Thursday, March 9, 2017

Recent Polling Unfavorable to Wilders & Le Pen

An interesting post today on Naked Capitalism, "Nationalists Slipping in European Polls," predicts a poor showing for Geert Wilders' Party of Freedom in Holland's general election next Wednesday. Apparently the Party of Freedom has dropped 14 points of late.

Yves Smith, who is usually bearish when it comes to predictions of fundamental change delivered by conventional politics, re-posts a story by David Llewellyn-Smith from an Aussie website, MacroBusiness. The analysis is thin and is pervaded with the same tongue-clucking that preceded Trump's upset. 

We should recall that most polls predicted that Hillary would win easily last November. Even the young sage Nate Silver was caught with his pants down, though he did hedge enough to say that Trump might hit a trifecta: huge white turnout, reduced Obama coalition turnout, and resistant Republicans returning to the fold.

There is no such hedging in Llewellyn-Smith's piece. Wilders will shit the bed, and Le Pen might not even make it to the second round. And even if she does, Macron, who, according to the polls enjoys a 20-point advantage over Le Pen in round two, will humiliate her.

It's unfortunate to see the usually flinty Yves Smith fall for this. The exchange in the comments section is illuminating. Smith gets straightened out. Undecideds and low turnout taint those impressive poll numbers of Macron:

  1. Moneta
    Sounds like Brexit and Trump election…. polls and media convinced there is not much threat for the establishment.
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    1. Yves Smith
      No, the gap in the runoff is vastly larger than for Trump v. Clinton. Most of the time, Clinton was 4 points ahead of Trump, with a range of being barely ahead to very briefly down 11 (after the Khan gaffe) with the normal range down 2 points to down 7. 4-5 points is the margin of errors on polls and so Trump being down 2 points in the final tally is entirely consistent with the polls.
      And that’s before you get to the fact that the state level polling, which matters in the US, was less precise. Lambert pointed out in his piece yesterday on the election that he had been keeping tabs on the Electoral College paths to victory per each candidate, and he said several times Trump had more ways to eke out a win than the media was giving him credit for.
      A 30 point gap is a totally different matter. Yes, 2 months is a way away, but a LOT would have to change in two months.
      Reply ↓
      1. visitor
        What you say is accurate, but there is a big issue that may throw political calculations out of the window: massive abstention.
        The latest polls in France show that abstention will reach at least a third of the electorate — double the historical value — and that it may well grow further.
        Besides, when evaluating voting intentions, it appears that 78% of Le Pen voters are already committed to their vote, and 70% of those intending to vote for Fillon, whereas only 50% of Macron voters are. Macron’s base is fragile.
        In France just like in the UK, the USA or the Netherlands, polls have been repeatedly wrong in the past. Expecting that the typical left-wing voter will, just like in 2002, rally under a right-wing (Fillon) or an opportunist (Macron) candidate to stop Le Pen is a risky bet. Their experience with the outcome of “tactical voting” has been dismal, and they might really wash their hands of the whole affair in the second round.
        Reply ↓
  2. David
    This kind of superficially impressive analysis is what you get when you work with an outdated analytical model of “Left and “Right” or “nationalist” and “European”; That’s not where the game is, and so much of the analysis is beside the point. It also confuses electability with ability to govern.
    The real political divide can be expressed in various ways: “insiders vs; outsiders”, “soveriegnists vs. Euro-integrationists” or even the centre vs. the periphery. When we look at the figures in these ways, they begin to make sense.
    Take the French case for example. There, the last reliable polls show that the two Presidential candidates for the “traditional”, “insider” parties, one of which currently forms the government, the other of which previously did so, can barely muster a third of the French electorate between them. This may even have reduced over the last few days as Fillon continues to weaken, and people keep forgetting who Hamon is. This is astonishing.
    By contrast, “soverignist” candidates, who want major changes in Europe and more independence from Brussels can muster about 40%. A lot of this is Le Pen, but Mélenchon (allegedly on the far Left) and Dupont Aignan (allegedly the traditionalist Right) are expressing fundamentally the same ideas. The “integrationist” candidates (Fillon, Hamon and Macron) have a majority, but that’s largely because the elites of those parties are absolutely wedded to Euro-integrationist ideology. Their voters don’t necessarily feel the same. And finally, if you take the candidates from “outside” the system (Le Pen, Mélenchon and Macron for the most part) a clear majority of the French electorate (about 65%) supports one or the other. (OK, Macron is pretending but his whole campaign is based on an allegedly new start and a repudiation of the existing system).
    So traditional categories of “Left” and “Right” mean little, and so-called “nationalists” can be found everywhere. That’s what you get for using outdated analytical tools.
    Finally, as I have said before, it will be difficult, and probably impossible, for Le Pen to form an FN government. But it will be even more difficult for Macron, because he scarcely has a party, and needs to find 577 candidates and win enough seats to be the dominant party in the National Assembly, to form a coalition; I think that’s very unlikely, and the country will probably be ungovernable after the summer.
    Reply ↓
    1. Anonymous2
      Thank you. That is very interesting. Do you forsee an Assembly with four or more parties sharing the seats? I can see the traditional parties holding on to many seats but guess that, if neither of those parties can get their candidate into the second round,
      traditional loyalties will be weakened with somewhat unpredictable consequences?
      Reply ↓
      1. David
        Well, there are currently five separate “Groups” in the Assembly, as well as about 25 independents. The governing coalition itself consists of three parties. By and large, the many parties involved have had understandings with each other, so the situation is not quite as anarchic as it may appear, but that could change.
        The one thing to bear in mind is that, with its weird two-round electoral process, the French system (like the British one) seldom hands out seats in parliament proportional to votes. Even then, local deals may be done in the second round – in 2012 candidates of the major parties conspired to keep the National Front out. So almost any outcome is possible. Don’t forget though that the major parties are very well dug in to many of their traditional seats, and have powerful machines and large patronage systems. I think it’s perfectly possible that the Socialists and the Republicans will do rather better in the parliamentary elections than they will in the presidential ones, thus making it impossible for either Macron or Le Pen to form a government. What fun.

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