Provincial elections in the Netherlands: The left is losing (its) face

European Politics, International Politics, Politics
Election map, the Netherlands, provincial elections 2015

The Netherlands, provincial elections 2015: winning party by municipality

Unprecedented fragmentation, a weakened government that will have to go in search for further allies to keep functioning, and a new record low for the Labour Party. Those were the main features of the outcome of last month’s provincial elections, on March 18, which determined not just the make-up of provincial legislatures but also the Dutch Senate.

Because of the continuing collapse of the Labour Party, the results also constituted the worst performance for the left overall in provincial elections since 1994, while centrist parties — the Democrats ’66, a party for the elderly and various regional lists — did well.

I contributed a rather exhaustive analysis of the election results, with plenty of maps and charts, as guest post to the World Elections blog. Maybe see you there!

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Hungary: the far right Jobbik wins its first ever constituency seat

European Politics, International Politics, Politics

There was a parliamentary by-election today in Hungary, in the seat of Tapolca, which encompasses a swath of the Balaton lakeshore and some of its hinterland, including the towns of Ajka (pop. 29,000), Tapolca (pop. 16,000) and Sümeg (pop. 6,000).

Viktor Orban’s governing, rightwing-populist Fidesz party already lost its two-thirds majority in parliament in February, when it lost a byelection in the neighbouring constituency of Veszprém. That seat was improbably picked up by a libertarian independent with the support of the left-wing opposition parties. A two-thirds majority is important because it allows the government to pass hard-to-repeal, so-called cardinal laws. But if I’ve understood things correctly, it only needs to be two-thirds of present MPs, not two-thirds of the total of elected MPs. So being only one seat short would still leave the government party with some leeway, as long as it’s disciplined enough.

This new by-election provided another chance to make that harder, so it was hard fought. The good news: Fidesz lost the seat. The bad news: it was won by the far-right Jobbik party instead.

Despite cumulative efforts to soften the party’s image, which have sped up recently, Jobbik remains on the hardcore end of European far-right parties, to the point where France’s Marine Le Pen and the Dutch firebrand Geert Wilders refuse to collaborate with them. But with the Fidesz government hemorrhaging support and the left/liberal opposition in perpetual disarray, it’s Jobbik that’s picking up floating voters.

In last year’s general elections, Jobbik won 20.3% of the vote, an even stronger result than the 17% it had won in 2010, when it came from zero. Over the last month or so, three pollsters have pegged its support at 24%; a third one put it at 30%. Meanwhile, they had Fidesz at 35-45%, the left/liberal opposition parties at 11-20%, and the greens at 5-8%.

In that light, the Tapolca result isn’t entirely unexpected, though the party had still been in third place in the constituency in last year’s general elections. This is how the results compare:

Party Result 2015 Gain/loss
Jobbik 35.3% +11.8%
Fidesz 34.4% -8.7%
Socialists/Democratic Coalition 26.3% -1.0%
LMP (Greens) 2.1% -0.9%
Others 2.0% -1.2%

Turnout was some 42%, which is brisk for a by-election, especially in a traditionally low-turnout country like this; in last year’s general elections turnout in this constituency had only been 60%.

The left/liberal candidate only came first in Ajka; the rest of the constituency went for Jobbik (especially Tapolca and surroundings) or Fidesz.

Jobbik leader Gabor Vona called the result a defeat of “arrogance and corruption” and “a historic victory”. He’s right with the historic victory part. Hungary has a mixed electoral system: over half the MPs are elected in districts, through a winner-takes-all system (and Fidesz won 96 of the 106 such seats last year), and under half the seats are elected through a national party list vote. While Jobbik won 23 of the latter kind of seats last year, this is the first time it’s ever won a constituency seat. And it’s not even in the party’s north-eastern heartlands, but in the west of the country. It’s sure to scare Fidesz (which might move even further right in response) and leave the left feeling ambivalent at best.

Vona will presumably continue to try to “de-demonize” Jobbik, following Marine Le Pen’s electorally successful example. He’ll have a hard slog at it, because many Jobbik politicians are more Golden Dawn material. When he punishes a Jobbik MP who photographed himself spitting into a Holocaust monument by forcing him to lay a flower there, or punishes a local Jobbik councillor who posted on Facebook about buying guns to execute Roma by forcing him to live with a Roma member of the party for three days, it doesn’t exactly distract attention from the extremism of the party’s rank and file.

That holds true even if he does more Facebook contests asking his fans to send pictures of themselves posing with their pets; even if he’s suddenly talking about a “Western opening,” after the party steered a Russia (and Iran!)-friendly course for years; even if he now talks about the need of “sharing the sorrow of everybody, including the Jews.” And the Fidesz machine will do its part; it’s perhaps not a coincidence that the public prosecutor just started an investigation into a Jobbik MP describing the Holocaust as a fraud.

The question is whether voters will care. The Jobbik candidate in Tapolca won despite apparently having posted, and then deleted, a Facebook post calling the Roma a “biological weapon of the Jews”. But the Fidesz government really is arrogant and corrupt (and worse things, too). If voters want to punish Orban, and Jobbik’s the only opposition party that seems capable both of getting its act together, organizationally, and addressing rural, small-town and working class voters in a way they can relate to, that’s where ever more voters will go. Especially if, on the one hand, Jobbik keeps pushing out a “softer” image and, on the other hand, anti-semitic and xenophobic notions keep becoming more normalized in public discourse.

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Hungary: polling update and by-election preview (updated with results)

European Politics, International Politics, Politics

The Hungarian pollsters have been disagreeing about how much the grip which Viktor Orban’s governing party Fidesz has on the Hungarian electorate has been slipping. Things surely aren’t looking as favourable for them as, say, half a year ago, for a number of reasons. One has to keep in mind, however, that Fidesz enjoyed quite a boost after its national election victory last April, when it went on to win big in European and municipal elections later in the year as well. So to some extent we’re merely seeing a return to the already impressive level of support it enjoyed in those April elections.

Chart: Hungarian polls, late January/early February 2015

Chart: Hungarian polls, late January/early February 2015 (click to enlarge)

Chart: Hungarian polls, late January/early February 2015

Chart: Hungarian polls; grouping together the left-liberal parties that ran a joint "Unity" list in last year's national elections (click to enlarge)

Fidesz’s current two-thirds parliamentary majority is in question with by-elections taking place in Veszprém two days from now. The district includes both Veszprém itself, a relatively prosperous town in Western Hungary, and some surrounding countryside, and outgoing MP Tibor Navracsics (now European Commissioner) won the seat easily last year, so it’s not the easiest place for the opposition to launch a challenge. If it does win the seat, however, Fidesz could theoretically be prevented from adopting further, hard-to-overturn “cardinal laws,” which require a two-thirds majority – though that presumes that the MPs from the center-left parties and the far-right Jobbik are able of voting in unison against the government. Even if Fidesz will hold on in Veszprém (and it’s still favoured to do so), it will face the same challenge all over again in parliamentary by-elections in a district centred on nearby Tapolca in April.

In its infinite wisdom, the left-liberal opposition parties are supporting a “free-market evangelist” as their joint candidate, Zoltán Kész. The hard-right Hír TV station has dug up not all that old blog posts and social media comments in which Kész advocated privatizing health care and primary education and even making voting rights conditional on tax payments. That’s the Hungarian “left” — the same left which hurried to distance itself from Alexis Tsipras in the aftermath of Syriza’s election victory in Greece — proving once again that it is anything but. It did, after all, also eventually embrace Lajos Bokros, known best for the 1990s “Bokros package” of massive budget cuts, in the Budapest mayoral elections. The Green LMP is the only party on the left which is refusing to support Kész, whom András Schiffer called the candidate of the “pseudo-Left”.

Having said that, the government does seem somewhat worried, jumping in late last year to quickly direct a special, 2.5 million Euro grant toward Veszprém. Although Fidesz easily dispatched all opposition forces in last October’s local elections, at least outside Budapest, it hasn’t been lucky in local by-elections since. Eva S. Balogh summarizes the story on those, with left-liberal opposition voters apparently even showing some readiness to swing behind candidates of the far-right Jobbik if that’s what it took to oust a Fidesz councillor. The seemingly only opinion poll to be held in the Veszprém district saw a close race, with Fidesz candidate Lajos Némedi only narrowly leading Kész by 43% to 37%, and even that only thanks to the rural parts of the district, while Kész led in the city itself.

Despite his libertarian views, I hope Kész wins, and Veszprém might be a liberal enough town for him to stand a chance. This is no way for the opposition to rebuild a national election-winning force though. Hungarians have arguably voted out the parties most associated with budget cuts, privatizations and market-friendly reforms almost every single time since 1994, ever again believing the then-opposition’s (deceptive) promises that they would govern more socially. They brought back the socialists from the dead in 1994, then voted in Fidesz in 1998 when those socialists turned out to be more neoliberal than even the previous conservative government. They kicked Fidesz out again in 2002 in favour of the newly-populist Socialists, and reelected those in 2006 after they’d gone on a rather irresponsible spending spree. In 2010, after four years of Gyurcsany and Bajnai pursuing austerity, they dealt the Socialists a massive defeat in favour of Fidesz, and last year they reaffirmed their support for Fidesz and its national-populist rhetoric of resistance against the EU’s and IMF’s economic prescriptions. And yet the left-liberal parties that aim to bring Fidesz down now seem to be going out of their way to look like the local representative of Brussels, business and banks. In the process, they are leaving the far-right Jobbik to sweep up the votes of the increasing numbers of disgruntled middle- and lower-income voters who are disappointed with the arrogance and corruption of Orban-ocracy but poor enough to have faced the wrong end of the free market.

The center-left opposition should perhaps instead take heed of a recent poll which revealed that Jobbik is now the largest party among those younger than 30. That’s scary. To fight that trend, it’s time for the left, such as it is, to show that its primary concern is with the struggle many poor, working class and lower-middle class Hungarians are waging to get by. I’m not sure that identifying itself with the likes of Kész and Bokros is going to help with that.

Update: Opposition candidate Zoltán Kész won, and with a surprisingly comfortable margin, 42,6% against the Fidesz candidate’s 33.8%, the Jobbik candidate’s 14.1%, and the LMP’s 4.6% (the remainder went mostly to independent candidates). That’s a striking contrast with last year’s results, when Navracsics got 47.2%, the center-left’s joint candidate 27.6%, the Jobbik candidate 16.5% and the LMP candidate 6.2%. Turnout was 45%, which is lower than last year’s 64% but high for a by-election. Christopher Adam at Hungarian Free Press has more info. Worth noting: somebody on Twitter mentioned that the 8 o’clock news broadcast on national public TV mentioned nothing about the election result, even though some 80% of the votes had by then already been counted, and it was clear that Fidesz was losing.

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Posting elsewhere: Elections in Hamburg, tycoon politics in Hungary, mixtapes in cyberspace

Culture, European Politics, International Politics, Music, Politics

Elsewhere online:

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Greece, elections 2015: How did the pollsters fare? Not too shabbily

European Politics, International Politics, Politics

In the aftermath of the momentous Greek elections, this seems worth mentioning: the Greek exit polls were fairly close to the mark, and the last pre-election polls approached the actual election results almost as closely as the exit polls.*

The latter, especially, seems impressive, not least because their performance was hardly a given. Ahead of the May 2012 elections, the pollsters entirely failed to capture the dynamic of the electorate. (Admittedly, it’s not easy to poll a watershed election which all but broke up the entire Greek party system, and they did approach the results of the June 2012 elections much more closely.)

The 2015 elections: how the pollsters did

Chart: Greece 2015 elections: Pollster performance

Click to enlarge: How closely did the last pre-election polls approach the actual election results?

This time, a Pro Rata poll which was in the field 5-6 days before the elections pegged the numbers closely enough to the actual results that it was off by an average of just 0.6% by party. Even the “worst” poll was only off by an average of 1.2% by party.

Interestingly though, to the extent that the polls in the last few days before the elections did miss the mark, there was a distinct pattern. When you calculate the average of each pollster’s final poll, it turns out to have understimated every anti-bailout party, whether on the left or right (Syriza, XA, KKE, ANEL), and overestimated every pro-bailout party on both the left and right (ND, Potami, PASOK, KIDISO). Sometimes the deviations were tiny (like a tenth of a percentage point), but it’s still a striking pattern.

In particular, the average of the final polls had the incumbent government party, New Democracy, 1.8% higher than the share of the vote it eventually received, while it had the Independent Greeks 1.1% lower.

For more data and information, read on below the fold.

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Polling: The short, sharp election campaign in Greece led to surprisingly small, but significant changes

European Politics, International Politics, Politics

It’s election day in Greece and the campaign will have been one of the shortest Europe’s seen in some while: it’s just 27 days ago, on 29 December, that parliament failed to elect a new president in the last of three votes, which triggered these new elections. Politicians scrambled to launch their campaigns, and former Prime Minister George Papandreou even still quickly founded a new party. “Few election campaigns have been as bitter or polarised as this,” the Guardian reported. And yet, all the sound and fury caused remarkably small changes in political preferences.

In particular, with all eyes trained on two main parties fighting for high stakes, you might expect the electorate to gravitate towards them, abandoning smaller parties that get neglected in the media coverage. This would seem especially likely in Greece because of the quirk in its election system, which awards the largest party a bonus 50 seats, making sure it will at least get close to a parliamentary majority. Some of this trend did indeed play out in Greece, but more so in the months prior to the election campaign. Over the second half of last year, both the governing New Democracy party and main opposition party Syriza steadily won over ever more voters, taking Syriza from 29% to over 33% and New Democracy from 24% to 29%. At some point Syriza’s average lead in the polls stretched out to almost 7%, then it shrank again to just over 4%. But by the time the actual election campaign rolled around, despite polls showing a large share of the population still undecided, their respective positions and those of most of the smaller parties evened out. That’s illustrated in this table, which shows a polling average drawn from the most recent poll from each pollster within the given time period:*


Dec 12-24
(11 polls)
Jan 20-23
(15 polls)
New Democracy 28,9 29,6 0,7
Syriza 33,5 35,9 2,4
Potami 6,8 6,7 -0,1
Golden Dawn 6,2 6,3 0,1
Communists 6,1 5,3 -0,8
PASOK 6,1 5,1 -1
Indep Greeks 3,5 3,7 0,2
Kinima 0 2,6 2,6
Others 8,8 5,1 -3,7

* If a pollster published two polls within the period, only the last one is counted; dates reflect the mid-point of when the polls were being conducted where available, not the day of publication.

Syriza netted another 2.4%, which is a decent achievement in the light of the government’s attempts to instill fear and panic over a possible Syriza take-over, but no sea change. Papandreou’s new party didn’t make much of a dent, stalling at 2.6%. The very smallest parties, those which polled under the system’s three percent electoral threshold, lost a lot of ground, but all the other remained roughly stable, with only the communist KKE and the center-left PASOK party losing a percentage point.

In the interest of polling hygiene, you may want to compare only those polls which were in the field during both time periods, in order to avoid the difference between the two periods reflecting ‘house effects’ of the pollsters rather than actual changes in public opinion. The data are very similar though:


Dec 12-24
(11 polls)
Jan 20-23
(11 polls)
ND 28,9 29,4 0,5
Syriza 33,5 36,1 2,6
Potami 6,8 6,8 0,0
Golden Dawn 6,2 6,3 0,1
KKE 6,1 5,3 -0,8
PASOK 6,1 5,0 -1,1
Indep Greeks 3,5 3,7 0,2
Kinima 0,0 2,6 2,6
Others 8,8 5,1 -3,7

That doesn’t mean there weren’t some interesting dynamics during the campaign though. In fact, it seems to have reached a tipping point about half way through. Here’s the same data as above, including all pollsters, but for three different periods, including a time period mid-way during the campaign:


Dec 12-24
(11 polls)
Jan 6-14
(17 polls)

Jan 20-23
(15 polls)
New Democracy 28,9 30,8 1,9 29,6 -1,2
Syriza 33,5 34,7 1,2 35,9 1,2
Potami 6,8 6,8 0,0 6,7 -0,1
Golden Dawn 6,2 6,1 -0,1 6,3 0,2
Communists 6,1 5,7 -0,4 5,3 -0,4
PASOK 6,1 4,9 -1,2 5,1 0,2
Indep Greeks 3,5 3,0 -0,5 3,7 0,7
Kinima 0 2,7 2,7 2,6 -0,1
Others 8,8 5,6 -3,2 5,1 -0,5

Here’s the chart to that latest set of data – click to enlarge.

Greece election polls chart

The polling average from three periods: the two weeks before the election campaign started; an eight-day window halfway through the campaign; and the last four days of polling.

In the first week or two of the campaign, we still see a continuation of the trend from the previous half a year: both New Democracy and Syriza gain some additional ground, at the expense of especially the “others” category of smallest parties. In addition, the emergence of Papandreou’s splinter party predictably hurt his old party, PASOK.

But in the last week or two of the campaign, New Democracy suddenly started slipping away, first almost imperceptibly, and with greater urgency the closer the elections came. In the couple of days, four different pollsters have seen ND numbers that are 2-4% lower than they were earlier this month. Syriza, on the other hand, kept on its incremental growth, and now its average lead in the polls is back up to over 6%. The Independent Greeks, a right-wing, anti-bailout party, seemed to benefit as well, rebounding a bit from its perilous position near the threshold line.

Narrowing the selection of polls down to only those pollsters which were in the field during each of these three periods doesn’t change much about the pattern:


Dec 12-24
(11 polls)
Jan 6-14
(11 polls)

Jan 20-23
(11 polls)

ND 28,9 30,8 1,9 29,4 -1,4
Syriza 33,5 34,7 1,2 36,1 1,4
Potami 6,8 6,8 0,0 6,8 0,0
Golden Dawn 6,2 6,1 -0,1 6,3 0,2
KKE 6,1 5,7 -0,4 5,3 -0,4
PASOK 6,1 4,9 -1,2 5,0 0,1
Indep Greeks 3,5 3,0 -0,5 3,7 0,7
Kinima 0 2,7 2,7 2,6 -0,1
Others 8,8 5,6 -3,2 5,1 -0,5

Now, all we can do is wait until the polling stations close and we can see how far off the polls might have been!

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Greece, ten days before the elections: Based on an average of the most recent polls, Syriza would fall just six seats short of a parliamentary majority

European Politics, International Politics, Politics

The polling

  • Wikipedia has a seemingly exhaustive list of opinion polls, which appears to be updated every day or almost every day. The numbers there have been recalculated where necessary to exclude any “undecided” or “would not vote” percentage, so the totals of each poll add up to 100%.
  • As of tonight, there have been a staggering 17 polls by 15 different pollsters in the last week (Alco and Rass both published two). Taking the average of the most recent poll from each pollster (i.e. excluding the older of the two polls by Alco and Rass), Syriza gets an average 34.8% of the vote, New Democracy gets 30.4%; see the spreadsheet linked below.

The system

  • The Greek electoral system, based on proportional representation, is marked by two peculiarities. The first is an electoral threshold of 3%; any party getting less than that gets no seats. The second is that the party with the greatest number of votes gets a bonus 50 seats, with the aim of increasing political stability. (The only other example I can think of that follows this model is how one of Italy’s two houses of parliament was elected in the past decade.) In total the Greek parliament has 300 seats, so for a governing majority you need 151.
  • Right now, according to the average of recent polls, almost 9% of Greeks would vote for parties that are set to miss the 3% threshold. Those includes the newly launched outfit of former Prime Minister George Papandreou, To Kinima, which is polling at an average of 2.7%, and Dimar, which has declined so much it’s usually not listed separately in polling results anymore. This means that the 250 parliamentary seats that are allocated proportionally are divided up based on the votes of about 91% of the electorate.

    For 9% of Greek voters to miss out on parliamentary representation would be a shame, but it would hardly be unprecedented; in the May 2012 elections, an astonishing 18% of them voted for minor parties that got less than 3% each. (They wizened up in the elections two months later though, when just 6% did.)

The spreadsheet

Here it is – or go and see it at a more comfortable size:

Top of the sheet: current average polling for each party; and prospective number of seats for each party, taking into account the 3% threshold and 50-seat bonus.

Underneath: the results from each recent poll, from Wikipedia.

Syriza’s prospects

Just six seats from a majority sounds good for Syriza. But it’s not entirely as good as it may seem:

  • The party would still need to get those six additional seats to get to a parliamentary majority, and there doesn’t seem to be an ample choice of partners.

    Greek politics is divided both between left and right and between those who support and oppose the bailout packages and accompanying austerity policies. As supporters of the bailout packages, long-time former rivals ND and PASOK found each other in the incumbent government, which was already something of an emergency alliance (and all but killed PASOK electorally). For opponents of the bailout policies on the left and right to find each other in a similar way would be even harder, since they are posited on the respective flanks of the political system.

    On the left, there is Syriza and the communists; on the right, the Independent Greeks and the fascists. The fascists are beyond the pale for anyone. The communists, however, if I understand things correctly, aren’t particularly useful either. Stuck in the 1950s, they’re the fully unreconstructed type, best at home in issuing declarative statements in the wooden language of the Soviet era, while waiting for the revolution to come. They might not prove reliable partners in government. An alliance with the populist conservatives of the Independent Greeks seems like a wildcard option, since they do share Syriza’s anti-bailout, anti-austerity stance, but they’re on the brink of failing to meet the 3% threshold.

    The alternative is finding allies among the center-left parties PASOK and To Potami (“The River”). The latter party, a center-left outfit headed by a famous TV personality, has apparently teamed up with the pro-business DRASI party, which doesn’t bode well for collaboration in an anti-bailout program. And PASOK politicians would have to make a complete turn-about from their current collaboration in the ND-led government.

  • A few percent change here and there could change everything.

    Syriza’s lead over ND has eroded from around 7% in October/November to just over 4% now. It seems to have stabilized over the past two weeks, but it’s not a safe lead. Ahead of the May 2012 elections, polls were wildly off, starkly overstating support for the “old” parties ND, PASOK and KKE and equally understating support for the insurgent Syriza and Golden Dawn. In the June 2012 elections, the polls did a lot better, but had ND and Syriza tied going into the elections when ND ended up winning by 3%.

    If To Kinima does pass the 3% threshold, this would take away seats from all the other parties, including Syriza, and make the 251 seats harder to get to. Vice versa, if the Independent Greeks would fail the threshold, this would scatter its seats across the other parties, bringing Syriza 3 seats closer to a majority, but deprive it of a potential ally on certain issues.

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Not so quiet before the storm: Local elections in Budapest, Hungary

European Politics, International Politics, Politics

For the third time in a year, on October 12, Hungary is having elections, this time for mayors and municipal councils. They’re predictably depressing, but I wrote a post about the contexts, data and implications over at Daily Kos Elections.

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SNP voters who rejected Scottish independence? The results of yesterday’s referendum on Scottish independence pose a geographic paradox

European Politics, International Politics, Politics

The referendum on Scottish independence last night ended up as the No camp hoped, the Yes camp had been trying not to think about, and almost exactly as I’d predicted, though I was certainly not alone. The result is an anti-climax after such excitement and absolutely unprecedented turnout, and it leaves election obsessives picking through the results.

Here’s one thing that struck me: the Scottish National Party has become the major force in Scottish politics over the last decade or so, in Holyrood at least if not in Westminster. In the 2010 UK elections, the SNP received 19.9% of the Scottish vote, which was a good but hardly dominant result, but in the 2011 Scottish elections, the SNP won no fewer than 53 of the 73 single member constituencies, and 44.0% of the party vote – very close to the YES vote in the referendum (44.7%). The SNP was also, obviously, the major driver behind the referendum. So you’d expect a fairly close relation between the map of the 2011 SNP vote and the referendum vote. But nothing could be further from the truth.

I slightly adjusted the BBC map of the referendum results and the map of the SNP results in 2011 made by Antony Green for Australia’s ABC to make a direct comparison easier – with apologies to Shetland, which fell on the cutting room floor in the process. Click to enlarge:

Map: Scottish independence referendum vs SNP vote in 2011 Scottish elections

Ah, even better: Antony Green also made a map of the 2011 SNP vote by council area, which is the administrative unit by which the referendum results were announced. So that makes for a more direct comparison:

Map: Scottish independence referendum vs SNP vote in 2011 Scottish elections by council area

Keep in mind that dark on the referendum map means NO, whereas dark on the elections map means a high SNP vote – so you’d expect the dark (heavily SNP) regions on one map to match up with the light (low NO-vote) regions on the other map. But there’s no such relationship at all – North-East Scotland’s strong NO vote makes it almost looks like the opposite. If anything, due to the Glasgow-centered nature of the YES vote, there is more of an overlap with the map of the Labour Party’s 2011 results (even though Labour, of course, campaigned against independence).

Part of this is logical: Glasgow, the center of the YES campaign, where it succeeded in mobilizing an impressive number of mostly poor, disaffected people who normally don’t vote, is traditional Labour territory. All the more impressive that the pro-independence activists managed to get the city behind their cause.

But think about it: could the opposite then be true too? For example, the SNP won over 52% of the vote in the Moray, Aberdeenshire and Angus council areas in 2011. But yesterday only 42%, 40% and 44% respectively voted “Yes”, and these council areas made up a sizable 9% of the Scottish electorate. On the Western Isles, the SNP received over 52% of the 2011 vote, and Yes only 46.6%. In Perth & Kinross and Falkirk, the SNP received 48-52% of the vote in 2011, but Yes received just 47% of the vote in Falkirk, and a paltry 39.8% in Perth & Kinross. Especially when you consider that large numbers of Labour voters came out in favour of independence, as Glasgow shows, could this mean that a significant number of SNP voters came out against independence?

Not necessarily: after all, turnout was much lower in the Scottish elections – barely over 50%. For the referendum, it was a whopping 84.6%. So it could mean that in their own strongholds, the SNP voters were more alone than they must have felt: all those neighbours who normally don’t vote turned out to be heavily against independence. That would still make for a geographic anomaly though, because it would mean that the habitual non-voters who did come out to vote now were much more unionist-minded in SNP strongholds than their peers in other council areas. That’s possible, but not intuitive.

For what it’s worth, Lord Ashcroft’s overnight poll of 2,000 Scots found that 14% of those who voted for the SNP in the 2010 British elections voted NO yesterday. That’s 14% of the just 20% of Scottish voters who opted for the SNP in the Westminster elections. One might reasonably speculate that the share of NO voters among the much larger pool of those who voted for the SNP in 2011 was significantly larger still.

Comparing the geographical spread of the Yes vote in the referendum with the SNP result in the UK elections of 2010 is less relevant, considering the much smaller share of the vote the SNP received in those elections. But for the sake of being complete I’ve used a map made by The Economist for a side-by-side comparison on that one too:

Map: Scottish independence referendum vs SNP vote in 2010 UK elections

Completely off-topic, but Reddit turned up an interesting chart about the correlation between disposable income and the “No” vote by region. Not sure if it’s original content by the submitter or credit for the original creator was withheld; Google turns up no alternative sources of the image.

21 September: Helping to solve the mystery

Stephen Fisher did great work explaining what seemed like a paradox in this post at his blog Elections Etc. The TLDR is:

Only after controlling for the effects of socio-economic circumstances is there such a clear relationship between the Yes vote and SNP support. [S]ocio-economic factors seemed to be more important factors than prior nationalist support.

The reader comments by James in the comments section provide more helpful detail.

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Party preference and income levels in the districts of Budapest: Elections 2014

European Politics, International Politics, Politics

Despite its populist image, the governing Fidesz party is still very much a bourgeois party, at least in Budapest. Conversely, electoral support for the far-right Jobbik in Budapest tends to be stronger the poorer a neighbourhood is. On the other side of the political playing field, the five-party socialist/liberal opposition alliance had roughly equally strong (or weak) support in wealthier and poorer districts alike. But when those parties run separately, their support reveals very differing geographic patterns.

All of this is suggested by a series of scatter plots I created, which chart the results of Hungary’s general and European elections earlier this year in Budapest’s 23 districts against gross income per capita levels in those districts. Check out the Infogr.am embedded below the fold – although you might prefer to view it on the Infogr.am website itself, where the charts are square as they are supposed to be rather than rectangular – that’s just the format of this blog distorting them a little.

Two qualifications should be made beforehand, however:

  1. The electoral geography of Budapest, as it relates to income levels, does not necessarily follow the same logic as that of Hungary as a whole. For example, in the European elections at least, the Socialist Party (MSzP) did seem to do better in the poorer, working class districts of Budapest than in the more prosperous ones. But at the same time, the party’s results in Budapest as a whole were the best it received across the country, even though Budapest is also the most prosperous region of the country. The relation between Fidesz and Jobbik votes and income levels in Budapest also appear to be quite different from how they work out in some of the other regions.
  2. The fact that a party does best in the richest (or poorest) areas doesn’t necessarily mean it also does best among the richest (or poorest) voters. The United States is the classic example of this paradox: Democratic presidential candidates tend to do best in the most prosperous states (e.g. the Bos-Wash corridor and the West Coast) and worst in the poorest states (e.g. the Appalachians and the Deep South). But exit poll after exit poll has confirmed that, although the correlation is becoming weaker over time, the party does better among lower-income voters and worse among higher-income ones. However, since we’re dealing with data by city district rather than by whole states here, such a paradox should be less likely to occur.

(One more small-print disclaimer: for income data by district I’ve relied on the Hungarian Central Statistical Office’s data regarding “Gross income serving as basis of the personal income tax per permanent population”. But the comparison between districts works out a little differently if you use its numbers on “Gross income serving as basis of the personal income tax per tax-payer”. I decided not to do that because it doesn’t take the large and varying number of non-tax payers in a district into account, for example the unemployed – and what about pensioners? – and this makes some of the districts with the highest non-active rates, like the 8th, look better-off than they are. But choosing the indicator “per permanent population” has its own effects; if you’re surprised to see Újpest ranking higher on the income axis than Zugló, for example, this is why, because the district has a high percentage of employed, working-age population (whereas Zugló, I assume, has more pensioners). Districts 17, 19 (Kispest) and 21 (Csepel) would also rank noticably lower with the alternative indicator.)

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Last weekend’s elections in Brandenburg and Thüringen: some data

European Politics, International Politics, Politics

The populist right-wing Alliance for Germany (AfD) had a chance to repeat the success it enjoyed in state elections in Saxony two weeks ago in two state elections last Sunday, which both also took place in the former East-Germany. But in both Brandenburg and Thüringen, it went one better and got double-digit percentages. The AfD got 12% of the vote in Brandenburg (sometimes nicknamed “the small GDR”) and 10% in Thüringen.

Just like in Saxony, the AfD took votes from across the political spectrum, pollster Infratest Dimap revealed. In Thüringen, just like in Saxony, the Christian-Democratic CDU, Social-Democratic SPD and (ex-communist) Left Party all saw 5-6% of their 2009 voters switch to the AfD, while the liberal FDP and extreme-right NPD lost significantly larger shares of their electorates to the party.

On the bright side, the SPD in Brandenburg easily maintained their position as the state’s top party, though the Left Party, which had been their junior government coalition partner, lost a lot and booked its worst state elections result there since 1990. Nevertheless, just like last time, Brandenburg’s SPD is free to choose to govern with them or with the CDU; either combination would have a majority.

In Thüringen, weirdly, the SPD has the same luxury of being able to pick its coalition partner, even though they lost heavily and were left with just 12% of the vote. Both the CDU and the Left Party did well, cementing their positions at the top of the state’s party system, and they both want to govern – but neither of them can do it without the Social-Democrats. So it will either be a renewed CDU/SPD government, with a parliamentary majority of 1, or a Left Party/SPD/Green government, also with a parliamentary majority of 1.

The latter would of course be more ground-breaking and exciting, but oddly enough the three parties actually pooled less of the state vote (46.3%) than five years ago (52.1%), and obviously back then the Social-Democrats chickened out, even though they were promised the Prime Ministerial post by the (larger) Left Party. However, their chickening out last time round, and their stubborn refusal to express a preference for one or the other coalition option in this year’s campaign, led to them losing a fair amount of votes to the Left Party in these elections. So maybe they won’t do it again.

I won’t do a fully-fledged blog post, but I tweeted some interesting data I’ll collate them here:

Voter flows

  • The Left Party in Brandenburg lost 19 thousand voters to the AfD, which attracted some attention; in part because of the curiosity of a stridently left-wing party losing voters to a populist right-wing party, and that not being an isolated phenomenon either, with far-left losing votes to far-right parties elsewhere as well; and in part because the AfD seemed to go out of its way to fish for Left Party votes. But to keep this in perspective: the Left Party also lost a whopping 119 thousand voters – six times as many – to the non-voter camp.
  • Vice versa, the CDU in Brandenburg had a good night, overtaking the Left as the state’s second-largest party for the first time since 1999, but nevertheless also lost 19 thousand votes to the AfD, meaning that the CDU lost a larger share of its 2009 voters to the AfD than the Left Party did.
  • The
    Wählerwanderung, AfD: Thüringen

    Voter transfers to the AfD in Thüringen

    AfD in Thuringen also pulled votes from across the political spectrum, as this chart shows. (The “Andere” category here includes 10,000 votes the AfD pulled from the NPD.)
  • What these numbers mean is that the CDU lost 7% of its 2009 vote in Brandenburg, and 5% of its 2009 vote in Thüringen to the AfD; the Left Party lost 5% and 6%, respectively, of its 2009 vote in the two states to the AfD; and the FDP lost 14% and 12% of its vote, respectively, to the AfD. The SPD lost 6% of its 2009 vote in Thüringen to the AfD, but just 3% of its vote in Brandenburg.

Demographics:

  • More data on who voted for whom: In both Thüringen and Brandenburg, the AfD’s best professional groups were workers and the self-employed. And in both states, the Left Party did best among the unemployed and pensioners.
  • Here’s a worrying data point: for both the SPD and the Left Party, in both Brandenburg and Thüringen, the best age group was those over 60+. The fact that it’s true for both parties makes it all the more worrying about their long-term future in these East-German states. Meanwhile, the best age group for the AfD in both states was those between 25 and 34.

History:

  • A historical perspective: the Left Party booked its best ever result in Thüringen … and its worst result since 1990 in Brandenburg. The SPD booked its worst result in the postcommunist era in Thüringen, and ex aequo (with 2004) the worst in Brandenburg. The Greens got their best result in Brandenburg since 1990, and the FDP its worst result there ever. Surprisingly, the FDP in Thüringen has seen worse times still (1.1% in 1999). The Spiegel has a couple of interactive charts to explore some of those historical trajectories, and here are screenshots for two of them:
  • Strong in Thüringen, weak in Brandenburg - Left Party state election results since 1990

    Strong in Thüringen, weak in Brandenburg - Left Party state election results since 1990

    Strong in Brandenburg, weak in Thüringen - SPD state election results since 1990

    Strong in Brandenburg, weak in Thüringen - SPD state election results since 1990

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Charts! Last weekend’s elections in Saxony: Dresden, Leipzig and Chemnitz vs. the rest of the state

European Politics, International Politics, Politics

Last Sunday’s state elections in Saxony were marked by a low turnout, an only slightly eroded dominant position of the Christian-Democrats, and an imposing result for the right-wing, anti-system Alliance for Germany (AfD) party. The AfD was helped by the fact that these elections, the first state elections it ever took part in, took place in the very state where the party had already done best in the federal and European elections. Nevertheless, its 9.7% of the vote was remarkable and well beyond what the polls had foreseen.

Election night had its share of suspense as the extreme-right NPD hovered right around the 5% electoral threshold. It ended up missing it by a hair and getting 4.95%, which means it’ll be cast out of state parliament after ten years in its stronghold state.

There are several interesting geographic dimensions to the results, and I created an infographic at Infogr.am to share them. Below the fold, I accompany the Infogr.am charts with a few observations about what they show.

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