June brings sunshine to governing & new parties but only storm clouds for the Far-Right

As we move into the second half of June the opinion polls bring some cheer to Austria’s governing coalition. Although still in third place in my poll of polls (Table A below), the ÖVP (conservatives) have been neck and neck with the (Far-Right) FPÖ in the battle for second place this month. Their partners in government the (Social Democrats) SPÖ currently have a clear lead over the other two parties, after spending much of May with poll rating dropping and the FPÖ chasing them for first spot.

Table A – Average rating from 5 most recent polls

Polls GE 2008 Change
SPO 28.40% 29.3% -0.90%
OVP 23.60% 26% -2.40%
FPO 24.20% 17.5% 6.70%
Greens 13.00% 10.4% 2.60%
BZO 3.00% 10.7% -7.70%
Others 7.80% 6.1% 1.70%
Note 1: Pirates only   appeared seperately in Gallup polls
Note 2: Pirates   incorporated into Others in above table until they appear in all polls
Pirates 6.20% 0.0% 6.20%
Sources: Karmasin/Heute 18-06-12
Gallup 16-06-12
Gallup 12-06-12
Gallup 26-05-12

Sunshine but not summer for the governing Parties

I doubt anyone in either of the ruling coalition parties will be jumping too high for joy at the moment. However, after six months of oscillating polls and ongoing issues regarding corruption in politics, the austerity package, and the problems of the Euro, both Parties have the same poll ratings with which they began the year (see Table B below).

They will both take comfort that the main opposition (Far-Right Populist) FPÖ has made no headway in the same period and that the emergence of new political forces has not impacted on their support in the main polls.

However, other polling studies looking at the potential impact of new political forces entering the field at the next elections should give both Parties pause for thought.

Corruption and the Far-Right

The story of Austrian politics for the last year has been less about the issues of the Eurozone (which for a Euro country doing relatively well can seem a long way off) and more about corruption in politics – particularly, though not exclusively, matters relating to the last ÖVP-FPÖ/BZÖ government.

For months the oddity has been the damage the scandals have done to the ÖVP and BZÖ whilst leaving the FPÖ relatively unscathed (polling has highlighted that non-FPÖ voters see them as or more tainted than other parties but with FPÖ voters views being more supportive). However, the most recent (but unrelated) scandal seems to have finally tarnished the FPÖ’s image with its own supporters.

This is the second time this year the Party has seen its support slip significantly. The first was over the ‘We are the new Jews’ comment which shaved support away from amongst their moderate (anti-establishment) supporters as it highlighted the other side of the FPÖ.

The FPÖ will be hoping that their poll ratings will once again bounce back up. However, they have seen the largest downward movement in poll rates of any of the Parties in the last six months despite having the luxury of populist opposition in difficult times. In that period their ratings have yo-yoed more than their opponents and they remain vulnerable to new electoral groups drawing away section of their support who want change in the political system rather than responding to the Party’s anti-foreigner/anti-EU message. A further problem in tackling these challenges comes from polling evidence which shows that around 70% of the electorate deeply opposed to the Party. Thus the FPÖ has to maintain its two core electoral groupings whilst overcoming wider voter mistrust/hostility if it wants to achieve a strong first party position in the future.

With the BZÖ now averaging 3% (4%is needed to enter the Austrian parliament) the combined Far-Right vote has not advanced since the last election and has dropped by 4.2% since the beginning of the year.

New Parties (and some comeback kids)

The big winner in the polls since the beginning of the New Year has been ‘others’ who are now up 5.2% to an average rating of 7.8%. This it should be noted though is only 1.7% higher than the last general election.

Gallup now including the Pirate Party in its polling question which has had an impact on the ‘Other’ figure but it is noticeable that Karmasin (who do not name the Pirates) are also showing this rise in ‘Others’.

Polling research in which other potential parties are highlighted continues to suggest that new or other existing grouping outside the current parliament have the potential to secure over 16% of the vote. More on this subject in a future post.

Currently, it’s the Pirate Party which has entered the fray. Its poll ratings have moved between 5% & 11% (enough to enter parliament) despite some very public internal conflicts and little in the way of any clear policy platform. These latter points may limit their longer term impact which has so far been to attract the more floating less likely to vote section of the electorate. It will be interesting to see where people place them on the political spectrum in the run up to next year’s election.

Table B – Change in polls since January 2012

Polls Av Now Jan-12 Change
SPO 28.40% 28.60% -0.20%
OVP 23.60% 23.80% -0.20%
FPO 24.20% 26.60% -2.40%
Greens 13.00% 13.60% -0.60%
BZO 3.00% 4.80% -1.80%
Others 7.80% 2.60% 5.20%

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