The Viability Gap

One more brief post on an issue separate from (but perhaps closely related to) the question of populism and its routinization.  As graphs of party support show (xxx), Slovakia’s party scene has divided itself into three distinct groupings when measured in terms of popular support:  Smer, in a league by itself; a cluster around 10% and another cluster around 2%.  The last several months have seen the largest difference between the smallest viable party and the largest non-viable party in a very long time, as this graph shows (see a bigger version here):

Measured in raw terms, the average gap has risen significantly in the past five years:

The actual gap for September 2007 was 7.8, (between KDH’s 9.6 and HZD’s 1.7) the highest for which I have records.  An astonishing 95.9% of UVVM poll respondents preferred an electorally viable party whereas as recently as 2002 this number hovered between 80% and 90%. 

I cannot easily assess what this means for the future because I do not have corresponding data for the strength of individuals’ party support and their willingess to change, but for the moment Slovak voters seem to have consolidated their choices around six options.  The current small parties–KSS, HZD, ANO and SF–may find this an insurmountable barrier; if another party is to cross the 5% line, it is likely to be an altogether new party, but I suspect that will depend on internal politics within the current viable parties, particularly Smer.

September Polls and Populism

I am late posting the Slovakia’s September polling numbers (October should be out already, actually, but the news has not yet arrived in my inbox), though given the current stability, we could just as well rely on polls from last month (or, indeed, last year). 

Smer shows a 4 point drop in UVVM polls from two months ago (and only the second time in recent memory it has shown drop for two successive months) but this still represents only 10% of its overall support and takes it back down only to its levels of about a year ago.   When the party took power in the summer of 2006, I firmly expected that it would follow the pattern of other "new" parties of the Baltics (New Union, Res Publica, New Era) and Balkans (Simeon II) and drop quite rapidly.  It has obviously not done so, and in the tradition of retrospective explanation of error, I have been trying to explain why the party has remained popular.  The economy has a lot to do with it, I suspect, as has the government’s ability to avoid major scandal.  I suspect that it also has to do with Smer’s own success in becoming (or appearing to become) a different kind of party than it was when it was founded. 

As part of this effort, I have begun to pay more attention to the concept of populism, a term that I have in the past dismissed as too normative and too weakly defined.  I still reserve a high degree of skepticism, but I am now willing to accept that the term can be useful, if defined within relatively narrow parameters.  I am particularly partial to the definitions offered by Cas Mudde, Margaret Canovan and Kurt Weyland (and, most recently, their operationalization by Petr Ucen) which focus on a specific combination of programmatic appeal (anti-elite, anti-corruption), political style (idiosyncratic, moralistic) and political organization (leader-driven, low-institutionalization).  It may be  that the term "populism" itself is too polluted to be useful and that we should instead develop alternative concepts that capture the same characteristics, but for the moment I am willing to consider using the term. 

I recently published a brief chapter on the subject through the Slovak Institute for Public Affairs, and I have made a few presentations on this general topic in the past year and thanks to a new slideshare account, I post the most recent of those here:
(You can view it online, but inconsistencies among fonts mean that will look better if you download it directly:
I will be presenting a variation of this at next month’s AAASS conference in New Orleans and would be extremely happy for any thoughts or other feedback.

For those who are interested in the topic, I also want to post a variety of articles that I have used in the preparation of the papers and presentations:

August polls show stability. But what does that mean?

Polling numbers for August are in:

This month we’ve got polling results from two sources: the monthly UVVM and, for a change, MVK, which only occasionally publishes results during non-campaign periods.  The UVVM shows almost no change from last month (which is normal); the MVK is fairly consistent with UVVM, showing somewhat lower support for Smer, SNS, HZDS and KDH and somewhat higher support for SDKU and SMK.  In this it bears somewhat more resemblance to past results from FOCUS, but unfortunately we don’t (yet) have FOCUS results for this month (and we may not since FOCUS often takes August off).

The overall picture is simple.  A traffic jam of 5 parties around the 10% mark with Smer cruising high above.  This is no different from last month.

The lack of change may be significant. It is, of course, important not to read too much into fluctuations (or absence thereof) from monthly polls (in the last year SMK’s support has fluctuated between 9% and nearly 12% despite an essentially fixed voting population).  The absence of a much change in August, however, is noteworthy since the leading government party, Smer, faced its first clear scandal during this period in the form of an employment ministry subsidy to a firm that formerly employed the current minister herself, despite the firm’s arrears in other payments to the social insurance system.  While not the kind of thing that brings down governments, the media coverage of the issue raised the coverage of clientelism–even Fico used the word in his denial.  Timing is important here, since news of the scandal emerged on August 4, near the end of MVK’s polling period, but at the middle of UVVM’s.  It may be that this kind of news actually takes a few days of accusation-trading to develop some legs and to affect the marginal voters, but it’s still interesting that even then the effect on Smer was 0.2 percentage points (though of course there could have been a greater drop that was disguised by a coincidental survey error in a positive direction).  Is the absence of a cliff-hanger itself a form of cliff-hanger?  Tune in in September.

Social Networking and Citizenship (Part 1 of … many)

Preliminary research at MSU by Ellison, Steinfield and Lampe  ( suggests Facebook works in Granovetter’s realm of weak ties.  This is good news for social capital (though the concept itself undergoing major reconceptualization).  The question is whether this can amount to something other than mere capital accumulation by the already-well-resourced.

Geography, belonging and GIS

I am not enthusiastic about the day-to-day gameplay of most sports but I am fascinated by the economics and sociology of sport and so I was delighted to see a blog that I like–strange maps ( post the following picture of what is apparently a Nike
store display map.



Without getting too serious about this or attempting to dispute actual boundaries (for that, see the strangemaps blog discussion) I find the map interesting for a few reasons:

  • Geographic Data Gathering: It is interesting to compare the ways in which this map resembles–and differs from–the wonderful attempt by Michael Baldwin to use individual level data to make similar maps in his CommonCensus Sports Project.  It’s also interesting to see how it compares with the MLB Blackout map on the GIS Pilot Blog (which is itself worth a visit).  What is unclear is the source from which Nike and MLB derive their data (I haven’t done a point for point comparison).  CommonCensus certainly has found an innovative and low-cost method for gaining the info (and there are probably better-funded successors out there of which I am not aware).   Nice to see that one guy with a website can single-handedly (with the help of a lot of interested people) produce such a wealth of information.  As long as the net continues to function this seems the way we’re all heading.
  • Affiliation and Loyalty in Virtual Networks: It occurs to me that sports fan communities share a lot of the characteristics of more recent virtual networks, particularly from the perspective of membership.  As in Second Life or Facebook, sports fandom (or any other fandom) is easy to join, episodic and, usually (except perhaps for playoff races and big games) allows for low-intensity participation and ease of exit.  I haven’t thought enough about this, but it seems that being part of one of the virtual networks is a lot like going to a ball game or going to a bar to watch a game.  There may be some close friendship networks (going to the game or bar with a few close friends) but for the most part the interactions are fairly anonymous and place relatively low demands on the participant without a lot of reciprocal obligation.   I’m sure somebody out there has done great work on sports fandom and citizenship, and it would be great to see if any of that work translates across to electronic networks.

My typing here, however, is getting ahead of my thinking.  And at a certain level I post this here just because I like the maps (and because I like seeing three similar maps each probably derived from different data sources).

Slovakia Public Opinion Resources

I have just posted my archive of public opinion polling resources for Slovakia from 2002 to the present on a google spreadsheet:

In an ideal world, the producers of Slovakia’s opinion data would themselves provide a service of this sort (and FOCUS has come close) but since this does not seem immediately forthcoming, it is easy for me to do it here.  As an aggregator, furthermore, I have the advantage of being able to compare multiple polls to one another, which individual providers may not be willing or able to do.

In addition to the general archive listed above, the archive has two pages that are designed for quick review:

A year-in-review page showing developments since the 2006 parliamentary election

An at-a-glance review of the current status and the most recent three months, including explicit comparisons of results from various polling firm.

The spreadsheet contains graphs and tables tracking the following:

Share of party support:

Share of seats (if elections were held today):

Share of bloc support:

My hope is to update this spreadsheet on a monthly basis (or more frequently as polling data becomes available). 

The Rebirth of Pozorblog, Mark II

The coming year on this blog promises to be a more active one. The reasons are all good in their own right:

  • Google spreadsheets has finally added a graph function which permits the development of a useful on-line archive of Slovak public opinion resources.
  • Fulbright has been generous enough to grant us six months in Bratislava. In return, I have promised to disseminate findings, speculations and impressions via this blog (among other places)
  • A Wayne State “citizenship and technology” initiative has added a new area of focus to my work and for which this kind of page is essential.

Future posts will contain more on each of these.

Joke Blog?

If there are any readers left, I apologize to them for the
hiatus. Life has intervened and every
day away makes the return a bit harder (and so I learn the hard way lessons
that are to be had for free from anybody who does this with any regularity). But banalities get us nowhere. A subsequent post will address some public
opinion and polling related questions—what this blog is really for—but there
are a few others that I wanted to post in the meantime

 First, two items sent to me by long ago Martin Butora,
now dated by my delinquence, but still displaying Martin’s consistent eloquence:

Second, a clever but
contentious pictoral joke. Its
interpretation depends not only on what readers think of Fico, but what they
think of Benedict XVI.


It is notable, by
the way, that as of the week before the election, there were surprisingly few
Fico jokes to be found online, especially compared to a significant number
about Dzurinda and an overwhelming number about Meciar. Either Fico is not funny or politicians in Slovakia only
become joke-worthy once in power. If the
latter—which I strongly suspect—then the coming months should bring some good
new material (and recycling of old jokes, one of them will inevitably have the
punchline, “God doesn’t think he’s Fico.” (For jokes from a previous era, see:

Third, Fico himself
made a joke reference in a recent news conference, but in an unexpected way, and one that was uncharacteristically (and therefore probably unintentionally) self-deprecating: 

Fica kritizujú za Líbyu, ten sa

, 24.2.2007
BRATISLAVA Fico tvrdí, ze na stretnutí s najvyssími líbyjskými
predstavitelmi bulharské sestricky podporil. Podla neho sa niektorí novinári na
Slovensku správajú ako rádio Jerevan, lebo "ja poviem, ze sa rozdávali
bicykle, a vy poviete, ze sa kradli autá". Vcera po kritike Fico uz o
zdravotníkoch hovoril ako o obvinených a nie o páchateloch.

In the form of the joke that I collected years ago, Radio Jerevan
is asked whether the government is giving away autos in Red Square in Moscow and
Radio Jerevan answers, "In principle, yes, only not Moscow but Leningrad, not
Red Square but the banks of the Neva, not autos but bikes, and they’re not
being given away but being stolen" Many
thanks to Sharon Fisher for finding the following, quite similar Slovak version:   

Otázka na radio Jerevan: "Je
pravda, že každý návštevník Cerveného námestia v
Moskve dostane auto?"
Odpoved: "V princípe áno. Avšak nejedná sa o Cervené námestie v Moskve,
ale o
námestie Gorkého v Kijeve. Tiež sa nejedná o autá, ale o bicykle. A nie sú
rozdávané, ale kradnuté."

This means not only that Fico has made the rather minor
mistake of switching bicycles and cars, but also that he has put himself in the
position of those (i.e. the Soviet state) who claim to be giving things away
and the reporters in the position of those who are actually telling the
unfortunate truth.

Slovakia’s Coalition: Second time as farce?

In lieu of an in-depth comment for the moment, I will post here an annotated version of the powerpoint that I presented at the Woodrow Wilson Center on Thursday.  It is a bit rough, as circumstances suggested an entirely new presentation rather than the one on "Voting for Thugs" that I had planned to give.  So without further ado (which will come later):

Kevin Deegan-Krause, Second Time As Farce: Slovakia’s 2006 Elections in Comparative Perspective, Woodrow Wilson Center, Washington DC, 29 June 2006.
Download woodrow_wilson_center_presentation_revised.ppt

Post Election Thoughts: National Endowment for Democracy

Before I get on to the big news, I must offer apologies for the delay in a variety of posting which I will try to do over the next few days. I had the good fortune this week of presenting my thoughts about the election outcome to a variety of audiences in the capital and to responding to some of the brightest thinkers on these questions, particularly Grigorij Meseznikov, president of the Institute for Public Affairs ( In fact our Wednesday roundtable at the National Endowment for Democracy was interrupted by the news of the HZDS-SNS-Smer coalition (just moments, unfortunately, after I gave moderate odds against it). For those who are interested, I attach Grisa’s incredibly thorough treatment of Slovakia’s politics (which he finished before a coalition formed) and my own response, annotated with yellow notes to help explain the more cryptic images and to put it the context of what we know now about the coalition. More on that coalition itself in a the next post, coming soon:

Grigorij Meseznikov,
Assessing Slovakia’s 2006 Parliamentary Elections: Domestic and Regional Implications, International Forum for Democratic Studies, National Endowment for Democracy, 28 June 2006.
Download meseznikov_presentation_zs_very_final.ppt

Kevin Deegan-Krause,
Realms of Uncertainty, Stability and Instability in Slovakia’s Politics: Comments on the Presentation of Grigorij Meseznikov,
International Forum for Democratic Studies, National Endowment for Democracy, 28 June 2006.
Download meseznikov_presentation_deegan_krause_revised_comments.ppt