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 Dashboard News: May Polis Poll Closely Follows Trends

Today’s Czech election (and tomorrow’s Eurovision song contest) are the big news (except that Slovakia and the Czech Republic failed to make it into the final yet again) but there’s actually no actual news just yet, so there’s time for a brief comment on reports of today’s Polis poll in Slovakia.  I still wonder about the viability of telephone polls like that of Polis, but to the extent that the firm did fairly well last time in its prediction and tends to follow the same trends as all of the other pollsters (except Median), I am willing to give it a certain amount of credit and build it into my averages.  Polis just released a poll conducted between May 15 and May 20 with a fairly large sample.  Here’s what we see:

Polis’s 34% for Smer is the lowest score the party has received in any major poll in the last two years, but Polis tends to under-poll for Smer, at least compared to the others.  The patterns, however, are extremely consistent:  Polis, MVK and FOCUS all show nearly identical seven point drops for FOCUS since January and all, including Median, show approximately ten point drops since a year ago.  Why this should be is open to question:  the emergence of SaS (I accidentally wrote VV; Freudian slip) and perhaps a few points to the new SDL and perhaps some last minute hesitation by Smer’s many soft supporters who, as election nears, are now forced actually to consider their vote.    It is important to remember that in the 2006 election Smer actually outperformed final polls, but these are never a good indicator (or more precisely they are sometimes a good indicator but it is difficult to predict when).

Polis also tends to underpoll for SNS–by quite a significant margin–but its trends tend to follow, and it is interesting that after a rise in April in both FOCUS and Polis (large in FOCUS, small in Polis) SNS is in both polls back to levels below its March result, suggesting that the Fidesz boost was short lived.  Of course since the Polis and FOCUS polls were taken, we have a new, and perhaps more significant dual-citizenship question which may help SNS, but Smer is also hitting this hard and may pick up much of that reservoir.

Polis also underpolls HZDS–interesting that it underpolls all three coalition parties, and strong reason never to consider its numbers alone, especially for predicting government composotion–but as with the other parties, Polis numbers do follow basic trends and here they show the same slow slide as all of the others except Median (about which I have commented frequently elsewhere).  There’s not much to see here, but Slovakia’s next goverment may depend on whether its shrinking voting base turns out to vote more than others’.

Overall the current coalition dropped two points in this month’s Polis poll, a smaller amount than in FOCUS (4) or Median (3) but this is perhaps to be expected since Polis starts with a lower baseline for the coalition parties (and so they have less to lose).

Even discounting SDKU’s jump in recent Median polls, both FOCUS and Polis show increases for Polis in April-May, though Polis’s is much larger and to levels not normally seen for this party.  I have some doubts about the magnitude, but (like Smer above) SDKU also tends to perform better than polls in the final election (though this time they have SaS to contend with)

Every single poll shows KDH dropping from a March peak to a lower (but still relatively high) level in May.  The question is not the trend but the magnitude.  Polis, MVK (and Median) show the party between 11 and 12.  FOCUS, by contrast, shows it between 8 and 9.  No data that I have tells me which side of this range the party’s scores actually fall.

SaS follows the same trend in every poll: continued rise in May.  Polis’ jump here is slightly smaller than that of FOCUS (which shows a correspondingly smaller jump for SDKU, so the difference may lie in different measures of supporters of those two parties, or it may not).  The party continues to rise and is not facing the sort of “switcher’s remorse” that we saw for SOP in 1998, for ANO, Smer and HZD in 2002 and for SF in 2006.  At least not yet.

Overall the right shows a point and a half gain in this most recent Polis poll, more or less the same that we saw in FOCUS a week ago and slightly smaller than that of Median.  This trend, too, continues.

Amazingly both Hungarian parties cross the threshold in this poll even though the total Hungarian electorate as measured by this poll is only 10.4.  The actual electorate is probably somewhat larger, so this is good news for Hungarians in Slovakia.  It is amazing that these two parties continue in their head-t0-head duel which maximizes both the potential gain–if both do well–and the potential risk–if one drops only slightly below the threshold.  I frankly never expected the parties to maintain this kind of parity, and whether they can keep it up is the thing that most intrigues me about the upcoming election results.

Dashboard News [Update]: April MVK [and Polis] follows FOCUS on coalition drop and opposition rise.

[A quick note.  Rather than write a new post, I have simply updated Wednesday’s post with results from Polis.  This was easy to do because the Polis results were largely consistent with the others.  Unfortunately this doesn’t mean we have the answers to the key questions:  how do poll numbers translate into votes, and, in particular, what will happen with will the parties around the 5% threshold.  But if it weren’t for these there would be too little suspense.]

When two [three] different polls agree on shifts in most parties it is time to pay attention. The April poll for FOCUS came out last week and this week MVK [and Polis] revealed [their] own (always, to my regret and frustration, with less information than that provided by FOCUS). The movements in both of these polls correspond quite closely, even if they begin from different baselines: Smer, HZDS and KDH down, SaS up, others moving in different directions but not by much. The overall movement of coalition and opposition also agrees fairly closely, with the coalition dropping to some of its lowest levels since the coalition took office almost four years ago, though still likely ahead (despite headlines that “the opposition has caught up to Fico,” it is probably not that simple and it is the small details and narrow margins that will make the difference in what kinds of governments are viable after the election.

As always the numbers are on the Dashboard. The analysis is below:

Both MVK and FOCUS [and Polis] show an almost identical drop for Smer of about 2.5 points from February to April (and with FOCUS the March numbers are not far out of line with that trend). Because MVK begins with a lower baseline, it shows a lower result—35.1–which is in line with MVK’s overall lower result for Smer.  [Polis is between the two at  36.2].  Nevertheless the number is still striking because it is the lowest preference that Smer has received on an MVK poll since the just before the 2006 election (The FOCUS numbers from last week are low by FOCUS averages as well—the third lowest since 2007) [For Polis we do not have such a long baseline of results.].  Why so low? Probably a certain amount of fatigue, accumulation of scandals and problems and, I suspect, a bit of defection to SaS and, this month, to SNS.

FOCUS showed a big jump for SNS in April. MVK also shows a jump, though smaller in magnitude and from a smaller baseline [Polis shows no jump at all and a figure just at the threshold of viability.  SNS has usually polled low in Polis polls, however, so this needs to be taken with some caution]. [The FOCUS and MVK results] puts SNS more safely above the threshold in both of these major polls. How safe is anyone’s guess. It is hard to know how to think about this party’s chances. It’s past levels suggest that it has a decent level of residual support (if not strong organization) and I have been slightly surprised by its low but the years of scandal and extreme behavior by the party leader certainly have pushed it toward the low edge of viablility.

For HZDS the last two months show a drop in both FOCUS and MVK to just above the threshold of viability. [In the Polis poll, the party’s results are stable, but from an already quite low baseline, well below 4%.]  Of course it has been at that level on and off for the last year, and the overall trend has been quite consistently downward. The question is whether that downward trend will overcome the party’s fairly loyal voter base. This one will be close.  [News about Polis polls, whether or not they are accurate, certainly cannot help the party’s chances for persuading voters to choose it over another alternative].

The current coalition shows slightly different patterns in FOCUS and MVK: in MVK the pattern is one of clear decline from the mid-50’s to the mid-40’s.  In FOCUS polls, the drop is much smaller: from mid-50’s to the low 50’s [and Polis shows a result somewhere in-between, from low-50’s to mid-40’s] . It is still unlikely that the coalition seat would drop below 50% off this estimate, unless one of the two smaller coalition parties falls below the 5% threshold.

For SDKU the most recent polls of FOCUS and MVK show a more mixed pattern: in MVK, SDKU dropped a point from February to April but is two points up on its results from January. FOCUS shows the identical pattern but off by a month: in FOCUS polls SDKU dropped a point from March to April but up two points from February. [Polis actually shows SDKU up, suggesting the same sort of random fluctuation within a quite narrow range.] This kind of mapping is probably pointless however. What is clear is that SDKU is fluctuating quite a bit within its normal range and voters themselves are probably fluctuating as well. What is striking is that SDKU has lost so little in the face of a huge rise in SaS which should, in theory, compete for the same voters.

KDH shows almost the identical slow slide in both MVK and FOCUS, dropping about a point over the last two months (and slightly more from earlier polls) to a level around 9%. [Polis shows a slight drop but from a higher initial point.  For KDH it is the range that is unclear–the 9% of FOCUS, the 11% of MVK or the 13% of Polis–while the pattern of slight decline in the most recent months is common to all polls].  Like SDKU, KDH is probably seeing some effects from the rise of SaS: there was always a small cadre of voters who would opt for KDH as an alternative to SDKU. Now they have another alternative.

SaS shows virtually the same jump in both FOCUS and MVK [and only slightly smaller in Polis] and to virtually the same level—around 11.5% [and 9% in Polis, but SaS has tended to lag in Polis polls]. I suspect that some of these voters will, in the final equation, fall back to SDKU or KDH, but for the moment SaS has done well in exciting voters and does not seem to have made any major mistakes.

Hungarian parties. Here is really the only place where the [three] sets of major polls show differences in trend and even then it is only to place them in the same positions. The MVK poll in April is virtually identical to that of February, with MKP-SMK around 6% and Most-Hid around 5%, a result also reached by FOCUS.  [In the Polis poll the numbers for the two parties are stable as in MVK but the percentages are almost precisely are reversed, as in last month’s FOCUS poll, with Most-Hid a point ahead of MKP-SMK, with both ahead of the 5% threshold.]  For a party with weaker organizational basis and history, Most-Hid’s decline to near the threshold [in FOCUS and MVK polls] must be rather worrisome for the party’s leaders, but what will happen here, however, remains extremely difficult to assess.

The current opposition, particularly the right has done well lately. The parliamentary right has dropped somewhat, but not much, and the rise of SaS recently is more than double the combined losses of SDKU and KDH. In fact both FOCUS and MVK show an overall rise for the three parties combined by a significant amount: about [4 points in Polis in the last six months] 6 points in FOCUS and about 8 points in MVK. This was a fairly predictable outcome, I think, as the campaign and the emergence of new parties gave the right a stronger focus and pushed at the relatively soft electoral support for the current government (exemplified by Radicova’s ability to reach near parity with Gasparovic in 2009). The ability of these parties to form a government is still a longshot, but these numbers probably better reflect the overall composition of opinion in Slovakia’s society (keeping in mind that some of the SaS support, I suspect, is not from the ideologically “right” but from dissatisfied “new party” support which had previously gone to Smer.

But the threshold will still be the key determinant.

Dashboard News, March 2010: Stability despite overblown headlines; the importance of thresholds

No time to do a thorough post right now but a Polis came out yesterday and FOCUS came out today. Click the Dashboard above for the graphs.  Here are few thoughts:

  • Smer.  Both polls show the party slightly down but not by much.  The party has averaged between 38 and 41 for the last 6 months.  It is now on the low side of that but there are no signs of either a precipitous drop or a recovery.  Of course it will all depend on the likelihood of the “soft” Smer voters (of whom there are probably quite many) to go and vote.
  • SNS.  Polis shows a further drop to just above the threshold (but Polis has usually polled low for SNS compared to the others).  FOCUS shows it holding steady around 6%.  It probably does hang just above the threshold and its future may depend on an unlikely combination of Orban and Meciar.  We all know Orban is going to win but the tone of the campaign could help SNS a bit; if Meciar begins to fall repeatedly below the threshold, some voters might also shift to the next nearest “national” party, which is SNS.  There is still some degree of reciprocity between the voters of these parties, as with KDH and SDKU.
  • HZDS. Polis again shows it below the threshold, but Polis has usually polled low for HZDS.  FOCUS shows it with 5.2, the firm’s lowest result for the party since summer of last year.  Together these produce an average of 4.9 and so HZDS does not appear on this month’s roster of parliamentary parties.  Of course the upcoming Median survey will put the HZDS average back above the threshold, so there will not appear to be much of a change, but HZDS is clearly on the brink, and a drop like that of summer 2009 (and from a lower starting point) could knock the party out, especially if the April and May polls show it low and a few voters start to balk.
  • SDKU. Polis shows a drop from a high point; FOCUS shows a rise from a low point.  It is somewhere between 13% and 15%.  FOCUS, in particular, has shown a yo-yo, alternating between over 14 and under 12 since Fall.  Of course SDKU has been a bit of a yo-yo, with scandal followed by recovery.  Next month will help show whether the recovery shown by FOCUS is a “Radicova” bonus or just noise.
  • KDH.  In typical fashion the headline writer at the paper SME trumpeted KDH surpassing SDKU (along with a picture of Dzurinda pulling out a chair for Figel–they have pictures of elites interacting that serve every possible combination of events), but of course it probably doesn’t mean anything.  Polis puts KDH at a record high (and SDKU a bit low).  FOCUS puts KDH slightly higher.  Since FOCUS tends to poll slightly low for KDH and Polis tends to poll slightly high, the story–not one worthy of headlines–is KDH slightly up.
  • SaS.  Very little SaS news this month but that in itself is news:  FOCUS and Polis both show the party slightly down from last month, suggesting that Feburary may have been its peak.  A pre-election peak is a natural near-inevitability and is assisted by the election of Radicova to head the SDKU campaign during this period.  Watch what happens next here.   From the party’s position, the good news is that its peak and the resulting visibility is fairly high, permitting the party to sustain some losses.
  • Most-Hid and MKP-SMK. Both FOCUS and Polis show both parties slightly up, which seems unlikely in reality but which may be noise or a reaction to Hungarian-Slovak disputes.  In any case, MKP-SMK stands rather close to the threshold–too close for its comfort, I’m sure–but holds the organizational base, while Most-Hid stands higher but with a weaker voting base.  Either (but probably not both) could fall below the threshold… which brings me to a final thought.

The Importance of Thresholds.
As is to be expected these days, the Pravda headline writer announced yesterday, “Yet another poll shows opposition victory; HZDS remains below the line.”  And that is correct, as far as it goes.  The problem is “yet another” in this case means “yet another from the same polling firm” which is less surprising and that this firm has traditionally polled low for HZDS.  This is not to say that HZDS is not in trouble, but the lack of analysis is, as usual, unfortunate.  The really interesting point here–one which I do not blame newspaper writers for covering just yet–is that many parties are near the threshold and a .1% difference may shape Slovakia’s next government.  This month is an example.  The opposition and coalition are balanced closely enough that if one party from either side falls below (and there are two parties on each side near the line), it could mean victory for the other.  In the Polis poll dramatized by Pravda, it is HZDS that has fallen below, meaning that its seats get redistributed and Smer loses a partner, pushing it narrowly below the line.  Were HZDS 0.6% higher (7 more respondents in the poll), HZDS would stay above the threshold and the current coalition remains intact.  Such a small difference is not detectable by polls (even if we could get a perfectly representative sample and perfectly predict turnout behavior, it is still well within the margin of error).

It is also worth noting that an equally slight difference in SMK would put that party below the threshold and make it impossible for an “opposition” government, even if HZDS also fell below.

I hope to post more on threshold math in the near future.  Some preliminary calculations appear near the end of the Slovak Politics in a Nutshell post.

Dashboard News: Telling the Wrong Story in the Slovak Press

Dashboard NewsSometimes it pays to stop and think before sitting down to write.  Every major Slovak daily yesterday reported on the results of the February poll by the firm FOCUS.  And every one told the same story.

Unfortunately, that story is wrong in two significant ways.

  • First, the decline of SDKU started long before Smer attacks. As the data shows ( nearly every poll shows the party declining steadily from a peak in early-mid 2009.
  • Second, the decline of SDKU did not (yet) accelerate after Smer attacks. We only have two polls for the post attack period–Polis focus sdku 2010and Focus–and both show SDKU within 0.2 percentage points of its December levels.  The appearance of a steep drop was created not by unusually low results for SDKU in the February FOCUS poll but rather by unusually high results for the party in the January poll.  FOCUS can’t really use this as an explanation lest they undercut their own polling methodology (though some noise is simply part of the business), but as the red arrow in the graph below shows, January stands /way/ out.  As the blue arrow shows, FOCUS’s December and February results (and November as well) stand in an extremely relatively narrow band.  Of course the scandal may still hit home, but there is very little in the available data to suggest that it had any effect.

The story is right in one way, but even that is misleading.

  • There something of a reciprocal relationship between SaS and SDKU support
    SDKU’s decline is certainly related to the rise of SaS.  Except for that one month, Focus has shown a steady decline for SDKU from around 16 to around 12.  Polis has shown a decline from around 18 to around 14 (but interestingly did not show a decline for February when the scandals hit).  MVK has shown a decline from around 15 to around 9 (from a poll that emerged /before/ the Dzurinda scandal).  This is almost perfectly parallel with the rise of SaS.  The scandal may contribute to an SDKU decline in the long run but it is one that was already occurring because of the emergence of a relatively plausible non-Dzurinda pro-market party.  And of course the scandal may also indirectly contribute to an SDKU revival if it shifts the face of the party to somebody who is not connected to Dzurinda.
  • …But the tradeoff is not zero-sum.  SaS is also finding other supporters. sk bloc vote roughThe most interesting thing about the SDKU-SaS relationship (along with KDH) is that support for these three “right” parties has actually seen a significant collective rise over recent months, as the highlighted portion of the graph shows.  It would appear that SaS has helped to bring new voters into the mix and re-energize some disillusioned SDKU voters (and Figel’s new energy in KDH has helped a bit as well.  So as long as all three parties remain above the threshold, this is a welcome step for Slovakia’s opposition parties.  It is interesting that Slovakia’s right has only been able to attract above 25% when there has been a third right party other than KDH and SDKU (specifically ANO and later SF) (The same dynamic incidentally applies in the Czech Republic with the Christian Democrats, ODS and a non-ODS right wing party–ODA, then US, then SZ then TOP09).

Finally, the graphs that demonstrate the positive contribution of SaS to the Slovak “right” also demonstrates another story that has gone largely unreported in the Slovak press because it’s development has been more gradual:

  • The most significant shift has been the decline of ethnic Slovak national parties. sk bloc vote smoothThe same graph here, smoothed using the LOESS technique (thanks to Charles Franklin of for the advice and Jon Peltier of for the Excel add-in) shows this in high relief.  Perhaps the smoothing is a bit too great for comfort here but the patterns are not different from those of the month-by month graph: until mid 2008 Slovakia experienced a fairly stable pattern of increase by the “left” and slight declines by the “right,” and the Slovak and Hungarian national blocs; in mid-2008 this began to change, first with sharper declines by the Slovak national parties followed by recovery by the Slovak right (likely thanks to Radicova in the spring and SaS in the fall) and recovery by the Hungarians (thanks to the emergence of Most-Hid, though if it fails to get into parliament or pushes SMK out it will prove to be a highly mixed blessing) and most recently by a reversal of the left as the party dropped from its early 2009 peak.  I suspect that these trends are leveling out more than the graph would suspect but the smoothing does help to take out some of the monthly noise (see above) and help us figure out what’s going on.  More on that in the coming ppp posts.

Dashboard News: Polis polls, party death and party birth

DashboardWhile I will still make quasi-monthly blog posts about new polls, I have now integrated those results into the “dashboard” above and so when the changes are minor, I’ll simply refer to what can be found in the dashboard.  

This week there are a few recent news of moderate interest (though with that build-up you’ve probably already stopped reading):

  • Polis polls confirm trends in other polls. Polis’s February poll came out today.  With the end of UVVM polls, both Median and Polis have gotten more serious about publicizing monthly polling results.  As with Median, there are reasons for not taking Polis too seriously in itself: with Median, the problem is with the question, which does not offer options to voters but requires them to fill in the answer, potentially hurting smaller and newer parties whose names voters might have forgotten; with Polis the problem is the sample, which unlike most other polls in Slovakia is phone based (on which more later).  But while we cannot necessarily look to Polis’s results for an answer, we can profit from paying attention to its trends.  And in this case Polis’s trends nicely echo those of most other surveys:
    • drops for KDH and SDKU and increase for SaS;
    • drops for SNS and HZDS and slight rise for Smer;
    • stabilization for MKP-SMK and Most-Hid.

The reciprocal relationship among party votes continues to occur  within the three blocs, with SaS and Smer the current beneficiaries.

  • Polis polls show the strong position of the current coalition. It is notable that even if the Polis results were likely predictors of the electoral results and even though they are about as strong as the current opposition could possibly expect–one of the current coalition parties out (HZDS) and all of the on-the-margin opposition parties in (SaS, MKP-SMK, Most-Hid)–the current coalition would still have a 78-72 majority, underlining the problems of creating a non-Smer coalition.  Only with SNS below the threshold and HZDS below the threshold or lured by the current opposition is it possible currently to envision a non-Smer government taking office in 2010. It has not been until early this year that I have given serious thought to the chance that SNS might fall short–it was doing quite well until last year but its current quite steep slide does not bode well for the party, and the party itself does not have much of an organization to fall back on in hard times.  Still, the party has a leader (whose supporters apparently care relatively little about corruption and all manner of scandal) and an issue: Hungary.  That issue is not going away, especially when Slovakia’s news media can today run headlines saying: “Orban thinks we have a complex.”
  • Parties die, Part 1. This week reported about a merger between Slobodne Forum, Liga, and Obcanski Kandidati.  Since Liga has never gone anywhere and OK has not even shown up on polls, this doesn’t much help Slobodne Forum which is suffering itself from the rise of the other new party in its issue space, SaS.   It also doesn’t mean much for Slovakia’s politics, but it ever so slightly thins the ranks.
  • Parties die, Part 2. Ivan Gasparovic’s HZD is merging with Smer.  This, too, does not mean much since HZD had not exceeded 1% in polling averages since September but it also slightly simplifies the situation.  It is also a bit ironic for me since in 2003 I interviewed Ivan Gasparovic and he told me, rather wearily (and seemingly without any thought of actual success), that he would probably have to run for president simply in order to bring some visibility to his party.
  • Parties are born.  Living up to its established reputation as Slovakia’s main incubator of unsuccessful new parties (see HZD above, along with LU and the less unsuccessful DU and several others), HZDS has given birth to yet another formation: AZEN, the Alliance for a Europe of Nations, this one founded by Milan Urbani, another in a long line of HZDS’s second-in-visibility cast off from his own party.  Given the lateness of the move and Urbani’s relatively low profile and limited appeal, it is unlikely that this party will get very far (it appears not to even have registered before announcing its name).  Given its interesting name, I am reminded of a Buddhist koan.  AZEN is the sound of one voter voting.

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.