Dashboard News: Polls again, for what it’s worth

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

The results are on the dashboard but here’s a quick overview

Post-Game Show 2010: Interview with the Spectator

I have been traveling and working on other projects and so have not had time to post a coherent post-election review, and I may not have time to do that until tomorrow, so in the meantime I will attach here a record of interview I did with the ever-capable Michaela Stankova of the Slovak Spectator.  Sitting here in Detroit writing about Slovakia, I think that I am more properly called a spectator than she,  but here are my answers to her excellent questions:

What were the most surprising moments for you in the election results? Was there anything completely unexpected?

I did not expect how inaccurate the final week of polling numbers, and I was especially surprised by the difference between the exit polls and the final results: 6-7% difference between polls and reality for Smer is quite shocking.  Even exit polls are usually are not particularly good at predicting final results, but for both FOCUS and MVK to be so far off and in the same direction suggests a need to rethink polling and especially exit-polling methods, something that has occurred in a variety of countries including my own.  Fortunately, this particular surprising had little consequence except for those prone to extremes of euphoria or melancholy and by 02:00 we could more or less predict the actual composition of the next coalition.  As for the results themselves, I the only real surprise was in the relative percentages obtained by Most-Hid and MKP-SMK, but since I figured that I had no way of knowing how those would come out, there is no result that would not have surprised me in one way or another.

Beyond the election results themselves, the final days of the campaign produced some remarkable moments:  HZDS giving out flour as an election enticement; Fico so concerned about a minor competitor as to brandish a “Don’t vote SDL” sticker; the moment of 00:42 on election night when the updated election returns put HZDS below 5.0 for the first time ever in its history; and my sudden realization around 02:00 that Slovakia would have its first female prime minister, news which my 6-year old daughter greeted with great enthusiasm.

The election turnout was expected to be very low, about 50 percent, yet the actual number hits 59 percent. What’s the reason for this unexpected interest of voters in the elections, in your opinion?

Well the problem is in the expectations rather than the interest.  In my research for our last interview, I found that voting intentions were not running behind 2006 and that in other elections there had been a slight uptick in turnout from the mid-2000s to the late-2000s and so there was few grounds for expecting a sharp decline.  I think that a small share of turnout increase may be related to the emergence of several new parties which perhaps offered some motivation for turning out:  SaS, Most-Hid and SDL between them attracted more than 20% of the vote; it is not to big a stretch to think that without plausible new parties (a condition that prevailed in 2006) some of these voters might have stayed home.

The election results of HZDS has encouraged political analysts and opposition politicians to talk about the ‘end of the Meciar era’. What does the fact that they were left outside the parliament mean for the party’s future?

The day after the 2006 election I plotted out trendlines for the various parties’ parliamentary delegations and found that the trendline for HZDS pointed precisely at 0 in 2010.  I turned this into provocative graph for my blog, but Inever ever expected it to be accurate.  Until about two months ago I figured the party would have enough reserve strength to scrape over the barrier.

Now that HZDS is out of parliament, it will be even harder to reverse that trend (though I don’t expect it to achieve -15 seats predicted by the trendline for 2014).  Three forces work strongly against HZDS in the coming four years: history, demographics, organization.

  • History is not a causal factor but something to take a close look at to determine causes.  With parties almost never return to parliament after dropping below the 5% threshold.  Once out of parliament, parties tend to be forgotten and sink even further or disappear altogether as the examples of ZRS, SOP, ANO, and KSS indicate.  In Slovakia the only major exception I can think of is SNS, which re-formed after its split in 2000 and manged to recover its initial electorate.  In the neighboring Czech Republic the Party of Greens also managed to re-enter parliament after a long hiatus but only as a completely reorganized organization with a new leadership.  HZDS lacks similar quick fixes to problems with its electorate and demographics.
  • Demographics plays a major role in the sense that HZDS already had the oldest electorate in Slovakia’s politics and it was aging at about 1 year per year.  Even if all of its voters stayed loyal–something that obviously did not happen between 2006 and the present–it would still have fewer voters than it does now (and despite the picture of Meciar with a laptop, a party that distributes flour on election-day does not show strong signs of being able to reach out to younger voters).  HZDS also has the oldest leader of any of Slovakia’s major parties.  Meciar will be 72 in 2014 and he is already not the active campaigner and public presence that he once was.
  • HZDS organization will also work against the party’s recovery.  A party with 4.4% might be able to recover to 5%–and both the Party of the Hungarian Coalition in Slovakia and the Christian Democrats in the Czech Republic will be trying to demonstrate their resilience–but not with the same leadership–something that the leadership of MKP-SMK and KDU-CSL recognized in their immediate resignations.   The problem for HZDS is that Meciar has systematically created a party that cannot live without him.  Since every HZDS leadership challenge has ended up with the departure or expulsion of the challenger there is really nobody left in the party.   HZDS and Meciar are inseparable and for that very reason both appear to be without a political future.  As an afterthought, I suppose it is theoretically possible to envision HZDS surviving in some weak form as part of an electoral coalition whose members might share 7%, but right now it is not clear what party would willing to join with it in that effort, and if, as I suspect, HZDS’s poll numbers begin to fall consistently below 3% it would not become a particularly appealing partner.

What is behind the very high result of Smer? Why, on the other hand, did the support for SNS drop?

Let me discuss these in reverse order.  For SNS the results were actually highly consistent with the polls (with the occasional exception of FOCUS and the constant exception of the consistently-errant surveys by Median) which showed a long-term drop toward 5%, motivated I suspect (though I can’t at the moment prove) by the party’s ever-lengthening list of scandal and outrageous remarks.  The question on many minds, I’m sure, is “Why didn’t the affairs surrounding the new Hungarian government” cause its preferences to increase.  I cannot be sure without looking into post-election polling numbers, but the answer may be that these simply did not resonate with voters in the way that they resonated in the media.  Corruption appears to be more tangible and distasteful than statements from Budapest which do not have any clear personal impact for most voters.  The other question is “where did the SNS voters go?”  Here the evidence suggests that as many as 1% of them went to Nase Slovensko, with its even more radical solutions, and that nearly all of the rest either left the electorate or went to Smer.  Voter choice is always relative, and for a voter with a national orientation who nevertheless dislikes Slota or the corruption of his party, Smer is the next best national alternative and less touched by scandal.  This, however, raises the further question of “where did the Smer voters go?”

From one perspective, Smer’s results are “high” only by the standards of the final week of polls, which we now know to be (for reasons unknown) in sharp error.  Leaving aside the final week drop (and the polls of the final week proved in both 2006 and 2010 to make worse predictions than those from a month before) Smer lost more than 10 percentage points from its peaks during 2008.  A variety of experts including Martin Slosiarik at Smer argued at the time that many of these were “soft” supporters who chose Smer as the default option which was in government during a period of economic growth.  The work of Andrew Roberts and others shows that incumbent parties in Central Europe do tend to lose support during periods of economic decline, and many of those softer supporters appear have been affected by increasing unemployment and scandals involving those close to Smer.  Where did they go?  Some simply did not vote, others voted for SDL or KSS (though together not many more than voted for KSS in 2006) and a significant number of the remainder appear (at least in pre-election surveys) to have opted for SaS.  From a purely left-right ideological standpoint this shift seems unlikely, but if voter choice is relative and often non-ideological, then those who simply seek economic opportunity (without having a firm idea of how it should be brought about) and/or seek a cleaner alternative (the role that Smer itself played in 2002 and 2006) then SaS may be a reasonable choice.  (More on this using pre-election data here: http://www.pozorblog.com/2010/06/who-from-whom-slovakia-electoral-shift-roundup/).

Having said all that, I need to point out that Smer not only got the most votes in the election by more than a 2:1 margin but also that it increased its vote share by a sold 5 percentage points over the previous election (and its number of votes by an even greater margin) despite the fact that new parties in government usually lose significant support or collapse completely.  From an electoral perspective, Smer clearly did many things right: it stayed away from the worst of the corruption scandals (perhaps by putting the “ministries of corruption” in the hands of its coalition partners), it took a relatively popular national position without taking it to extremes (though it started to move in that direction in the last year), and it continued to criticize the wealthy and promote redistributive policies (even if many of those were more symbolic than economic).  My question is what happens to Smer now.  It has always been a party that seeks opponents and it will find this easier to do from opposition, but it will face at least three big challenges:

  • First, it managed its increased result with a significant inflow of voters from SNS and HZDS and with rhetoric designed to attract those voters.  It would not surprise me if the Smer electorate has not now moved significantly told the older and rural side of Slovakia’s demographic spectrum, ending up where HZDS did in about 1994 or 1996.  This will shape the party’s appeals, as will the weakness of SNS, and it would not surprise me to see Smer move even more fully into the ideological space formerly occupied by HZDS in the late 1990’s of “the (not-as-radical-as-Slota) defender of Slovakia’s national sovereignty.”
  • Second, Smer will be going from government to opposition with a very large parliamentary deputation.  It has been in opposition before and stayed very disciplined, but not with such a large group.  It has had a large delegation before but not without the carrots (and sticks) of parliamentary and government offices.  It will be interesting to see whether Smer can avoid splintering if some deputies, perhaps with savvy media advice and outside financial support, see an opportunity for doing better on their own, particularly if the Smer itself inclines more toward the national appeals.
  • Third, Smer’s own leader may be torn about what to do in 2014.  Since 2008 I have heard persistent rumors that Fico would rather be president than prime minister.  Because I work from the presumption that leaders would rather have more power than less, I have always discounted these rumors as either wishful thinking (by Fico’s opponents) or misdirection (by Fico’s supporters) but they have come up so often from so many sides that I sometimes have to wonder.  If it is true that Fico would rather be president than prime minister, he will have his best chance to do so in 2014.  Indeed it is hard to imagine a candidate who could come close to beating him in a one-on-one race, and he will have the advantage of running from opposition without the burden of responsibility for government policies.  My suspicion still is that with those advantages any politician I know would still rather be prime minister than president, but if Fico does opt for the presidency (or even lets his mind wander in that direction), then Smer will need to deal with the tensions among a rather large and diverse group of second-tier politicians–Kalinak, Madaric, Caplovic, Paska, Pociatek, Benova and a few others–who may be looking to step into Fico’s shoes and who may not like it much when one of the others takes the spot.

How do you evaluate the results of the two parties representing the Hungarian minority? Were the results surprising for you?

This one has always been opaque to me, in part because I cannot not read the Hungarian press and because what I read in the Slovak press does not even allow me to pretend to know what is going on in the Hungarian community, and there were no precedents that would have allowed me to build a rough model based on past election data.  In principle I found it highly unlikely that the Hungarian parties would maintain the 55:45 split they needed to both stay viable, but the polls pointed consistently at their near equality.  If we discount OKS, whose preference votes accounted for almost 10% of all Most-Hid’s preference votes, the actual ratio of Most-Hid to MKP-SMK among Hungarians was probably about 7.2 to 4.4, so the final ratio was just a bit above 60:40.  It may be that Bugar’s geniality and moderation were more of an electoral motivator than Csaky’s better organizaiton, but for a better understanding of why 20% more Hungarians favored Bugar’s new party than Csaky’s more established one, I look forward to a thorough and demographically-grounded analysis from Hungarian-speaking experts.

Slovakia Election Update: Gap widens to 79:71

With all but 2 precincts reporting, the gap has widened slightly to give an additional seat to SDKU at the expense of Smer, so a potential SDKU-led coalition would have an 8 seat (i.e. 4 defection) margin.  Other governments have worked with less.

I’m off to bed unless the final precincts come in in the next five minutes.  Tomorrow look for a quick roundup that will include a look at party system size and volatility and a look at the relative success or failure of particular pollsters and other methods (hint: say yes to Polis, MVK, bookies and my own “two months out” model; say no to Median and AVVM.)

Slovakia Election Update: 78:72 opposition victory

It may be possible finally to call the final parliamentary distribution.  Smer has been dropping but at a relatively slow level and with the most recent result it has dropped to 35.4 which by my calculation means 63 seats in parliament.  Add this to SNS’s 9 (about the fewest it is possible to get) and you have 72.   The opposition’s 78 will be divided, as far as I can tell, 27 for SDKU, 22 for SaS, 15 for KDH and 14 for Most-Hid. Amazingly, this is the exact same coalition-opposition ratio as the 2002-2006 Dzurinda government, with the potential for basically the same parties (envision Sulik’s SaS as a 2010 version of Rusko’s ANO) to form a government.  But this one would have a prime minister who is more of a consensus builder (though probably also less likely to crack the whip) and will also lack the more nationally-oriented wing of Slovakia’s Hungarian party spectrum.

And for the first time Slovakia will have a female prime minister.  After years of male-dominance unusual even for central Europe, this would be a welcome change.

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

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

Slovakia Election Update: Deadlocked coalition options at the halfway point.

A quick calculation.  Even at current levels (which include the absence of MKP-SMK, which is looking increasingly likely), a Smer-SNS coalition would have just barely enough to sustain a majority.  If Smer loses even 4 points from its current level (down to 34%) or Smer loses 3% and SDKU gains 1%, then Smer loses its ability to form a government with SNS.  The final result may not be as resounding a victory as the exit polls suggested, but it still bodes fairly well for the current opposition (except, maybe, MKP-SMK).

Slovakia Election Update: Trends in the early returns

With 35% of precincts in, Smer is still in a commanding lead with 37% that is way above what the exit polls predict, while SDKU is considerably short of the predicted 18% (in the FOCUS poll) and MKP-SMK well short of the 5% threshold at 3.2%.  But we need to take the process of reporting into account.  This year’s trends look like those of 2006 only a bit sharper, as the graphs below show.  These are a bit misleading as the trendlines invariably smooth out toward the horizontal.  Draw these into curves and you get Smer above the predicted 29 but not by much.  SMK is the only one whose current trendline does not look like what the exit polls predict.  This is just a preliminary look.  (Smer in orange, SDKU in dark blue,  Sas in turquoise, Most in gold, SNS in dark green, HZDS in brown, MKP-SMK in bright green, SDL in pink.  More soon.

Slovakia Election Update: How to read the early results

In a few hours (22:00 CET, 4pm  ET) the papers and TV stations will fall all over themselves to present early results based on exit polls (unless they ignored the lesson that STV learned the hard way in 2006: even the most elaborate large-sample pre-election survey is not the same as an exit poll).  About an hour later, results will begin to trickle in and then turn into a torrent.  Both of these allow just enough data to make a prediction about the final result.  Those with any common sense will go to a movie or find something else to do until about 0:30 CET/6:30 PM ET when there may be enough data to make a final call (though in an election as close as this one, that may not be enough time), but there is probably not anybody that sensible still reading this blog.  So if you want to make a guess about the final from the exit polls or from the early results, here is what to do:

How to guess  from the exit polls:

Don’t, especially for close races (like whether Most-Hid and HZDS are above the threshold).  Exit polls are better than other kinds of polls but they are far from perfect.  Below you can find two charts with exit poll results and actual results, one for Slovakia in 2006 and one for the Czech Republic just two weeks ago in May 2010.  They are remarkably similar in their overall results:  the average difference between exit polls and actual results for the eight top parties in each is about 0.7 or 0.8 and as high as 2.0 even for medium-sized parties.  This translates into differences up or down of as much as 20%, especially (but not exclusively) for the smaller parties.  If we could assume that the 2010 difference would resemble that of 2010, then I think we could make a better prediction from exit polls, but except for SNS (whose voters might not be able to quite admit their choice to a bunch of young exit pollsters), I am not sure how this year’s exit polls will differ from results.  Of course if HZDS scores 7.2% or SMK-MKP scores 3% we can be fairly sure of those parties final position vis a vis the exit polls, but I don’t expect this.

Country Party Exit Poll Results Exit Poll Raw Error Exit Poll Percentage Error
Slovakia 2006 Smer 27.2 29.1 -1.9 -7%
SDKU 19 18.4 +0.6 +4%
SNS 9.6 11.7 -2.1 -18%
HZDS 8.6 8.8 -0.2 -2%
SMK 11.8 11.7 +0.1 +1%
KDH 8.6 8.3 +0.3 +3%
KSS 4.7 3.9 +0.8 +21%
SF 3.8 3.5 +0.3 +10%
Average (absolute value) 0.8 8%
Country Party Exit Poll Results Exit Poll Raw Error Exit Poll Percentage Error
Czech Republic 2010 Average (absolute value) 0.8 8%
CSSD 19.5 22.08 -2.6 -12%
ODS 20 20.22 -0.2 -1%
TOP09 17.5 16.7 +0.8 +5%
KSCM 10.5 11.27 -0.8 -7%
VV 11 10.88 +0.1 +1%
KDU 4.5 4.39 +0.1 +3%
SZ 3 2.44 +0.6 +23%
Suverenita 3 3.67 -0.7 -18%
Average (absolute value) 0.7 9%

So take a sip of  the exit polls, roll them around your mouth, and spit them back and wait for the full glass.

How to guess from early results

I was surprised not to see this done in 2006 (or in the Czech Republic two weeks ago), but maybe I missed it.  It should be possible to use the patterns of voting returns from 2006 to help make predictions from early results.  In my 2006 live-blogging of the election I actually took snapshots of the results as they came back over time, and I hope to use these tonight to make a better guess.  Because the speed of election returns has to do with the size and rurality of precincts, some parties early returns were higher or lower than the final by a significant amount, as the graph from 2006 shows:

Parties with more rural electorates–KDH in light blue, HZDS in brown–tended to decline as the larger urban precincts began to report later in the process (Smer declined as well, though its urban-rural share was about average).  More urban parties–SDKU and SF in particular–tended to increase.  SNS and MKP-SMK, with concentrations in middle-sized towns did not change much (though this year things will be different at least for MKP-SMK which has lost much of its urban electorate to Most-Hid and should more closely resemble KDH and HZDS, with a declining trendline).

Because parties characteristics with regard to such factors changes quite slowly, this should actually provide a fairly stable source of data that would allow us to use the 2006 data to adjust the 2010 early returns (though I will also be testing the trends from 2010 against those of 2006 as they happen to see if they truly are consistent.)  In any case, if 2006 serves as a good guide, here is a matrix to calculate the “actual result.”  Search for party and the number of precincts returned at any given time and multiply the result of your party by the percentage listed.

Party Adjustment factor: Multiply party score by percentage below to get better predictions of actual results
Number of precincts reporting
1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 5800 5900
Smer 92% 95% 96% 97% 98% 100% 100%
SDKU 123% 109% 105% 105% 104% 101% 100%
SNS 100% 100% 100% 101% 101% 100% 100%
MKP 109% 109% 108% 100% 96% 99% 100%
HZDS 92% 99% 101% 101% 102% 101% 100%
KDH 94% 96% 96% 98% 101% 100% 100%
KSS 89% 94% 97% 98% 99% 100% 100%
SF 118% 105% 102% 103% 102% 100% 100%

I will try to do this on the blog, but feel free to try it at home.  It would not surprise me if the Slovak press has something like this in store  (though I have occasionally criticized them for their use of polls, Slovakia’s journalists have been fairly good at adopting new methods if they will give them a leg up on the competition.

I make no promises for this model any more than for the exit poll adjustment, but  those who have not done the sensible thing and simply ignored the whole thing until final results are in will probably appreciate the entertainment value.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Slovakia Election Update: Pictures worth at least 300 words

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

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

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

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

Opposition party support, smoothed