With local elections exactly a week away, some pretty important polls were ran in the last couple of days. As you will remember, Slovenia still sports this silly little legal provision prohibiting publishing – but not performing – public opinion polls a week before elections. The provision is being challenged before the Constitutional Court by Dnevnik newspaper and pengovsky hears that the court will probably strike the provision down. But be that as it may, some media are making a point of violating the law on this issue. Mladina weekly did it during the Arbitration Referendum hiatus and Dnevnik did it repeatedly, not in the least because it was the only way to actually submit a constitutional challenge (active legitimation is required to do that), but also because it makes for good copy. As in: whoops, we did something really naughty. What has the world come to, if publishing polls less than a week before elections is naughty. 🙂 It must be said, however, that some polls indeed are naugthy. Or, rather: the analysis of certain polling data is naughty and whoever did it, should be spanked.
Ljubljana. The electoral prize. (photo by pengovsky)
There were two interesting polls about Ljubljana elections this weekend, published by Žurnal24 and Delo dailies. Interesting, because they both came up with more or less the same data. The methodology seems to be a bit different, as Žurnal24 provides percentage of support at the time of the poll, whereas Delo also performs some statistical black art and provides both polling results as well as projection of the final result. Allowing for this, both polls come up with rather similar results especially in the race for the city council. However, both interpretations of polls leave – to put it mildly – a lot to be desired.
As noted, Delo’s poll provides both actual polling data as well as a projection of the final results. According to this poll incumbent mayor Zoran Janković is projected to pick up 66,5 percent of the vote, beating the shit out of, perhaps surprisingly, Mojca Kucler Dolinar of NSi with 11 percent of the vote. Third place would go to SDS’ very own Zofija Mazej Kukovič who is projected to pick up 8,1 percent, thus beating Miha Jazbinšek in the fourth place by a single percentage point. Not at all a promising prospect. Things get more funky on the City Council front. There the List of Zoran Janković is projected to pick up 33 percent of the vote, while Janez Janša‘s SDS is looking to pick up some 17 percent. They’re followed by Social Democrats (10,2 %), DeSUS (9,5%), LDS (8,3%), NSi (4,3%), Zares (3%), The Greens (2,7%), List for Clean Drinking Water (2,3%) and SLS (2%)
Žurnal24’s poll doesn’t do projections and it also deals with a lesser number of candidates, but – published a day before Delo’s poll – the results are similar. In this poll mayor Janković registers “only” 54 percent of support. He is followed by Zofija Mazej Kukovič with 15 percent of support. Third place goes to Mojca Kucler Dolinar with 9 percent and Miha Jazbinšek with 6 percent. Results for the City Council are a bit more in line with Delo’s poll. According to Žurnal24 the List of Zoran Janković enjoys a 31 percent support, followed by SDS with 15 percent and Social democrats with 6 percent.
Knowing jack shit and getting away with it
While the polling data seems to cross-corroborate, analyses in both newspapers show that people who wrote the respective articles know jack shit about the issue at hand. The author of Žurnal24 article thus writes about the possibility of a second round in Ljubljana mayoral race.
Pardon? Zoran Janković scores an ass-whooping 54 percent support, leaving his main rival in the dust with 15 percent and the paper writes about the possibility of a second round? WTF?!? I know that the guy has to pick up 50%+1 vote to win in the first round, but do your homework, goddamit! There’s a 16 percent gap in published results, which (presumably) is divided between the rest of the candidates and the “undecideds”. That’s a lot. Neglecting the fact that the paper didn’t publish the percentage of undecideds, those 16 percent should increase by one quarter (for another four percent) in order for Janković to be forced in the second round. It ain’t happening. But if Žurnal24 thinks their poll could be off by 4% in a race where one candidate has light-years of advantage, they might want to consider changing their pollster.
Speaking of polls being off, Delo doesn’t have the best of track records in Ljubljana either. Four years ago, when Janković’s List won 45% of the vote and thus won an absolute majority in the City Council, Delo’s last poll recorded a meagre 6,5 percent of support for the List of Zoran Janković, while the man himself was just short of the 40 percent mark. Now, presumably Delo’s pollsters got better in the last four years (that’s right, Delo doesn’t outsource public opinion polls, one of the few pluses this paper hasn’t wasted in the past few years) but their analysis still sucks. To their credit, Delo doesn’t have a problem with projecting Janković’s victory in the first round, but their analysis of the City Council vote is about as stupid as they come. Namely, the paper writes that it can very well happen that Janković’s list will have a hard time forming a coalition and may even end up in the opposition.
Exquiz me? Baking powder? You project one group to win a third of the vote and then you say virtually all the other groups in the council, both left and right, will refuse to cooperate and will gang up on the winner? What are you on, ferfucksake. One: do you really see SD, Zares, LDS, the Green party, DeSUS, SDS and SLS joining forces to shut out Janković’s list? And keeping the deal for the next four years? Two: what purpose would that serve? The mayor is not elected (nor can he/she be replaced) by the City Council but directly by the people. He represents the executive branch of the city and will therefore hold office regardless of the balance of power in the council. And three: Even if such a broad front were to be established, it would have no real meaning, as the mayor is not driven out of office for losing a vote, nor are most decisions in front of the council ideological or of a nature that would otherwise demand a vote along position/opposition lines.
Let me state for the record that pengovsky has no problem either with Janković having to go to the second round or with his list being “in the opposition”. If it happens, it happens. However, it my firm belief, based based both in my knowledge as well as experience that both of these projections are false. For the incumbent mayor to go to the second round, all the other candidates would have to receive among them at least 50% of the vote. With the runner up registering only mid-teen numbers, that is about as likely as getting wood while your bladder is still full of cheap beer. Ain’t gonna happen. Ditto for the city council.
However, results for the City Council are a bit tricky. 33 percent is a lot. But it still is some way from the 45% treshold which gave Janković an absolute majority. 12 percent ain’t peanuts and if we for the moment consider the polls as more or less accurate it will be mighty difficult for Janković’s list to make up for the difference in the five days remaining. But… (there always a butt involved)… Pengovsky noted time and again that voter turnout and vote dispersal will be crucial in the final tally.
Out of some 270,000 Ljubljanchans, about 224,000 are eligible to vote. With an estimated voter turnout of 62 percent (as per Žurnal24 article), the number of votes against which the final results are calculated drops down to 139,000. Furthermore, the percentage needed to win one seat in the City Council historically revolves around 2 percent. Anything below that are votes counted, but lost. And this is where the fun starts. If we accept Žurnal24’s predicition of voter turnout, Delo’s prediction of election results and historical threshold data, we can conclude following:
Of 139,000 votes cast, some eight percent or 10,800 votes will get lost to lists ranking below 2 percent threshold (2 percent equalling approximately 2700 votes). This will in turn increase the number of seats won by more successful lists and parties. With the data at hand this puts the List of Zoran Janković closer to their stated goal of again winning and absolute majority, but it doesn’t take them all the way. By that same pattern we should see some gains by SDS and SD, possibly even DeSUS and LDS. The further down the list we go, the less effect this quirk in the proportional voting system has.
As things stand now, Janković’s List is poised to win some 19 seats (thus losing four), SDS is to win 9 seats (gaining one), Social Democrats have their sights on five seats (gaining one), DeSUS is looking at five seats as well (a staggering four-seat gain), whereas LDS is set lose a seat and end up with four. The remaining three seats should go to Zares, The Green Party and the List for Clean Drinking Water.
Pengovsky thinks this will not stand. The thing that stands out like a sore thumb is a huge four seat gain by DeSUS. There’s no particular reason why this should be so other than the fact that the party is playing harball on the national level, trying to prevent a freeze on pensions. But DeSUS has had good polling results just prior to elections before (notably in 2004 and 2008) but got a bit of a cold shoulder on voting day. Pengovsky thinks this is likely to happen again.
Also, the List for Clean Drinking Water is suspect as well. True, they made their case opposing the construction of a parking lot below the Central market, but there’s a crowd at that particular issue, with SDS, NSi, SLS as well as The Green Party in the form of Miha ‘Jazby’ Jazbinšek canvasing for votes and there’s not enough to go around. SLS is also problematic, as is Jazby himself, but his ability to land on his feet is astounding.
This Sunday pengovsky projects the List of Zoran Janković the overall winner of the City Council elections, but with 21 seats they will stop just shy of an absolute majority (23 seats of 45). They will be followed by SDS with 10 seats, SD with 5, LDS with 4, DeSUS with 2 and Zares, SLS and the Green party with 1. In the mayoral race, pengovsky projects Zoran Janković winning in the first round with 56 percent of the vote (I placed a wager on this result. A friend says 65 percent).
But still, there are five days of campaign remaining. A lot can happen. A lot will happen. So watch this space. 🙂