25.9 16.9 9.0 53% 46% Consistently too high
2009 44.3 32.0 12.3 38%
SDKU Slovakia 2002 10.4 15.1 -4.7 -31% -30% Consistently too low
2006 13.0 18.4 -5.4 -29%
EU 2004 8.6 17.1 -8.5 -50% -27% Consistently too low
2009 16.1 17.0 -0.9 -5%
SNS Slovakia 2002 4.1 3.3 0.8 23% 5% Mixed
2006 10.1 11.7 -1.6 -14%
EU 2004 3.9 2.0 1.9 94% 79% Consistently too high
2009 9.1 5.6 3.5 64%
MK Slovakia 2002 10.3 11.2 -0.9 -8% -10% Consistently too low
2006 10.3 11.7 -1.4 -12%
EU 2004 11.6 13.2 -1.6 -12% -26% Consistently too low
2009 6.9 11.3 -4.4 -39%
HZDS Slovakia 2002 18.7 19.5 -0.8 -4% 13% Mixed
2006 11.5 8.8 2.7 31%
EU 2004 16.1 17.0 -0.9 -6% -24% Consistently too low
2009 5.2 9.0 -3.8 -42%
KDH Slovakia 2002 7.5 8.3 -0.8 -9% 4% Mixed
2006 9.7 8.3 1.4 17%
EU 2004 9.2 16.2 -7.0 -43% -28% Consistently too low
2009 9.4 10.9 -1.5 -14%
KSS Slovakia 2002 4.2 6.3 -2.1 -33% -1% Mixed
2006 5.1 3.9 1.2 31%
EU 2004 5.7 4.5 1.2 26% 29% Consistently too high
2009 2.2 1.7 0.6 33%
SF Slovakia 2006 5.4 3.5 1.9 56% 56% No data
EU 2004 2.9 3.3 -0.4 -11% 11% Mixed
2009 2.1 1.6 0.5 33%
HZD Slovakia 2002 5.3 3.3 2.0 61% 113% Consistently too high
2006 1.7 0.6 1.1 166%
EU 2004 4.1 1.7 2.4 143% 143% No average
ANO Slovakia 2002 8.8 8.0 0.8 10% 53% Consistently too high
2006 2.8 1.4 1.4 97%
EU 2004 5.2 4.7 0.6 12% 12% No average

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.

News and New Resources on Public Opinion in Slovakia

Because of formatting problems with certain versions of Internet Explorer , this page is now available as a .pdf file: 2009_12_30 Pozorblog Public Opinion.

I should begin with apologies for such a long hiatus and also with hearty congratuations to Monika Tódová of SME for writing one of the best articles on the process of public opinion polling in Slovakia: Prieskumy môžu politikov miast. It’s not very long but it finally addresses the problem of dueling headlines–“SaS/Most-Hid poised for success” v. “SaS/Most-Hid has no chance” (often in the same newspaper in the same week) and asks “How is it possible?” The answer lies in the ways that various pollsters survey the public, and it turns out (perhaps I should have known this) that FOCUS and MVK (and previously UVVM) offer a list of parties to choose from whereas Median gives no list. The latter method, of course, will tend to benefit those parties that are best known, while the former can give a boost to parties that are little known (and the process by which firms choose to add parties to their formal lists is fraught with difficulty.

The question now, is whether Todova’s article means a change in approach. Her article is the first instance I can remember outside of election campaigns when an article juxtaposes results from multiple pollsters. I can only hope that this will be the beginning of a trend even if (especially because) it might put this blog out of business. But I’m fairly secure that the time and space constraints of Slovakia’s papers will not let that happen and so there will be room for a blog obsessed with the minutiae of public opinion in Slovakia.

But just so that this blog does not immediately become obsolete, I want to share a new method I’m working on for displaying public opinion results. This is not quite ready for prime time, but using the Timeplot application developed as part of the astounding SIMILE project at MIT, it is possible to create dynamic charts that are fully modifiable and easily updated on the basis of simple text files. Of course that meant that I had to clean up my database, but now that that’s done, I should be able to present updated public opinion results with a minimum of effort (that’s the theory) and can even, theoretically, create a dashboard page on the blog itself for those who want to look at the numbers rather than read my analysis.

Below are examples of what is possible. I’m preparing a year end summary, so you’ll see these graphs again soon with some analysis attached.

September 2009 Poll Results: Whither Smer?

This post comes a bit late because of changes to the pozorblog site but the month’s news is important enough to warrant an interim post.

Things only changed a little this month. But small changes from one month to the next add up. And this month not all the changes are small. A few areas to watch.


September 2009 Graphs_Page_01

As the image shows Smer remains far above its nearest competitors–still well over double the preferences of SDKU. But the last four months have seen a drop in Smer preferences from the mid-40s to the high-30s. This shift is primarily in FOCUS polls, however, and it is difficult to say whether the result is “real” or some sort of blip. Median, the only monthly alternative, shows no similar drop. I am really missing UVVM this month as it was always helpful to see what a second pollster said before making a judgment, and MVK polls are as unpredictable–in their appearance, not their results–as weather.

September 2009 Graphs_Page_05Closer look at Smer polls over time show a gradual increase over the last two years peaking in a cluster in late 2008 and then reverting back to the previous plateau and now, again to a lower level, though whether that lower level is part of a plateau or a slope is something we will have to see about. I suspect next month will show Smer higher in Focus polls but lower than its average level for the last 5 months. I suspect this month’s drop is a bit of an outlier, just as its previous peaks did not always sustain themselves and appear to be noise rather than signal.Smer doesn’t have too much to fear–it’s still hard to calculate a way that it won’t be in the next government, but it wouldn’t surprise me if some mid-level Smer types were starting to work on their political insurance policies.


September 2009 Graphs_Page_02Take Smer out of the graph and it looks more like a competitive party system. And this fall for the first time in a long time, the two top competitors to Smer are both from the opposition: SDKU and KDH. SDKU dropped slightly this month in FOCUS polls but it’s still near a historic high (in the past it would do this well in elections but not in polls). Some of its slight decline may relate to the rapid resurgence of KDH, a party that has taken a sudden upward jump due, I must think, to the energizing presence of Jan Figel, former European Commissioner. I am interested to see whether Figel’s more proactive approach will keep the party preferences high. In some sense, this does not help the opposition much, since those attracted to Figel are probably those who would otherwise hold their noses and vote for SDKU, but since they might also vote for SaS, it keeps votes among the larger opposition parties. Thumbnails for SDKU and KDH are here:

SDKU——————————————————– KDH

September 2009 Graphs_Page_06September 2009 Graphs_Page_10


Slovakia’s two minor governmental parties continue their respective slow slides, partly the result of Smer’s remarkable skill at picking off their voters and partly the result of their own internal struggles and disadvantages. HZDS has stopped falling for the moment but given the party’s steady 10 year slide and absence of anything new that might recommend it, it is hard to imagine anything but continued decline (with the key question: 5% or not 5% next June). SNS’s decline has been disquised at times by the party’s erratic support shifts but it is notable that all of the trendlines (24-month, 12-month, 6-month and 3-month point down at almost the exact same angle). The party has more leeway for falling than HZDS but it is not immune, and at some point SNS mid-level leaders are going to need to decide what to do if they feel that Jan Slota is pulling them down. The party’s structures are so focused around the party chair that the only way to force change will be to leave, but the last time they did that the parties split the electorate 50/50 and neither got into parliament.

SNS——————————————————– HZDS

September 2009 Graphs_Page_07

September 2009 Graphs_Page_09

and Most-Hid

Not much to say here, yet. For two polls in a row both parties are poised to make it into parliament. If this can continue then Bela Bugar has done a big favor to the Hungarian electorate, bringing back those disenfranchised from SMK. If both don’t stay above 5 and neither drops to near-zero, then the Hungarians will see their poorest electoral showing since the early days of Slovakia’s democracy. I’d be keen to hear any thoughts from Magyarophones about what to expect here as this is a subset of the population from which I hear little direct news.

SMK (regular graphs for Most-Hid coming soon)

September 2009 Graphs_Page_08

Smaller Parties:

Not much news here this month. SaS shows staying power at around 3%, and KSS recovered this month to its traditional 3% levels as well (though it has not been there for awhile). Below, around 2% stands SF (recovering slightly from a major drop the previous month) and at at the flatline level are OKS, KDS, ANO and Liga (which didn’t get a single person to mention it’s name this month even though it’s on the list). Between them are two more: HZD (slightly higher than expected–it’s been flatlining) and the Greens (somewhat lower than expected–last month it even beat KSS).

What it all means? The Coalition Partner Game

It’s still Smer’s ballgame, but coalition politics could become extremely interesting if Smer does end up at around 35% and HZDS or SNS fall below 5%. It is dangerous to trust what parties say about potential coalition partners, but as of now, SDKU and KDH appear to have ruled out coalition with Smer (Dzurinda is right, I think, to note that such a coalition would severely hurt his party, and he doesn’t have the organization or track record to ride it out the way ODS and CSSD did with their opposition agreement in the Czech Republic). But if this option truly is gone, then there are few other combinations that can make 50%. If the existing coalition can’t muster 50% because one party drops off, then Fico would need to find alternatives, but (even though I generally do not rule things out) there will be no coalition containing both SNS and either SMK or Most-Hid, and SaS, the only other party that looks now to have a chance, has promised up one side and down the other that it will not join forces with Smer. So Smer’s only real chance is probably SNS+HZDS or so many votes for parties that fall below the threshold that it can with SNS or HZDS form a bare majority government.

At the same time, there’s not much hope for a government of the current opposition parties. Even with SDKU and KDH and SMK and Most-Hid and SaS, there’s nothing like a majority. It might be possible to create one by adding HZDS to this but even that’s unlikely and HZDS is the party in greatest danger of falling short. In 10 short years, HZDS has gone from a huge and polarizing force in Slovakia’s politics to a tiny but necessary coalition partners. The more things stay the same, the more they change.

Wanted: Effective journalism in Slovakia

Median logoI know Slovakia’s journalists are overtaxed with all that is required of them, but there are things they could do to make things better without too much extra work.  Case in point: today all major Slovak news sources today report, almost word for word, a press release from the firm Median reporting poll results from July:

The reports differ a bit, of course: SME and TA3 have a graph, Pravda has a table with past results from Median, HN relates the results (with no actual evidence) to the effect of recent scandals.

What none of them does is to answer the important question about Most-Hid.  Median, for reasons that are not clear, does not report on parties that do not cross the 5% threshold, and all the papers report that fact.  What they do not do is to say just how well Most-Hid actually did.  Here’s where journalism comes into play.  If the role of journalist goes beyond simply typing (or in this case probably pasting what others send to you) then it may be to try to find answers to important questions.

So here’s my suggestion: call Median and ask them 

If Median won’t answer, ask them why.  Focus reports its polling results with an extremely detailed and effective one-page report.  UVVM used to do the same.  There is no reason the papers should print Median’s results unless they are willing to rise to the same (bare minimum) standards. If Median won’t play that way, write a story about the fact that Median won’t provide necessary information):

If Median won’t answer and you still want to figure out something about Most-Hid’s initial support (a quite important detail), here’s my second suggestion: do some math.

If you add up the total support for the parties listed by Median in past polls, you get a consistent result of about 97% for May and June.  That means other parties are getting about 3% (specifically 3.1% in May and 3.3% in June).  If you add up the total support for July you get 92.3%.  That means other parties got 7.7%.  Of course this doesn’t tell you how well particular parties did, but it’s worth reporting that the “Other” number rose by 4.4% and citing the FOCUS numbers which show that support for below-threshold parties actually did not change systematically during the same period (9.0% in May, 12.5% in June, 10.2% in August), meaning that a large share, of not all of the 4.4% probably went to Most-Hid.

Total cost of these important details: one phone call and/or 2 minute 3o seconds of addition and subtraction.

If this lack of effort applies in this specific area, it’s probably also true in areas where I do not read.  It’s time for Slovaks to demand better journalism.