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Fun forecasting – RADA Elections

September 5, 2014

Long, long ago (thus it is dated regarding references to Crimea etc) an entry was written about the flaws and failings of public opinion polling surveys.

“The aim of this post is to put some perspective on polls and just how accurate they really are in the event they prima facie pass an academic litmus test – or not.

The first and most obvious issue is that of using selective polling results both by the media supporting side A or B and also those from within parties A or B. Here we must firstly acknowledge that a professional polling company (or poll professionally compiled by any organisation) generates a veritable mountain of information the vast majority of which does not make the media or is highlighted by spokesman for party A or B.

They will naturally highlight the parts of the poll which support their declared position and normally ignore, or at best gloss over, parts that undermine their position.

No doubt a very frustrating thing for those who compile a poll to see snippets being passed off as the whole result. That said, we as the public who maybe influenced or have some form of belief in these snippets have to shoulder some blame. In the vast majority of cases if we are asked a question of a political nature in abstract, we may answer it quite differently as to how we will actually vote after a series of political questions that provide a picture of us as a whole. I may prefer party A on the issue of X, but in general my political leanings are towards party B over a much larger range of issues.

Therefore if a media outlet of a known certain bias towards any particular party is attempting to draw you attention to a specific poll result, it is because others are either contradictory or other parts of that same poll are not so flattering to its declared position.

The point, such as it is, is to look at any particular poll not only in comparison with others, but also in and of itself, as the whole rather than an abstracted and highlighted part.

This brings about another point. If a certain poll widely touted holds very little comparison to a number of others, then one has to consider it with a degree of caution. The exception is hardly ever the rule and therefore a poll that seems to be the exception may not be a true representation of opinion through either a faulty academic model or a deliberate manipulation of the model upon which it is based or simply a fluke set of results.

Such manipulation can be deliberately caused by polling in cities known to favour party A or B and despite the poll then stating it was conducted in numerous cities around the nation, it was in fact deliberately skewed. Another way is to include a disproportionate number of men or women, people of certain age ranges, a high number of employed verses unemployed etc.

Another reason a poll may seem beyond the normative results of all the others is the manner in which it was conducted. People may react differently to a telephone poll than to a poll in the street or via the Internet. It may also be down to the questions themselves. A slightly different wording or different emphasis on certain words when the question is asked can bring quite different results. The nuance of language can and does effect the objectivity of a poll and the statistics they produce. Something all too often overlooked.

Thus we can unwittingly be trying to compare apples with oranges, a fact normally hidden by party spokespeople or the media.

There is also the issue of the actual size and make-up of the poll. A poll of 1000 normally is interpreted to be plus or minus 3 points. What that actually means when comparing polls is that there could, at the extremes, be an academically sound 6 point gap between two entirely legitimate polls. Something not to be forgotten.

The composition of these polls also matters when claims are made relating to “every region”. As an example, polling company X carries out a poll across Ukraine of 1000 people. Of those 1000 people across the regions, only 30 were from Crimea. That immediately makes any results attributed to Crimea as a region a nonsense as the number of Crimeans polled is so small, the margin for error is so immense it holds no academic or statistical value whatsoever as an indicator to Crimean regional voting. It would become even more worthless if they all come from the same town or the same age group or the same age range or the same ethnic group.

In short, for a poll to have any legitimate standing, at a minimum there should be 1000 people involved and the model upon which the results are based must be correctly weighted. In its most fundamental form, it should have the right number of respondents relating to age, ethnicity, region, gender etc etc in proportion to the country to have a country wide relevance. The numbers involved though cannot be used as a realistic guide to regional results as I have explained above. Regional results would require a survey of 1000 people in that region, also weighted to take account of social composition.

None of this will be brought to the attention of the public by the spokespeople of party A or B and neither will it be explained or brought to the attention of the public by the media who will be too busy backing their horse and trying to hobble the other, to let a small matter of transparency or accuracy get in the way – even if they have to resort to quoting polls that simply have no real worth.”

However, just from curiosity, and due to the fact that this cited polling survey is one of the first that includes the split from Batkivshcyna of many of its leading public figures, it will be interesting to see where it leads us – as inaccurately as that may turn out to may be after due consideration of the above.

Under the current electoral legislation that prevents a party entering the RADA unless it reaches or surpasses the 5% electoral threshold, the following parties as predicted here many times, fail to enter the parliament:

The Communist Party – 4.6%.  Svoboda –  4.4%.  The Party of Regions – 3.8%.  Union Party – 2.9%.  Right Sector – 1.8%.

Thus the old Yanukovych coalition of Regions/Communists garner a collective 8.4% and both fail to enter parliament individually.

For those concerned about the far right, the much cited centers of fascism Svoboda and Right Sector garner a collective 6.2% and both fail to enter parliament individually.

Both the political extremes and lingering representations of the systemic looting of Ukraine, falling foul of public opinion via the ballot – lustration at the alter of public will, as it should be in a democracy.

And what of the long predicted Batkivshchyna implosion mentioned again 2 weeks ago?  – 6.1%

Those that have left the Batkivshchyna fold?

Anatoliy Hrytsenko, Citizenship Party – 9.7%

Yatseniuk/Turchynov, Patriots of Ukraine Party – 6.4%

A total of 16.1% of Batkivshchyna vote has walked out of the door since 28th August due to being unable to reconcile with Mrs Tymoshenko.  Indeed if this poll were to actually be proven accurate, Batkivshchyna will be the smallest party represented in the next RADA.

Of those associated previously with Party Regions, only Sergei Tigipko’s Strong Ukraine would make it into the RADA with 7.8% of the vote.

The Lutsenko/Klitschko/ Bohomets/Solidarity quartet loyal to President Poroshenko (Block Poroshenko) is projected to gain 37.1% of the vote.  By far the single largest entity in any new RADA.

There is then the second largest single representation in any new RADA – The  Radical Party of Oleh Lyasko, polling at 13.1%.  Perhaps unsurprising that an out and out populist would do so well in such troubled times – yet this is the percentage most likely to either garner significant gains or notable losses over the coming weeks, as populists need a populist platform, and forthcoming events will have a significant impact on Lyashko.

Depending upon the conditions of any cessation of fighting in the east of Ukraine – will that either eat away President Poroshenko’s political capital if seen as appeasing President Putin – or will it add to it by being seen as “the peacemaker”?

Without posting odious YouTube videos in camouflage, interrogating people, a gun-toting Lyashko may struggle with no war.  The nature of Ukrainian NATO and EU trajectory will already be defined via the AA/DCFTA ratification this month and the NATO Summit these next two days outlining what relationship Ukraine and NATO will have.  The Communists and Party of Regions appear set to be ejected from the RADA via the public vote -as it should be – and not via any lustration law.  The Lyashko platform begins to shrink – depending upon how President Poroshenko is viewed by way of reaching a cessation of violence.

As events conspire to deprive Lyashko of (at least part) of a populist platform, he is no match for even the most average of Ukrainian politicians when talking serious policy issues in any depth – and challenged he will be, for the Ukrainian political class have recognised a dangerous (and some claim unhinged) populist amongst their midst.  A public and orchestrated cutting down to size of Mr Lyashko seems probable.

But what if all holds true to polling day as per the cited poll?

RADA seats have been reduced from 450 to 438.  The 12 Crimean seats will remain vacant.  As such a parliamentary majority slips from 226 MPs to 220.

Thus a President Poroshenko favouring majority is easily constructed between his block, together with Yakseniuk and Turchynov’s Patriots, plus Hrytsenko’s Citizenship, all of who point in the same direction without any major friction.  A construct required for every day parliamentary work  that need not pander either the ego of Lyashko nor that of  Tymoshenko appears.

A Constitution changing majority, however, is a completely different matter, relying on the egos of at least one leader.  That may become two leaders if the electoral law is changed in the very near future.

The biggest concern however, is the apparent lack of an opposition.  Sergei Tigipko and Strong Ukraine are unlikely to be able to put up any kind of effective opposition with 7.8% alone.  Opposition coalition partners seem non-existent.  It will be tremendously important that there is both an effective opposition and also that it is actually seen to be heard on occasion.

There is also the issue for the vast majority, of how it will deal with the anchors dropped by the Kremlin in a small part of the east of the nation, when the rest of the nation will be expecting such a vast majority to deliver – and deliver with both relative ease and timeliness.

Whatever the case, it is only one poll, and as stated at the start, it means very little on its own.  Something to ponder though nonetheless.

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