Sep 252013
 

What’s the Matter with Germany?

At least in Germany, people begin to realise that Merkel may have painted herself into a corner by winning so gloriously (told you so first thing on Monday). While her Christian Democrats are by far the largest party group in the new Bundestag, she needs a coalition partner, but nobody wants to play.

Kanzleramt in Berlin
Werner Kunz / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

The Social Democrats are not exactly keen to form a coalition with Merkel. They came out of the last Grand Coalition (2005-2009) very badly damaged and have hardly recovered from that electoral blow. And a new CDU/SPD coalition would be not so ‘grand’ any more. In 2005, the SPD and the Christian Democrats were not so far apart in terms of votes won. This time, there is a 16 point gap between the two.

The important NRW state party, which represents roughly a quarter of the party’s total membership,  is positioning itself against a Not-So-Grand Coalition. The party’s left-wing opposes on principal grounds, and because they feel that this would further strengthen the Left party. The party leadership is officially stalling just a bit, saying the situation is open. Talks will be ‘ergebnisoffen’ – non-directive. And they are seriously telling the Greens that it’s a dirty job, so perhaps they should do it.

A CDU/Green coalition on the other hand, while not impossible, is unlikely. The idea was all the rage a couple of years ago, but it did not work well in the Länder. Moreover, the party has moved to the left during the campaign (something they are regretting now) and returned to a more polarised view of the political world. The party leadership has resigned over the slightly disappointing result. Some of them will return, but it is not yet clear what the balance of power within the party will look like, and any new leadership will find it extremely difficult to sell a coalition with Merkel to the rank-and-file, who have a de facto veto.

This may very well be a thinly disguised attempt to drive the price of a black-red (or black-green) coalition upwards. In 1998 and 2002, it took roughly a month to form a government. In 2005, SPD and CDU needed 55 days. In 2009, the FDP/CDU/CSU government was sworn in about 40 days after the election. But what will happen if both the Greens and the SPD refuse to play (it is still silly season, but nobody’s talking CDU/Left. Yet)?

Is a Minority Government Possible? Will There Be New Elections?

In Germany, there is always a procedure, and in this case, it is spelled out in the constitution, whose framers were obsessed with stability (for very good reasons). The new parliament will be convened on October 22, 30 days after the election. That is the constitutional maximum. With this first plenary meeting (parliamentary parties haven been holding business meetings since Monday), Merkel’s second term as Chancellor will end, and so will the tenure of her ministers. The Federal President will however ask her ‘to continue to manage Germany’s affairs’ until a successor is appointed, and she is obliged to heed that request. So are the ministers. There is no ‘gap’: We’ll always have someone who tells us what to do.

The president will then go to parliament and propose a successor. But ‘then’ is relative. Interestingly, the constitution which is usually very precise, does not stipulate a time-frame. Leading commentators say the time-frame must be ‘appropriate’. Four weeks are ok. Six weeks would be ok, too, I think. But how much longer?

In theory, the president could come up with any proposal, but in practice, his suggestion has always been based on a viable coalition agreement between the parties, since his proposal must be confirmed by more than one half of its members (as opposed to more than half the members happening to be in the chamber at that point). The constitution is extremely wary of unstable majorities, let alone minority government.

Should the president’s candidate not be elected (this has never happened in the past), parliament has 14 days to make up their minds. During this period, they can elect anyone who manages to get the votes of more than half of the members without the president having any say.

Failing this, parliament will have one last vote on the Chancellor. Under this rule, the person receiving the most votes wins. If, by some happy coincidence, the number of these votes exceeds the number of half the members of parliament, the new Chancellor is sworn in and appointed. If it is less, the president has a choice: Within seven days, he can either appoint the Chancellor to lead a minority government or trigger new elections. Again, the choice is his in theory, but in practice, he would consult with the parties.

So where does that leave us?

Should both the Greens and the SPD refuse to join a Merkel government, they could still form a coalition with the Left or negotiate a toleration arrangement. But that seems unlikely, since the political costs would be very high, and it is not clear that all leftist MPs would vote for him. A small group of SPD and/or Green MPs could vote for Merkel to get on with it, without the parties entering a formal coalition, or one of the two parties could officially decide to tolerate her. As long as that would give her a majority in the inaugural vote, the president would have to appoint her. Or the parties could agree on having another election, with unknown consequences (AfD and/or FDP entering parliament, losses for all but the Left?).

Given these prospects, a CDU/SPD coalition will probably look like the lesser evil once everybody has calmed down a bit. But that might take some time.

Sep 232013
 

It’s been a bit of a nailbiter yesterday, and every single pundit in the country must be rubbing their bloodshot eyes. So it’s obviously not a brilliant idea to blog about it just now. But there seems to be a largish elephant in the room (not related to sleep deprivation) that nobody seems to have noticed so far.

A Historical Result

lonesome politician
FDP: Going Nowheremicagoto / Foter / CC BY-NC

Without doubt, this is a very exciting result that warrants a lot of superlatives or near-superlatives. Merkel’s Christian Democrats have bounced back from their second-worst result since 1949 to heights they have not seen since the highly unusual 1990 (re-unification) election. At 41.5 per cent, they came awfully close to an outright majority, something they have not achieved since 1957 (although then they had a much bigger share of the vote ).

The Social Democrats, on the other hand, have hardly recovered from their devastating 2009 result. 25.7 per cent is still the second-worst result since the war. But the combined vote share of the two major parties – often described as ‘former major parties’ by pundits – has gone up for the first time since 2002.

Both the Greens (at some stage projected to garner 15 per cent) and the Left have lost more than 20 per cent of their support compared to their 2009 results, and for the first time since 1990, the number of parties in parliament has gone down. And that is of course because the FDP has gone from 14.6 per cent (their best result ever) to 4.8 per cent (their worst result ever) and is not represented in parliament for the first time since 1949.

To put this in perspective, let me remind you that during the 64 years, the FDP was not holding government positions only from 1956 to 1961, from 1966 to 1969, and from 1998 to 2009. In other words, they were in government for roughly 70 per cent of the time, usually holding key positions (Foreign Affairs, Economy, Justice) and punching far above their electoral weight. For most German Politics aficionados, it will take some time to get used to the idea of them not having a national presence. Moreover, their result, combined with the relatively strong showing of the AfD means that the number of wasted votes must be near its all time high, with proportionality going out of the window.

But there is something else.

The Coalition Could Have Had a Viable Majority in Parliament

In the past, the FDP has survived (and some times thrived) on a diet of tactical considerations. Their loyal supporters are few and far between, but often, supporters of the CDU would give them with their list votes to bring about a centre-right majority. Most of the time, the CDU would not openly encourage this behaviour but would also refrain from discouraging it. Sometimes, the two parties even came up with joint position papers for future governments, signalling that they were not exactly a pre-electoral alliance but very much part of the same camp.

But this year (following the FDP’s defeat in Bavaria only a week before the General election), the CDU sent out a clear, high-profile “everyone for themselves” message to their voters. I can see three reasons for that. First, recent electoral reforms designed to make the system more proportional mean that the CDU would not benefit from a by-product of tactical CDU/FDP voting, the so-called ‘surplus seats’. Second, the ‘loan vote’ strategy has recently backfired in Lower Saxony, leaving a weakened CDU on the opposition benches. Third, the CDU may well have anticipated a Grand Coalition after Bavaria, and in that case, bolstering the FDP would not have made sense.

But this was probably a self-fulfilling prophecy. Though it looked very close yesterday night, Merkel did not win an outright majority. Christian Democrats and FDP together, on the other hand, are stronger than the three left parties combined: 46.3 vs 42.7 per cent. That would have been enough for Merkel to continue the centre-right coalition (her preference), with the added benefit of having a much more docile, dependent partner.

Negotiating a coalition with the Social Democrats will be tough. The party is licking its wounds and is highly reluctant to enter such an arrangement after the 2009 disaster that followed their last co-operation with the Christian Democrats. A CDU/Green coalition, while arithmetically feasible, seems highly unlikely at the moment, so the SPD will try to extract a large premium from the Christian Democrats for going into government with them. In the end, coalition talks could fail, and Germany could go to the polls again.

Without doubt, this result is a great triumph for Merkel. But I think the CDU leadership may have outwitted themselves, and the stern, slightly grumpy expression Merkel wore as she left the celebrations seems to confirm it.

Sep 202013
 

We’re now officially in the final throes of a very bad case of election fever. Or at least the wonks are. The latest and probably last crop of major polls is in. Moreover, last Sunday brought us the Bavarian Land (i.e. State) election, which was obviously seen not as an election in its own right but rather as a Bellwether for the big one. This is nonsense.

What’s the Matter with Bavaria?

Last Sunday, the Bavarian Christian Democrats received a cool 47.7 per cent of the valid votes. That is enough to give them a majority of the seats in parliament. The Liberals, with whom they governed from 2008, are no longer required and, to add insult to actually injury, actually no longer represented in parliament, as they got a not-so-cool 3.3 per cent.

Just a week before the national election, journalists, politicians and pundits are desperate for every shred of insight into what’s to come, and so the idea of a Grand (CDU/SPD) Coalition gained a lot of currency very quickly. Predictably, the FDP launched a new plea for “loan votes” from CDU supporters. Slightly less predictably, the CDU declared that they had no votes to spare, and that their supporters should vote straight.

But the Bavarian election is not very informative. Bavarians made a judgement on a different government, voted for different parliament, under different rules and facing a different party system. Merkel’s CDU does not even exist in Bavaria, which has its own Christian Democratic party, the Bavaria-centric CSU. Both parties do not even form an electoral alliance for the Bundestag election. They have merely chosen to co-operate in parliament for the last 17 times (and will do so again). In a very real sense, the current coalition consists of three parties, and the CSU has often been the most quarrelsome of them.

The CSU is the party of Bavarian nationalism, and single-party rule by the CSU is more or less the norm. The CSU has been part of every post-war government with the exception of the 1954-57 gang-of-four coalition (an abomination), and has governed alone from 1947-50 and then again from 1966-2008. A liberal presence in the Bavarian parliament, on the other hand, is not the norm. The party was out from 1982 to 1990, and then from 1994 to 2008. The Greens have been doing better than the Liberals in every election since 1982, and that is saying something in Bavaria. And yet, there is a whiff of change in the air.

The Final (?) Polls Are Coming In

In Germany, the two major public TV channels are the main sponsors for frequent large-scale polling. In the past, they stopped publishing results ten days before the election, but this is not a legal requirement: The law only bans the publication of findings from exit polls before the polling stations close on Sunday at six. Publishing results based on interviews conducted just before voters entered the polling station would be technically legal.

This year, broadcaster ZDF broke with tradition and published their final poll yesterday. Moreover, findings from three other major polls were published today, bringing the total of new polls since my last post to five. Two of them are straddling the allegedly ominous Bavarian election, while three of them were conducted this week. What do they tell us?

The Final Estimates

file:///home/kai/Work/btw-aggregator/figures/majorparties-week-38.png

This close to the election, the model is becoming a lot more confident, i.e. credibility intervals for Sunday are now pretty narrow. The upward trend for the SPD (Fingergate notwithstanding) and the corresponding downward trend for the CDU that became visible last week are now more pronounced, but this should be seen in proportion: Predictions for both parties are within a point or two where they were seven weeks ago.

Things look a bit different for the smaller parties. The Greens are now projected to garner just under 10 per cent. In early August, the model was giving them about 13 per cent (with a very wide credibility interval). Looking at the curves, one can be pretty certain that there has been real movement: They have lost about one quarter of the support they had in mid-August. Conversely, the lot of the Left has improved. They are now projected to end up with about eight per cent, up from roughly six per cent that were predicted in August.

The most interesting case is of course the FDP. Back in August, the model thought they would scrape by with about five point something per cent. The probability that they would enter parliament at all was estimated at roughly 70 per cent. Seven weeks on, the estimate for their vote share has hardly changed, but the credibility interval is much more narrow. The model is now 95 per cent certain that they will garner at least five per cent. Reports of their death seem slightly exaggerated. Or my model could be totally wrong.

file:///home/kai/Work/btw-aggregator/figures/minorparties-week-38.png

The probability of a majority for the current coalition is now estimated at 82 per cent. Whether the CDU likes it or not, voters will not ask for permission to vote tactically. If they do, the probability goes up to 85 per cent. These figures are down by seven/nine points from last week, reflecting the (modest) decline of the CDU and the slightly better performance of the SPD and the Left. But the probability of a Red-Green government is still zero per cent.

The probability of a (politically infeasible) Red-Red-Green majority is 15/18 per cent (lower if CDU supporters help the FDP). In line with previous post, I assume that there is a one in ten chance that the SPD might go back on their word, and a nine in ten chance that they would form a Grand Coalition with the CDU. This puts the Merkel-O-Meter (TM) at 98 per cent (irrespective of tactical voting).

Finally, the AfD is still making an awful lot of noise. While their party leader has recently lost a libel suit against a leading pollster, their supporters in the social media tend to say things that would make you want to avoid them in dark alleys. So far, one single poll has put them at exactly five per cent, and that was based on an online access panel. Everyone else has them at four per cent or less. If 40 per cent of the current support for “other” parties is for them, their probability of getting into parliament is zero. If their share of the “other” vote was more like 60 per cent, they would be almost certainly in.

The Outlook

While the pundits’ and politicians seem to brace themselves for a Grand Coalition and the death bell is ringing for the FDP, the model says that a new mandate for the current coalition is still by far the most likely outcome. That feels distinctly odd.

German politicians have a mantra that goes “Polls are not actually election results”, and pollster routinely claim that they are not making predictions. But colleague Bernhard Weßels over at the WZB has an excellent blog about the fit between polls and election results (in German). Usually they are very close. But there are some embarrassing exceptions. So stay tuned for post-election analysis, subterfuge and model tweaking.

Sep 192013
 
Thank you for more than 28,000 clicks on that photo!  Dome of the Reichstag building - La cúpula del Reichstag - Reichstagskuppel Berlin
alles-schlumpf / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Why Would I Want to Pool the Polls?

Pre-election polls are noisy for a number of reasons. First, there is sampling error. For n=1000, the confidence interval for a party whose true support is 40 per cent ranges from 37 to 43 per cent, which is more than most people would think. And this assuming simple random sampling. For multi-stage sampling, you could end up with one to two extra points at each end. Then there are house effects: Pollsters dress up their raw figures and different ways, use different sampling frames and slightly different modes and questions. And finally, political events and media coverage on the day of the poll will have effects, especially early on when many voters are undecided.

Combining results from different polls is one obvious strategy to deal with these problems: The combined sample size is bigger, and there is hope that the various sources of bias might offset each other. Hopefully.

Where Do the Data Come From?

The very useful site wahlrecht.de publishes margins from seven large German pollsters. Excluding INSA (they use an online-access panel), I check this site regularly and generate a data set from it that you can download here. To companies post (relatively) raw data, which I find preferable. What the others do to their figures, we cannot know.

How Does It Work?

The most straightforward idea in poll-pooling is calculating a moving (and possibly weighted). A more principled approach is model-based. My model borrows heavily from Simon Jackman’s (2005) paper and from Chris Hanretty’s application of a similar model to Italy, but differs in some respects. First, I treat the polls as draws from a multinomial distribution to account for Germany’s moderate multi-partyism. The parameters of this distribution depend on the relative strength of latent support for each party. Modelling the results as multinomial implies the constraint that the estimated shares must some to unity, which is useful. Second, like Jackman and Hanretty, I assume that latent support for each party follows a random walk (today’s support is yesterdays support plus a random quantity), but I allow for a drift: a linear trend in latent support over the course of the campaign. Third, I assign each poll to a week, because there are relatively few polls, and field-times are relatively long. Put differently, I assume that public opinion moves from week to week (but not from day to day).

The model estimates latent party support since January 2013 and makes predictions for the outcome of the election. The code (R & Bugs) is here.

Does It Work?

Honestly, I have no idea. This is work in progress, so take the findings with a pinch of salt.

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Everything? Anything? The most obviously dubious assumption of the model is that the polls are unbiased on average. Latent linear trends are a close second.

Sep 152013
 

State of Play: From Momentum to Peer’s Finger

The German media have been particularly excitable this week. They kicked off with floating the idea that there was momentum in the polls (“SPD up by almost two points!”) and concluded with covering the infamous magazine cover portraying Peer Steinbrück flaunting his finger. Moreover, the idea that the eurosceptic AfD might enter parliament has gained some traction. Of course, there is zero new evidence, but some days ago a leading pollster said that he could not rule out a result north of five per cent (the threshold).

Given that they have been polling between three and four per cent and considering the margin of error, that is a very sensible statement. By this morning, it had morphed into “Pollsters Expect that AfD will force Grand Coalition”. My totally scientifically objective hybrid human-computer qualitative analysis of the press (i.e. me browsing the internet) shows that the more pro-business papers are pushing that story – presumably because the AfD’s leader, a professor of macro economics, has the ear of a few editors.

The party does have, however, an unusually strong social media presence. If that is indicative of anything is anyone’s guess.

The Polls

The most recent iteration includes three new polls from week 36 (the week after the debate) as well as two from this week, and they are as noisy as ever. Ratings for the CDU are particularly variable (between 39 and 44 per cent), which is to be expected since the sampling error is bigger for parties that are close to 50 per cent. But according to model, this is mostly noise, and the party is still solidly somewhere in the area of 40 per cent (or slightly more).

majorparties-week-37.png

Estimates/Predictions for the Major German Parties (2013). Click for larger image

The SPD’s support has indeed risen a bit over the last couple of weeks (all polls before finger-gate). But in the great scheme of things, that does not seem to matter much: The party is still stuck well under 30 per cent. Looking on the bright side, they will probably do better than the abysmal 23 per cent they got in 2009.

The decline of the Greens seems to be levelling out. Their recent drop in popularity not withstanding, the model predicts that the party will come third at about ten percent.

Support for the Left is basically constant and stable, while the FDP continues to inch upward. According to the model, Merkel’s preferred coalition partner will almost certainly make it into parliament.

minorparties-week-37.png

Estimates/Predictions for the Smaller German Parties (2013). Click for larger image

The estimated probability of a new mandate for the current coalition is now 89 per cent. If tactical voting is taken into account, that number goes up to 94 per cent. The probability of a red-green majority is constant at virtually zero per cent. The SPD has repeatedly ruled out that they would accept any arrangement involving the Left. In line with previous posts, I assume that there is a 10 per cent chance that they nonetheless consider the unspeakable. Plugging this into the calculation, the probability of Merkel winning a third term is estimated at 98.9/99.4 per cent (with/without tactical voting for the FDP).

The Outlook

Over the next six days, the CDU’s main problem will be the complacency of their voters: With the race virtually run, they might simply be too lazy to turn out to vote. The SPD, on the other hand, seems to be making very small noises that imply that they might be interested in entering another Not-So-Grand Coalition. And the FDP will make a desperate appeal to their supporters (whom?) while trying to convince at least some CDU voters that yellow-blue is the new black.

Much will depend on the outcome of today’s state election in Bavaria: While Bavaria is basically representative for, well, Bavaria, politicians, journalists and voters will inevitably take it as a bellwether for the big one. Let’s wait and see then, shall we?

Sep 142013
 

I finally got around to clean/update the code for my model that pools the 2013 German pre-election polls, estimates latent party support and comes up with the most marvellous predictions (TM). You may download it (complete with the most recent version of the polling data) from my dataverse. If you spot a bug or some other problem, please drop me a line.

I will be back soon with the latest polls.

Sep 132013
 

Beyond Peer’s Finger

Ready for another instalment of our series on odd campaign posters? Peer Steinbrück’s finger has raised the stakes quite a bit, but since a magazine cover is technically not a campaign poster, I’m not going to dignify this abomination with a link. Last time around, I have pondered the question if those people posing for the pirate party are indeed members/candidates, and @senficon has kindly clarified matters a bit.

Together. Really?

This week, I’m focusing once more on the local candidate for the CDU. While the seat is open (the sitting MP is retiring), it has in fact never been won by the CDU, so a little endorsement from the boss can’t hurt, yes? Thinking along the same lines, our man has put up a large billboard picturing him and the Chancellor. But does it show him with the Chancellor?

 

How Much Time Does a Chancellor Have for Local Candidates?

Here is a simple calculation: A professional shooting would take at least 15 minutes per candidate. The CDU is contesting all seats outside Bavaria. That would be 244/4=61 hours. Even if the Chancellor would endorse only those 65 candidates who are running in non-Bavarian districts not won by the CDU in 2009, this would amount to two normal working days.

jm.jpg

On his own

That seems a bit excessive for a woman who – besides things such as popping over to meet the other G20 club members, messing up saving the Euro and running a national campaign – is busy ruling the country. Plus: He looks a lot less streamlined on his own posters: So I was wondering, just wondering if the very capable people at CDU headquarters have come up with a little Photoshop template that candidates may download from some internal server. By the way, “Gemeinsam” means “together”. Is that the CDU’s response to the SPD’s ingenious “It’s the ‘we’ that matters”, or a not-so-subtle  irony marker? Just asking.

Sep 082013
 

State of Play: The “TV-Duell” and Syria

In 335 hours, the campaign will be history, and it does not look good for the opposition parties. Last Sundays’ televised debate between Merkel and Steinbrück – aka the Duel –  was widely considered a very civilised draw. Merkel is not good at debating. Her answers were long-winded and evasive, but she managed to score a few points. Her gaffe-prone and sometimes foul-mouthed challenger carefully tried to avoid digging himself into yet another hole but consequentially lacked a bit of his usual zest.

The SPD claims that Steinbrück’s ratings amongst the undecided raters have improved, but by and large, the debate was clearly not a game-changer. Similarly, Syria remains a non-issue, as basically everyone who is anyone says that we don’t want to be involved in what ever military action the US might stumble into.

The Polls

majorparties-week-36.png

Predictions/Estimates for the Major German Parties, Week 36 (2013)

This round brings five new polls: two from week 35 that were conducted just before the debate, and three for which respondents were interviewed from Monday till Wednesday. After factoring them in, the model still predicts essentially no change for the two major parties. Both have been stable in the range of 41 per cent (CDU/CSU) and 25 per cent (SPD) for a while now and are not expected to move over the next two weeks.

One important qualification applies, however: The model assumes a constant trend since January as well as constant variance (on the latent scale). Campaign/reality-induced shocks to the parties’ latent support may well be bigger than what is implied by these two neat normal distributions. But I don’t really believe it.

minorparties-week-36.png

Predictions/Estimates for the Smaller German Parties, Week 36 (2013)

Findings for the smaller parties are more interesting. Both the FDP and the Left continue their respective slow ascent. The Left is safely above the electoral threshold, and it seems highly likely that the FDP could enter parliament under their own steam. If tactical voting by CDU supporters is factored in, it is virtually guaranteed that there will be an FDP delegation in the 18th Bundestag.

The probability of a viable majority for the current coalition is now 84 per cent (basically unchanged from 85 per cent last week). If tactical voting is taken into account, the coalition looks almost unbeatable at 97 per cent (up from 94). The probability of a red-green majority is constant at zero per cent. The probability of a (politically unviable) red-red-green majority is estimated at 16/3 per cent (with/without tactical voting for the FDP).

In line with previous posts, I assume that the SPD would in this case favour a Grand Coalition with a probability of 90 per cent. That brings the probability of a third term for Merkel (aka the Merkel-O-Meter) to a new high of 98.4/99.7 per cent. As always, these figures should be taken with a giant pinch of salt, but it seems safe to assume that a change in government (let alone a change of the CEO) is really very unlikely.

Are the Greens Plummeting?

In short: yes, but … The three polls from week 36 see the Greens at 9, 10, and 11 per cent respectively. The model says that 11 is realistic but points to a slump of two per cent or so over the last month. Looking back, it would also seem that ratings of 15 per cent and more were hardly ever realistic. The party is going from sky-high figures to a share that is still very good. If the model is right, it is also highly likely that the Greens will be the strongest of the three smaller parties.

Jürgen Trittin’s recent claim that the party would bounce back just before the election, however, seems over-optimistic. And they would have to bounce a very long way to make a red-green government viable.

Any Other Parties?

A year ago, the Pirates looked set to enter parliament, and in March, the newly founded eurosceptic AfD began to make waves. The model lumps these and all smaller parties together in a single “other” category, since none of them has polled five per cent or more over the last eight months.

Over the last week, the AfD has repeatedly claimed that their true level of support was in the double digits. They capped off their PR campaign by offering Angela Merkel coalition talks. How do you spell delusional?

We all know that extremist parties are often underestimated as a result of social desirability effects. But hardly anyone has so far claimed that the AfD is extremist. And a gap of at least six percentage points would require a level of stigma that makes you wonder how the AfD leaders see themselves.

Just for the fun of it, I have amalgamated 40 per cent of the simulated “other” votes into support for a single party, which seems generous (there are about 30 other parties, most of them tiny). The chance of such a party to overcome the electoral hurdle is 0.5 per cent. However, if one of the smaller parties did indeed enter parliament, that would almost certainly force a Grand Coalition.

The Outlook

My model is likely to be misspecified, plus there could be a lot of last-minute movement. Stay tuned to see me fail when I come back next week with new evidence.

Sep 032013
 

Is this serious?

Many of the activities parties would have done in-house during a campaign in bygone times have now been outsourced to agencies. This was nicely illustrated last week by a mildly embarrassing incident: The liberal FDP and the right-wing extremist NPD were using the same stock video footage of a happy family. So was a Finnish dairy company.

But some of the smaller parties still put people on their posters who are most probably not professional models. Today’s exhibit is widely deployed by the Pirate party. The caption reads (in my clunky translation) “Not for sale. Just eligible”. The latter does clearly not apply to the two youngsters. But if their elderly companion was a real candidate, shouldn’t they put her name on the poster? So: Are these real rank-and-file party members, or is this another stock photo otherwise used for … whatever?

Sep 012013
 

The Polls

majorparties-week-35

Support for the Major German Parties, Estimates and Predictions (Week 35, 2013)

Exactly three weeks before the 18th Bundestag election, it’s time for another look at the polls. This weekend brings six new entries: One late result from week 33 that was only published a week ago, three polls from week 34, and two that were conducted this week, with fieldwork done from Monday/Tuesday to Wednesday. For all purposes and intents, that means that any possible fallout from the Western (non-)intervention in Syria will not be reflected in the polls.

Raw Figures, Estimates and Predictions

As always, there is a good deal of variation in the published figures. The range for Merkel’s Christian Democratcs, for example, is 41 to 46 per cent. But for what it is worth, the model is ever more confident about the outcome of the election: The estimated probability of victory for the governing coalition is now 85 per cent (up from 78 per cent) even if one ignores tactical voting by CDU supporters. If this “loan vote” is factored in, the probability of a coalition victory is 94 per cent (up from 90). Unsurprisingly, the probability of a Red-Green majority is still estimated as zero.

minorparties-week-33

Support for the Minor German Parties, Estimates and Predictions (Week 35, 2013)

The  one remarkable change is the modest slump in support for the Greens, which have lost about two points over the last four weeks and are now well below their peak support of about 15 per cent in March. The slow upward trend of the Liberals is unbroken, and the Left is safely above the electoral threshold. Support for the two major parties is perfectly stable.

Since my interest here is (mostly) academic, I also began comparing past predictions (from week 33) with current estimates. The differences are small, but there is one interesting exception: Support for the Greens is now estimated to be 0.8 points lower than it should have been, given the information that was available two weeks ago. So it would seem that their support is indeed suffering from some random shock.

The Outlook

Today is the day of the televised debate between Steinbrück and Merkel (in Germany, known as “the Duel”). While we are professionally obliged to watch it, I don’t think that it will make much of a difference. Both candidates are extremely well known knowns. I also don’t think that Syria will matter for this campaign.

Have I just shot myself in the foot? Probably. Come back next week for the latest batch of surveys.