Tag Archives: Austrian Green Party

Who won the battle of the alternatives? – EP election note 4


I’ve been having a look at the SORA Institute EP voter analysis in der Standard. I was curious to see how the battle of Austria’s political alternatives played out in the EP2014 election.

2014-05-30 16.45.39

 

As I’ve described in previous posts, although they may fight amongst themselves, Austrian politics currently breaks down into three camps. In one corner we have the traditional mainstream comprising the governing Grand Coalition parties (Social Democrat – SPÖ – and conservative – ÖVP). The second grouping is the far-right populists (in recent times the FPÖ has succeeded in re-establishing itself as the dominant player surrounded by fringe parties). While in the third corner are the new progressives alternatives (the Centre left – Greens have been joined in this camp by the Liberal Centrist – NEOS).

The headline result of the election was the win for the pro-EU camp comprising the parties of both the traditional mainstream and progressive alternatives – their combined vote securing 73.7%. While the anti-EU populist camp fell back (-10.8%) achieving 24.1% support.

For the FPÖ the election was a significant chance to rock the system by achieving first spot in the polls. In this election they no longer faced the List Martin whose more moderate anti-EU position had secure it 17.67% in 2009 and the other populist parties offered little competition. The prize within its grasp was a clear run at gathering up the 35% who had previously supported the anti-EU camp. When the dust settled it had only secured 19.7%.

This relatively poor FPÖ got me wondering. Hence time spent looking at the SORA figures.

Far-right populists’ vs the traditional mainstream

The first point of interest is the battle between the far-right populists and the traditional mainstream. Looking a net movement of voters between the parties makes interesting reading. Although the traditional mainstream managed to secure first and second in the election, critics in both parties have raised concerns about the performance. However, the governing coalition did manage to make net gains (77K) against the Euro-sceptic camp. A significant switch of List Martin votes helped the traditional mainstream offset losses from far-right populists and the progressives. Moreover while the FPÖ attracted significant numbers of former List Martin and BZO voters, they only secured a combined net gain of 25,000 from the coalition.

OVP

 

Progressive alternatives vs Far-right populists

The progressive alternatives proved much more successful at damaging the traditional mainstream, persuading around 109,000 former SPÖ/ÖVP (28k/74K) voters to switch. They also secured even greater support from the anti-EU populist camp taking approximately 144,000 votes – ex-Martin 100,000; ex-FPÖ 23,000; BZÖ 21,000.

Polls’ looking at the pro/anti EU split show Austrian opinion remains consistent at around the 67/33. The success of the pro-EU ‘progressive alternatives’ in the election is probably therefore a stronger indication of domestic trends than a ringing endorsement of the EU.

2014-05-02 07.35.49

 

 

Battle of Austria’s political alternatives

So in the battle of the alternatives it’s the Grünen and NEOS who appear to be winning. The FPÖ numbers may have risen but they have simply wrestled control of a populist camp with at best a volatile base or even worse, for the FPÖ’s longer term future, a diminishing pool of loyal supporters.

In the meantime, the traditional mainstream does not appear ready to give-up just yet.

 

 

 

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Austrian General Election – Voters switched support but not always in ways you might expect!


Looking at the switch of voters between the parties in the Austrian General Election reveals surprising results. For example:

  • The advance of the FPO was in part limited by a net switch of voters to the Greens.
  • The switch of voters between the SPO and OVP produce a zero net impact.

I’ve been using the Der Standard interactive election graphic to look at SORA voting analysis produced for ORF. It tracks changes in voting behaviour between the 2008 and 2013 election.

I’ve taken the figures from the study and looked at the net movement of voters between each party.

SPÖ

Although they finished the election in first place, the SPÖ saw their share of the vote once more decline. A campaign aimed at maximising their core voter turnout resulted in the retention of 72% of 2008 supporters.

Net voter movements highlights the key problem for the party, the decision of a significant number of previous SPÖ voters not to vote – 173,000 didn’t cast a vote, while only an additional 25,000 former non-voters gave their support to the party this time round.

The switch of voters between the SPÖ and ÖVP produce a zero net impact. Losses to (Populist-Right) Team Stronach were almost balanced off by gains from the (Far-Right) BZÖ.

Net loss of votes 
SPO
Didn’t Vote 148,000
Team  Stronach 48,000
NEOS 23,000
Greens 20,000
FPO 11,000
OVP 0
Net gain of votes
SPO
BZO 40,000
Others 10,000
OVP 0

ÖVP

For the ÖVP the good news stories in the election campaign were second place and retention of 74% of previous 2008 supporters. However, this was an election which saw their share of the vote slip further and the party fail to secure a net positive movement of voters from any of its competitors.

On the Right the ÖVP lost support primarily to Team Stronach while even larger numbers of voters switch to the Centre and Centre-Left.

Net loss of votes 
OVP
NEOS 61,000
Didn’t Vote 52,000
Team Stronach 42,000
Greens 33,000
FPO 4,000
BZO 4,000
SPO 0
Net gain of votes
OVP
Others 26,000
SPO 0

FPÖ

The advance of the FPÖ was almost exclusively achieved by the party attracting approximately a third of 2008 BZÖ voters. They also made small net gains from minor parties voters, the SPÖ and ÖVP.

However, they retained only 69% of their 2008 support and saw net losses to the (Populist-Right) Team Stronach, as well as net losses to the (Centre-Left) Greens and (Centrist-Liberal) NEOS.

Net loss of votes 
FPO
Team Stronach 41,000
Didn’t Vote 27,000
Greens 21,000
NEOS 19,000
Net gain of votes
FPO
BZO 155,000
Others 36,000
SPO 11,000
OVP 4,000

Grünen

The Grünen were able to retain only 63% of their 2008 support with some 57,000 voters switching to the new Centrist Liberal option, NEOS.

However, their overall shares of the vote increased with the party taking 50,000 (net) votes away from the (Far- Right) BZÖ and FPÖ, as well as making progress on the Left with a net movement of 20,000 from the (Centre-Left) SPÖ.

Net loss of votes 
FPO
Team Stronach 41,000
Didn’t Vote 27,000
Greens 21,000
NEOS 19,000
Net gain of votes
FPO
BZO 155,000
Others 36,000
SPO 11,000
OVP 4,000

BZÖ

As predicted by the polls over the last few years, the BZÖ failed to reach the 4% hurdle and crashed out of parliament. They saw swathes of former votes switch to their Far- Right rivals the FPÖ and to a lesser degree former supporters moved to (Populist-Right) Team Stronach. They suffered smaller losses to the (Centre-Left) SPÖ and Greens, as well as to (Centrist Liberal) NEOS.

The net loss of votes to the senior out-going coalition partner sets another unwanted record for the BZÖ – the only party in the former parliament to suffer a net loss of support to the SPÖ.

The only success for the party came in securing small net gains in 2008 voters from ‘Others’ and the junior out-going coalition partner, the (conservative) ÖVP.

Net loss of votes 
BZO
FPO 155,000
Team Stronach 68,000
Didn’t Vote 61,000
SPO 40,000
Greens 30,000
NEOS 21,000
Net gain of votes
BZO
Others 11,000
OVP 4,000

Team Stronach

Team Stronach, formed in September 2012, had secured seats in the last parliament through MP defections.

The election campaign saw the Populist-Right party secure 109,000 votes from amongst 2008 voters who had previously supported the (Far- Right) BZÖ and FPÖ. Team Stronach’s second highest support came from former voters of the (Centre-Left) SPÖ.

The party was the most effective at persuading 2008 non-voters to come out and give their support. However, it was less effective at securing support from those who had previously voted ‘Other’.

Net loss of votes 
Team Stronach
Not formed in 2008
Net gain of votes
Team Stronach
BZO 68,000
SPO 48,000
OVP 42,000
FPO 41,000
Didn’t Vote 29,000
Others 28,000
Greens 14,000

NEOS

The party was formed in October 2012. NEOS achieved election history by being the first new party to enter parliament at the first attempt (without already having seats in parliament).

NEOS provided a new Centrist Liberals alternative and secured its place in parliament by securing support from both Right and Left 2008 voters. In particular, they were effective at attracting support from the (conservative) ÖVP and the (Centre-Left) Greens.

Their success in securing support from 2008 ‘Others’ and ‘Didn’t Vote’ in part reflects support from former Liberal Forum (LIF) votes – NEOS ran on a joint platform with the LIF and the two parties are now planning to merge.

Net loss of votes 
NEOS
Not formed in 2008
Net gain of votes
NEOS
OVP 61,000
Greens 57,000
Others 35,000
Didn’t Vote 24,000
SPO 23,000
BZO 21,000
FPO 19,000

A sad note

The most ‘loyal’ of all voters in the election were the ‘Didn’t Vote’ category. Around 85% did not go and cast their vote again in 2013.

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Are NEOS voters Left or Right leaning?


In yesterdays Austrian General Election Neos, the new Centrist Liberal grouping, caused a sensation by securing seats in parliament at the first attempt and making history by being the first new party to achieve such a feat in the history of the Second Republic.

Neos newspaper article 2

Polling research, here, suggests that NEOS have attracted voters in close to equal numbers from the Centre-Left and Centre-Right. The majority of NEOS voters had at the 2008 General Election voted for either the Centre-Right OVP or the Centre-Left Greens. Comparing the two sets of voters gives a split 52% to 48%.

Looking at all NEOS supporters voting behaviour at the 2008 General Election the figures are:

OVP (Centre-Right) – 38%

Greens (Centre-Left) – 35%

SPO (Centre-Left)/FPO & BZO (Right) – 12%

Non-voters – 15%

That only 15% had not voted at the previous General Elections suggests that NEOS is not a ‘party of protest’ but one that is starting to providing a new home to Liberals and Centrists who have historically been scattered across the political establishment.

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The groupings voter base seems to reflect the range of activists found in NEOS – Economic Liberals, Christian Democrats, Centrists, realist Greens, Social Liberals.

The question, as the Party moves on from its first triumph, is can it take advantage of its appeal across the centre and build a powerful broad church or will it follow modern political patterns which tend towards Parties increasingly representing a narrow sectional interest?

To date it’s looking good for a new broad, strong, Austrian Liberal Centre.

Neos newspaper article 1

 

Quick guide to the Parties:

Neos: new Centrist Liberal party. They have a joint electoral platform with the Liberal Forum (LIF). Building party structure across the country, growing membership/supporters network, innovative in campaigning and public engagement. Strongest General Election results in Vienna and Vorarlberg.

SPÖ: Social Democrats – Broad left-centre party. National party structure with Vienna State as their traditional key stronghold.

ÖVP: conservative in the Christian Democrat mould. National party structure with strong rural base but increasingly weak in the Cities. Lower Austria State key stronghold.

FPÖ: Far-Right – Traditional beneficiary of the anti-establishment and populist vote. National structure but weak in most States. Former stronghold of Kärnten lost in State election and now only real stronghold in Vienna State.

Greens: Left-centre party. Traditionally weak national structure bolstered by recent election successes – now part of government in five States.  Vienna State remains most significant stronghold. Party in Vienna more Left in comparison to centrist leanings in other States.

Team Stronach: Populist-Right. New party still building its structures but well funded by its founder/leader, billionaire Austro-Canadian, Frank Stronach. Seems to be a very centralised party dependent upon leader who has to spend significant time in Canada to maintain residency status.

BZÖ:  ‘Moderate’ Far-Right or Right-Wing Conservatives or Right-Wing Liberals. Originally, a breakaway from the FPÖ lead by Haider, the party has failed to find an identity or purpose since his death. No strongholds.

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Opponents, the media, and voters are talking about NEOS – will they be the Election Day sensation?


For a new party to make the  breakthrough and win seats in the Austrian parliament at the first attempt and even go on to join a three party coalition would be a political earthquake. That this could be the story of #NEOS on the 29th September is stirring up the election debate in the final days of the campaign.

 

So is this realistic and is it a significant moment…

Matthias Strolz  of NEOS thinks it is, describing the potential achievement as the ‘Event of the Century’, he may not be far wrong given the challenges of breaking into the system and the fact that the Republic has been governed for the majority of its post war history by the Social Democrat/Conservative Grand Coalition (SPÖ/ ÖVP). Pollsters say it’s not going to be easy but the chance is there.

http://www.xn--sterreich-z7a.at/nachrichten/Schaffen-es-die-NEOS/116627605

I’ve stuck my neck out and am predicting NEOS to secure between 4% and 6% of the vote (4% is required to win seats in parliament).

https://viennalife.wordpress.com/2013/09/20/austrian-general-election-who-will-be-the-winners-on-29th-september-2013/

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 When opponents switch from dismissing you to taking the time to attack or use you to attack another opponent, you’re making an impact:

  • Reds cheer NEOS…..

In parts of the SPÖ, it is hoped that the Neos “many voices” get-because that would certainly weaken the ÖVP and the Green.

In Teilen der SPÖ hofft man, dass die Neos “viele Stimmen” erhalten -denn das würde freilich ÖVP und Grüne schwächen.

http://www.oe24.at/oesterreich/politik/daniel/Neos-werden-zum-Zuenglein-an-der-Wage/116335621

…..but I also know a number of ex- SPÖ supporters who will be voting Pink. The Liberal Centre is broad.

 

  • Erwin Pröll leads the worried ÖVP attack…..

..a foretaste of what was to come in the Republic, when red-green, probably in combination with the Neos, the shots would. This is the reason why it is worth to fight against red-green Neos.

… ein Vorgeschmack darauf, was in der Republik kommen würde, wenn Rot-Grün, wahrscheinlich in Kombination mit den Neos, das Sagen hätte.

http://diepresse.com/home/politik/nrwahl2013/1453421/Erwin-Proell_Absage-an-SchwarzBlauStronach?from=suche.intern.portal

….but it sounds like another reason for more Liberal Greens to switch to NEOS. Green and evidence based policy.

 

  • A desperate BZÖ…..

Bucher for cooperation between liberal forces after the elections – For Strolz an “electoral sham”

Bucher für Kooperation der liberalen Kräfte nach der Wahl – Für Strolz eine “wahltaktische Mogelpackung”

http://derstandard.at/1379291135733/BZOe-will-Plattform-mit-Neos–diese-winken-ab

…but one paper described Bucher’s duel with far-Right FPÖ leader Strache as a ‘Love Show’. Bucher said he could contemplate a coalition with the FPÖ, something NEOS has ruled out.

In the same debate Strache used Bucher’s desperation against him by repeating the name NEOS. Clearly viewing the flirtation with the Centrist Liberal party as a weakness of his fellow right-winger Bucher – as all Liberals know ‘when you are attacked from the Right and from the Left you must be doing something right’.

http://www.oe24.at/oesterreich/politik/Liebes-Show-von-BZOe-und-FPOe/116503782

(Note: Bucher was viewed as ‘winning the debate’).

 

So what do the voters think?

The new Party’s recognition level amongst voters still lags behind the established Parties. However, this is rapidly changing as NEOS have managed to remain an election ‘story’ even without the advantages of State party funding and involvement in the main TV debates.

Polling figures show 19% of the electorate expects NEOS to be one of the election ‘winners’. The polls always seem to lag behind the level of discussion on the street about NEOS. There appears to be a NEOS wave of support growing (certainly in the States of Vienna and Lower Austria – I have no strong networks of non-political contacts in other States). On the 29th September we will discover whether the wave is yet strong enough to cause a pink revolution.

(Note: Pink is the NEOS party colour).

 

 

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Austrian General Election – Who will be the winners on 29th September 2013?


With just over a week to go before the General Election I take a look at the polls and whose campaign has momentum, which is stagnating, which parties are fading away? I also make a few predictions for the results on Election Day.

Here are the current national average ratings for the Parties based upon the last five polls in the press:

SPÖ: 26.6%,  ÖVP: 22.8%,  FPÖ 20.2%,  Greens: 14.2%,  Team Stronach: 7.8%,  BZÖ: 2.9%,  NEOS: 2.9%,  Pirates: 1.0%, Others: 1.6%

The percentage variation across these five polls:

SPÖ: 26% – 27%, ÖVP: 22% – 23%, FPÖ 20 – 21%, Greens 13% – 15%, Team Stronach: 7 – 9%, BZÖ 2% – 4%, NEOS: 2 – 3.5%, Pirates: 1%

 2013-09-20 13.50.07

Trends and predictions

Top spot

It looks like a safe bet that first place will go to the SPÖ even though their poll ratings haven’t moved since the beginning of August and they are slightly down from the 27% rating at the beginning of the year.

The Party had talked in the early stages of the election campaign about breaking the 30% mark but this looks extremely unrealistic after a campaign that has clearly been aimed at their core vote. Despite their consistent lead, party strategists will be concerned to ensure a strong end to the campaign as some reports in the papers talk about difficulties in mobilising their vote, particularly in Lower Austria the country’s largest state.

Prediction – SPÖ retain top spot but with a vote down from 2008 (29.3%) – 25% to 27%

 

Breakthrough

There are three Parties on the ballot paper who are not represented in the outgoing parliament – NEOS, Pirates, and Communists. They face the challenge of competing against Parties who receive State funding and of being excluded from the main election debates on TV. Currently none are achieving a poll average of 4% – the figure needed to enter the next parliament.

Prediction – NEOS will breach the 4% barrier and enter parliament. They have established themselves as credible challengers with many in the media; have successfully made themselves ‘the story’ and in so doing received higher levels of press coverage; the most recent polls have them at 3% to 3.5%. Additionally, my experience of talking to a cross-section of voters from Vienna & Lower Austria (the two largest States) says sympathy is turning into votes (but this continually lags behind the polls). – 4% to 6%

 

Fight for second place

The gap between the ÖVP and FPÖ has narrowed in September. The ÖVP average figure is now back to its poll rating at the beginning of the year. Although slipping back in the last week from the start of August, they have a significantly stronger party machine than their rival for second. Moreover, the FPÖ support seems to be less motivated than in previous years and they may have difficulties getting their vote out on Election Day.

Prediction – The ÖVP had a good start to 2013 gaining momentum from the State elections. However, their ‘Year of the ÖVP’ (the hope of finishing first) has died with a weak election campaign. Earlier in the summer they were benefiting from the erosion of support for both Team Stronach and FPÖ. However, the latter has stabilised its position and is itself now benefiting from the continued decline of Team Stronach. The ÖVP’s one remaining positive is that their organisation appears to be highly motivated and likely to ‘get their core vote out’. – 21% to 23% (down from 2008 result of 26%).

 

Is there a fight for third?

The Greens advanced over the summer and the FPÖ poll ratings where falling. For a while the idea of the Greens moving into third place became a serious point of debate. With two weeks to go the Greens advance has stalled while the FPÖ has rallied its support. Despite a good campaign and their leader, Eva Glawischnig, performing well in the main TV confrontations, the party’s average rating is once again at 14.2%.

The FPÖ have been fighting a defensive campaign seeking to stop the slide in their support, which has had success in moving their poll average back to 20.2% from the 18.6% at the start of August – still short of the 20.8% at the beginning of the year and a long way from their 26.6% back in January 2012.

Predictions:

–          The FPÖ to retain third place unless another scandal hits the Party in the final week. Historically, the polls understate their support, but in 2013 State elections the polls have been reasonably accurate. – 17% to 20% (stagnation or small advance from 2008 result of 17.5%).

 –          The Greens have had very good campaign but it’s slipping away from them. The ‘killjoy, telling people how to live their lives’ attacks from opponents have hit home with potential voters for the Green camp. While the more centrist Green message has been to the fore the more Left Green image in Vienna has not helped attract floating voters – 14% to 16% (up from 2008 result of 10.4%).

 

Possibly one of the worst campaigns in history

There is no really competition for this title. The clear undisputed winner is already the campaign of Team Stronach. Unfortunately, their Austro-Canadian founder, leader, and top list candidate Frank Stronach has performed poorly in the main TV confrontations, there have been divisions in the Party, and the campaign has (in my opinion) been appallingly weak given the millions the billionaire businessman has pumped into his Party. Since the beginning of August the Party has fallen from an average of 9.2% to 7.8%. When the Party was founded in their poll rating was 11% (and briefly had reach 16%).

Prediction – FRANK 6% to 8%

 

Fighting losers

Predicted by many (including me) to be sure bets not to return in the next parliament, the BZÖ have had a surprisingly good campaign. Party leader, Josef Bucher, first surprise of the campaign was to exclude a number of the Party’s better known right-wing members from the national list. His second surprise was good performances in the TV confrontations. However, the while pressing a more moderate new image, the Party has still been paddling at times in the same pool as the far-Right FPÖ and populist Team Stronach.

Prediction – 1% to 3%  (down from 2008 result of 10.7%).

 

Sources:

Gallup/oe 20-09 13
Karmasin/Heute 20-09-13
Hajek/ATV 19-09-13
Market/Der Standard 15-09-13
Spectra/Kleine Zeitung 14-09-13
 

 

Quick guide to the Parties:

SPÖ: Social Democrats – Broad left-centre party. National party structure with Vienna State as their traditional key stronghold.

ÖVP: conservative in the Christian Democrat mould. National party structure with strong rural base but increasingly weak in the Cities. Lower Austria State key stronghold.

FPÖ: Far-Right – Traditional beneficiary of the anti-establishment and populist vote. National structure but weak in most States. Former stronghold of Kärnten lost in State election and now only real stronghold in Vienna State.

Greens: Left-centre party. Traditionally weak national structure bolstered by recent election successes – now part of government in five States.  Vienna State remains most significant stronghold. Party in Vienna more Left in comparison to centrist leanings in other States.

Team Stronach: Populist-Right. New party still building its structures but well funded by its founder/leader, billionaire Austro-Canadian, Frank Stronach. Seems to be a very centralised party dependent upon leader who has to spend significant time in Canada to maintain residency status.

BZÖ:  ‘Moderate’ Far-Right or Right-Wing Conservatives or Right-Wing Liberals. Originally, a breakaway from the FPÖ lead by Haider, the party has failed to find an identity or purpose since his death. No strongholds.

Neos: new Centrist Liberal party. They have a joint electoral platform with the Liberal Forum (LIF). Building party structure across the country, growing membership/supporters network, innovative in campaigning and public engagement.

Austrian Pirate Party: Left-centre party. Always keen to point out that they are more than an Internet party. More committed to ‘Liquid Democracy’ approach than their better known sister party in Germany.

 

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The General Election – Is it the Coalitions to lose?


The General Election – Is it the Coalitions to lose?

  • Coalition wants voters to concentrate on the battle for first place
  • Far and populist right looking for a message
  • What happened to the Green wave?
  • A 1% return on poster campaign & press coverage
  • New & smaller parties looking for a breakthrough

IMG_8425

The Austrian parliament wrapped up its final session last Friday. The parties will now be focusing on their summer campaigns before the final push in September (polling takes place on the 29th September). So as we move into the next phase of election year here are the current national average ratings for the Parties based upon last five polls:

SPÖ: 27.2%,  ÖVP: 24.4%,  FPÖ 19.0%,  Greens 15.0%,  Team Stronach: 8.0%,  BZÖ 2.6%,  Others 3.8%

The percentage variation across these five polls:

SPÖ: 26%-28%, ÖVP: 24%-25%, FPÖ 19%, Greens 14%-16%, Team Stronach: 8%, BZÖ 2%-4%

As has been the case for the last few months, the polls are of a similar view on the current share of the vote for the FPÖ and Team Stronach. They continue to differ most often on the position of the Greens and BZÖ.

Trends:

Grand Coalition

SPÖ/ÖVP: They have the headline they probably most want at this stage, the equivalent of ‘It’s a two horse race’. Currently, their combined strength is generating press coverage suggesting another Grand Coalition is the most likely (only) outcome. As such they are able to concentrate their efforts and they hope the minds of the voters on the question of who will be Number One and therefore lead the next governing coalition.

I’m sure both sets of strategists will be hoping that they can keep the ‘battle for first place’ running as the main story of the election campaign. It would fit well with their shared underlying message – stick with what you know and focus on who will make the best senior partner.

It’s all a bit down beat, no great attempt to win a significantly larger share of the vote by taking risks. If the vote share of the two Coalition partners does increase it’s likely to be a result of getting their core voters out in an overall low turnout.

The one risk at the moment, which has been highlighted by amongst others the Mayor of Vienna, is that if the ‘battle for first place’ becomes so aggressive it works against both parties. I note that polling data suggests that a continuation of the coalition of two is not the most popular option amongst voters, the ‘Grand Old Parties’ will need to argue carefully.

SPÖ: It’s been a bumpy year so far for the party. With the exception of Kärnten, this year’s State elections and referendum were not good news stories. At one time their polling figures were close to falling below the 25%. However, they have remained first in the polls all year and their current average is back to the same level as it was in January. What will concern their strategists’ is that their poll variations are again becoming wider, will their ‘safe pair of hands’ approach carry them to success or will voters start to slip through their fingers?

ÖVP: In recent months their polling figures have been the most stable of all the parties but their previous 2% points gain since January has become 1.6%. Yes it’s a tiny variation but they, like the SPÖ, have been dominating the headlines, pushing hard with the idea of  it being the ‘Year of the ÖVP’, and that first place is a real possibility. Their strategists may start to wonder whether they are trying to build momentum or hold on till Election Day.

Looking for a message

Data suggests the parties of the far and populist right are finding it difficult to reach beyond the minority of voters who poll categorise as ‘feeling excluded, or pessimistic, or insular’. Worse these votes are amongst the most likely to stay at home come election time and the less negative inclined to switch allegiance.

FPÖ: It’s managed to stop is freefall and nudged its average poll ratings back up by 1%. It’s traditional core messages ‘immigration, crime, Europe’ have failed to help it make any headway and even attempts to move on to key voter issues have done little more than stabilise the situation. The one positive for the FPÖ is that they finally seem to have benefited from the decline in support for Team Stronach. Where once they talked of first place and 33% vote share, now they are talking about a place in government with 20% plus. The reality is that they will be happy if they can maintain third place in the coming election. The 2013 election has already been written off, their strategists are trying to maintain support in the high teens, hoping that Frank and his Team Stronach will disappear after the election and then the FPÖ will have a clear run for the next general election.

Team Stronach: The Party has lost 2.6% points in the polls since January. Bizarrely, the TS seems to have been asleep for the last month or so and is only now launching its summer campaign. Either party strategists didn’t want to ‘peak’ too soon or they have been rethinking their plans and re-organising after a disappointing Spring. The party’s policy launches have suffered from easy attack from opponents and journalists – TS policy cycle is Frank says…journalist question…Franks says detail being worked on by committee….policy detail launched… journalist question…Franks says further detail being worked on by committee. Frank himself doesn’t do well in open interviews. Interestingly, the new campaign response to all this seems to be an advertising campaign based upon images of Frank and single words…..’Social Frank’….’Authentic Frank’. Oddly, this might actually be Team Stronach best strategy in the circumstances.

BZÖ: Much of Team Stronach’s support seems to come from people who voted BZÖ at the last election but subsequently switched to the FPÖ before also abandoning them due to the ongoing scandals. The emergence of Team Stronach stripped almost their entire remaining vote away – they have regularly been at 1% in the polls. The party will be relieved to see that they, like the FPÖ, have finally benefited from the drop in TS support – up until now the ÖVP has tended to be the beneficiary of any drop in Team Stronach’s poll ratings. But it’s a very limited gain with the BZÖ’s average poll rating only going up 1% since January to 2.6%.

The Right: All three parties are desperately looking for not so much a winning message but just a message that works enough to keep them in the game. That game for the FPÖ and Team Stronach is to gain influence in next parliament and deliver a fatal blow to the other. For the BZÖ the game is survival and their latest move has been to try to reinvent themselves as a ‘modern ÖVP’. However, it’s only a few weeks ago that some members of the BZÖ were offering ‘political asylum’  to right-wingers in the FPÖ who had lost the latest of that party’s internal power struggles.

What happened to the Green wave?

Greens: After a successful round of State elections earlier in the year the political headlines were dominated by the idea of a ‘Green wave’ which would sweep the party into power as part of a three way coalition. The reality is that the average poll rating for the Greens has increased by only 1% since January (though their current 15% is 4.6% higher than at the last election).  What’s significant is that in some polls they have passed the 15% mark – previously seen by many commentators as the ceiling for Green support. The worry for Green strategists will be that in the last two months while some polls have had them as high as 16% others have had them polling around the 12%/13% mark.

A one percent return on poster campaign & press coverage?

Billboard posters are a significant aspect of an Austrian election campaign.  While they clearly have a value in reminding voters of a party and a key message, I have often wondered how much impact an average poster campaign has on increasing voter support.

In the last few weeks the BZÖ has undertaken a big poster campaign which has coincided with the launch of their election list and the resulting additional press coverage. The posters have been widespread and had a clear message. The result of these posters combined with added press coverage would appear to be a mere 1%. Maybe poster campaigns are more for motivating existing support rather than for changing campaign fortunes. If that was true Team Stronach (see above) and others may need to think a little more creatively. I suspect the PR experts will tell me I’m wrong but it’s a thought.

New & smaller parties looking for a breakthrough

Parties not represented in the outgoing parliament and who want to compete in the September General Election are currently collecting the 2600 signatures from across the country needed to enable them to stand.

Of the new and smaller parties likely to be fighting the election two appear to have a chance of breaking through the 4% needed to enter parliament – the Pirates and Neos. They or any other would be challengers will need to start making an impact soon if they are to achieve a breakthrough:

The Austrian Pirate Party: It’s not much but after months of registering 1% in the polls (in which their support is specifically recorded) a poll this week had them at 2%. I would not normally mention such a 1% to 2% change in one poll but it comes at a time when the Pirates have had a higher degree of press coverage and the Snowden affair has raised the profile of what would be seen by voters as issues relevant to the party. It suggests, no more than that, that if the headlines provide the right opening then the Pirates may be able to secure enough attention to reach the 4%.

Neos – Still my number one bet for a party to break into the next parliament. Steady press coverage (though usually limited to the ‘quality Press’), growth of interest in such activity as the Party’s Facebook site, and the positive response from those who become aware of this new party, all suggest the chance is there. However, Neos is yet to make waves in the polls – where their support is specifically recorded it registers only at the 2% level. The challenge in the next few weeks will be for the Party to raise public awareness to a level where it can convert interest into hard support.

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And what about the voters?

A few things I’ve noted about vote attitudes in recent polls:

1)      Austrian voters appear to be very positive about democracy in general but far less impressed with current party policies.

2)      More than half of voters say they already know who they will vote for and just over 20% appear to be undecided. But Party loyalty is far lower than ever before, so strategists would be careful about assuming that ‘decides’ are ‘firm’ support.

3)      A third of electorate may stay at home come the election based on recent survey findings. This is particularly true of current FPÖ, Team Stronach, and BZÖ supporters, which could further deflate their vote shares.

4)      Voters are far more likely to be optimistic than pessimistic about the future.

 

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Quick guide to the Parties listed above:

SPÖ: Social Democrats – Broad left-centre party. National party structure with Vienna State as their traditional key stronghold.

ÖVP: conservative in the Christian Democrat mould. National party structure with strong rural base but increasingly weak in the Cities. Lower Austria State key stronghold.

FPÖ: Far-Right – Traditional beneficiary of the anti-establishment and populist vote. National structure but weak in most States. Former stronghold of Kärnten lost in State election and now only real stronghold in Vienna State.

Greens: Left-centre party. Traditionally weak national structure bolstered by recent election successes – now part of government in five States.  Vienna State remains most significant stronghold. Party in Vienna more Left in comparison to centrist leanings in other States.

Team Stronach: Populist-Right. New party still building its structures but well funded by its founder/leader, billionaire Austro-Canadian, Frank Stronach. Seems to be a very centralised party dependent upon leader who has to spend significant time in Canada to maintain residency status.

BZÖ:  ‘moderate’ Far-Right or Right-Wing Conservatives or Right-Wing Liberals. Originally, a breakaway from the FPÖ lead by Haider, the party has failed to find an identity or purpose since his death. No strongholds.

Neos: new Centrist Liberal party. They have a joint electoral platform with the Liberal Forum (LIF). Building party structure across the country, growing membership/supporters network, innovative in campaigning and public engagement, gradually developing finances to sustain electoral challenge.

Austrian Pirate Party: Left-centre party. Always keen to point out that they are more than an Internet party. More committed to ‘Liquid Democracy’ approach than their better known sister party in Germany.

 

Sources: Market/DerStandard 07-07-13
OMG/Kurier 07-07-13
Gallup/oe 07-07-13
Gallup/oe 29-06-13
Oekonsult/Mein Bezirk 28-06-13
   

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NEOS are the big winners from direct voter contact


The neuwal.com folks have produced a very useful summary of an interesting political experiment undertaken at the Commercial College and Trade School Steyr.

The experiment first involved students casting their votes for the various political parties. Interestingly in this first round the Pirates do well alongside the SPÖ, ÖVP, Greens, and FPÖ. The students then had direct contact with representatives of all the nine parties through an information event at which the politicians answered questions.

Interestingly in the second round of voting that then followed it was NEOS who where the big winner with the biggest gain in support and finishing third overall. As you can see from the graphs on the neuwal.com page, the BZÖ along within Team Stronach and the ÖVP also improved their share of the vote. The biggest losers were the SPÖ, Greens, and Pirates.

It would be fascinating to see this experiment repeated elsewhere as this would help answer the question as to the degree policy or representatives influenced the voters.

One point of note from this story is that it lends weight to what I’ve heard NEOS people say a lot in recent months – ‘When we talked to people directly we get a very positive response’.

With the General Election scheduled for the 29th September 2013 the question remains ‘Will NEOS be able to get a direct hearing from the electorate?’ It’s going to be  a challenge for the new Centrist Liberal platform in a political system where the established parties have greater media coverage and large campaign chests from State and other funding.

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