Jan 042017
 
The good folks over at the LSE (which, apart from running one of the most vibrant Political Science blogging sites on the planet also happens to host a university) have kindly asked me to look ahead at the likely outcome of the German Federal Election in September in general and the role of the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) in particular. I submitted my text early in December so that it could be published after Christmas. Following the terror attack on the Christmas market in Berlin, they offered me the opportunity to amend and slightly extend the text. I politely declined, because I thought that a horrific but fairly localised event such as this will not fundamentally affect the outcome of a still relatively distant election. I have been wrong before. Here is the link to the article on the EUROPP blog:

Nov 182016
 
With the vote mostly counted in the US, PS have posted a useful summary of the Political Science Forecasting Models for that infamous election.

By and large, and in neat contrast to the current fad for self-flagellation, the augurs of the discipline have done well. Eight of the ten predictions that were published in PS got the winner of the popular vote right. Not that it would make a difference. Somewhat ironically, Norpoth’s Primary Model that I had (incorrectly) credited  on that gloomy Wednesday morning with predicting a Trump victory performed worst.  But in fairness to HN, his model has by far the longest lead.

Nov 132016
 
The one and only Philip Schrodt has written what I think is the perfect seven-take-home-messages rant on that election and it’s likely outcomes. Skip all the self-flagellation/yes-but posts and read this instead:

Then again, there is one thing that does not get enough coverage in there, and that is the whole polling/prediction disaster. So you should read this, too:

There. Your Sunday sorted out.

Nov 092016
 
Ballot - Vote

I’m not a huge fan of predictive Social Science. People are not the weather; they are bound to react to our predictions, which may become self-defeating or self-fulfilling in the process. Either scenario is unpleasant for obvious reasons. Predictive models are often subject to herd behaviour. They rarely rely on first principles, which makes them rather less interesting in terms of understanding the underlying dynamics, and may therefore fail rather spectacularly if the underlying, often implicit assumptions fail. This, in turn, tends to leave us with egg on our collective face.

Having said that, and looking at the rather spectacular result of the US presidential election, it’s difficult not to be impressed by Helmut Norpoth’s “Primary Model”, which predicted a solid Trump victory back in March. The Primary Model relies on very little data, has a relatively long lead (time from prediction to event), and a good track record: It has correctly identified the winner ever since it was introduced in 1996. Whether that makes HN a happy man today is a different matter.

The Primary Model’s rather quaint website is here; the link above points to a more accessible contribution by Norpoth to the PS symposium on forecasting the 2016 election. Which brings us back to the collective egg/face problem.

Update

I wrote  the original post in the early hours of November 9, when it was clear that Trump had a majority in the Electoral College. Since then, it has become clear that Clinton has won the popular vote, probably by a considerable margin. Because (as a couple of people have noted on Twitter) the Primary Model aims at predicting the popular vote, even Political Science’s consolation prize is gone. 

https://twitter.com/fghjorth/status/797811119951900672

Dec 092015
 
Where candidates live matters to voters, and they show it in their voting 1
A bit dated now, but still relevant: Showcasing our research at the Democratic Audit:
285467330_3b3c4ba936_voting

That voters prefer to elect local candidates is a long-held assumption of British politics. Professor Jocelyn Evans’ research has sought to test that assumption. He found that the geographical distance between candidates’ homes and the constituency had a measurable impact on voting behaviour. In this post he shares his findings and argues that voters should have access to more information about the ‘localness’ of those seeking to represent them …

Read the full post here: Where candidates live matters to voters, and they show it in their voting

Jan 232015
 
Everyone is angry/worried/excited/happy (delete as appropriate) about the prospect of Alexis Tsipras, the leader of the radical left-wing Syriza party, becoming Prime Minister of Greece, while the man himself has begun to treat the election as a mere formality. But is such an outcome even likely? The most recent polls have given Syriza a lead of two to ten percentage points over the centre-right New Democracy party, which is currently governing in a coalition with the (much reduced) centre-left Pasok.

Τσίπρας photoPhoto by 0neiros Will Alexis Tsipras be Prime Minister of Greece? 2

While the number of undecided voters is still very high (in the range of ten per cent), the pattern is very consistent: ND has not been leading in a single poll taken since last May. Being the strongest party is significant, as it would give Syriza the 50 seat bonus that is still enshrined in Greek electoral law.

PartyPercentSeats
Syriza32.595+50
New Democracy26.577
Potami5.817
Golden Dawn515
KKE515
Pasok4.413
Independent Greeks3.410
Social Democrats39

(based on latest GOP poll)

But even so, it is unclear if Syriza reaches the 151 seats that are required to form a government. The results of the last GPO poll translate into just 95 + 50 seats for Syriza. That’s with the newly formed Social Democratic party of former PM Papandreou scraping past the three per cent threshold. But even if the Social Democrats don’t make it, Syriza would need 34 per cent (about the highest level of support they have so far achieved in the polls) to win 151 seats. Only if the slightly erratic Independent Greeks also poll less than three per cent, 32 per cent of the vPhoto by 0neiros Will Alexis Tsipras be Prime Minister of Greece? 2ote will be enough to give Syriza an outright majority of the seats (tactical voting, anyone?).

Otherwise, they will have to find a coalition partner. The communists (KKE) have firmly ruled out the prospect of any cooperation with Syriza, while Tsipras has declared that he does not want to work with the left-liberal (?) Potami. As of now, other coalitions look even less likely, so this may well end in a hung parliament.

Jan 182015
 
With all that is going pear-shaped in the world, you would be forgiven not to be aware of the latest instalment in the Great Greek Political Drama Series. It actually had a rather long lead: The current president’s term was coming to an end, and Alexis Tsipras, the leader of the radical left opposition faction Syriza had made it clear from at least last summer that he would use the provisions of the constitution to bring down the current centre-right/centre left coalition government.

How was that possible? After various defections, the current government is supported by 156 of 300 MPs, still a workable and reasonably stable majority of 52 per cent. But although the office is largely ceremonial, electing a new president requires a super majority: two thirds of the MPs in the first two rounds or 60 per cent (180 votes) in the third and final round.

greek parliament photoPhoto by ARKNTINA Are Greek MPs rational? 4

That alone is an unusual arrangement, as a surprisingly large number of European states does more or less well with unelected ceremonial heads of state (think monarchy), while many others are content to elect the chief figurehead by run-off or simple plurality rules. In Greece, parliament is dissolved instead (and to add insult to injury, a simple plurality is sufficient to elect a president in the new parliament).

Given the current state of the polls, the most likely outcome of the election on January 25 is a hung parliament: the government will lose its majority, but Syriza will probably find itself without a coalition partner and will not be able to govern alone even if they win the bonus awarded to the biggest party. Moreover, the small “Democratic Left” party will probably be wiped out, and various independent MPs will lose their seats. The right-wing “Independent Greeks” and the neo-fascist “Golden Dawn” are also poised to suffer (less dramatic) losses. On political grounds alone, the continuing until 2016 should have been preferable to an early election for any MP to the right of Syriza, not to mention the decline in personal circumstances for those who will lose their seats.

The 25 independents acting in unison alone could have prevented the election. And yet, only 168 MPs voted for the government’s candidate, 13 more (or perhaps 15 more – this is confusing) than the government’s own voting bloc but 12 less than required to prevent the election. So the others either have privileged information about the outcome of the election, value principled opposition higher than political outcomes and personal welfare, have silently defected to Syriza, or have received some side-payment. Or they are irrational. Your choice.

Nov 032014
 
Even the Washington Post has woken up to the fact that 25 years after the uprising in the GDR, Germany stubbornly remains divided economically, politically, and socially. In the great scheme of things, this may matter less than you might think: In Western Europe alone, the UK, Spain, Belgium, or Switzerland – countries that have been around as nation states for much longer than Germany’s current iteration – are similarly diverse.

But it keeps the German Politics crowd busy enough. I’m currently working on a piece that looks at the latest federal election in comparative (east vs west) perspective – something that I have done previously for the 1998, 2002, and 2009 elections (2005 was someone else’s turn). The biggest difference is of course in the results of the Left party, which, compared to the West German districts, is about four times as successful in the East (this figure is down from a 20:1 rate in the 1990s). But here is another Bundestagswahl fun fact: The Liberals – not longer represented in the federal parliament for the first time since 1949, because their national result was just below the five per cent electoral threshold – barely scraped beyond this threshold in the old West, where they garnered 5.1 per cent of the valid votes. Based on the western results, the former Christian Democrats/Liberal coalition could have continued. Once more, the Easterners brought about political change.lonesome politician

 

Apr 052014
 
The first round of the French local elections created quite a stir, but the second round of the French local elections was not a bad day for the anoraks either. While the initial focus was on the not totally unexpected success of the Front National, most of my correspondents agree that the real news is the annihilation of the governing Parti socialiste. Amongst the many posts, here are the ones I find most interesting:

marine le pen photoPhoto by Mashthetics French Local Elections Round 2 Link Roundup 5

  1. Over at the LSE blog, Jocelyn Evans and Gilles Ivaldi, the grand seigneurs of Front National blogging, argue just that: The shock of Sunday’s French municipal elections was the Socialist defeat (this is actually reblogged from their own 500signatures site). The Guardian agrees.
  2. For Art Goldhammer, it is the end of municipal socialism.
  3. Part of the fallout was the appointment of Manuel Valls as new French PM. John Gaffney thinks that this was a desperate move that will come back to haunt Hollande.
  4. But Art Goldhammer links to a source claiming that Hollande actually has been wanting Valls to be PM for a long time.
  5. And here is an “interview” on the Monkey Cage – interesting questions/answers on Hollande’s electoral disaster, but in a slightly odd format.
Apr 012014
 
Lord Salisbury on the drawbacks of universal suffrage. Cited in David Marquand, Britain since 1918, p. 54

Lord Salisbury on the drawbacks of universal suffrage. Cited in David Marquand, Britain since 1918, p. 54

MP, Peer, Secretary of State for India, Foreign Secretary, Leader of the Opposition, thrice Prime Minister of Britain, architect of the Empire and arch-Conservative. Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, third Marquess of Salisbury and colloquially known as Lord Salisbury was not exactly a fan of mass democracy. This is from one of his essays in the Quarterly Review, quoted in David Marquand’s history of Britain in the 20th century. A lovely thing, these dead tree books.