Some depressing news today with a national opinion poll putting the far right Freedom Party (FPO) in first place on 29%, while the senior ruling coalition party, the Social Democrats (SPO) are on 28%. Despite a new leader and something of a re-launch, the junior coalition partner, the conservative People’s Party (OVP) remains stuck in the low twenties (23%). Unlike Germany where the Greens have been benefiting from concerns such a nuclear energy, the Austrian Greens remain in the lower teens (13%). The slightly less far right party, the Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZO) are polling 5% which would just about allow them to retain seats in the national parliament if this was the actual result in a general election.
The statistical variation for this survey is 3.6% and only 66% of respondents actually named a party preference.
Along with other recent polls and State elections (Austria is a federal republic) over the last year, this poll seems to confirm that the FPO has swapped places with the OVP but that beyond this the three largest parties are struggling to appeal beyond their electoral ghettoes.
Other polling has been suggesting that there is potential for the emergence of one or more new parties. Around 20% could potentially be attracted to a more social liberal party, with up to 15% for both a party more to the
left of the SPO and a ‘business party’ on the centre right.
Interestingly the attempt by the OVP to widen its appeal with a more centre right ‘liberal’ platform could be knocked of course by the talk this week of the potential launch of a ‘business party’.
My own completely unscientific reading of the runes (and voter switching at elections) is that the Austrian electorate is broadly split along the following lines:
- Traditional social democratic left 20%-25%
- Liberal/green left 15% -25%
- Conservative/classic liberal 5% – 15%
- Conservative/christian democrat/rural vote 15% -20%
- Far right 12% – 15%
- Popularist/anti-establishment 10%-15%
I also get the impression (limited by my lack of German) that the three ‘big’ parties are talking each other up. A case of better the enemy you know than face a new challenger (challengers)?