Tag Archives: Austrian Green Party

Current mood music in Austrian politics


Today’s Gallup/Österreich poll has some interesting findings on who the electorate thinks is doing well at the current time. The survey puts the Greens on top with figures of Good 49%:15% Bad. Out of the six parties currently represented in parliament the three ‘Right’ parties are ranked 4th to 6th and all have negative net ratings: Team Stronach  Good 24%:34% Bad; FPÖ Good 20%:41% Bad; BZÖ Good 71%:4% Bad.

The negative mood music for the Far-Right/Populist parties fits with my predictions in yesterday’s political blog post.

The SPÖ will be pleasured that they are ahead of their Coalition partners in positive estimate Good 36%:36% Bad. However, the ÖVP will be noting that they are ahead of the SPÖ in the net ratings Good 34%:23% Bad.

General Election countdown: 98 days to go.

 

 

 

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IMAS poll continues to tell a different story about Austrian politics


  • Polling questions
  • A few predictions for the election
  • The shrinking Right and rising Centre

Back in May I blogged about the IMAS/Krone raising the question ‘Volatile electorate or a rogue poll’? For the last few months the various polling companies have been telling a very similar story about the state of the parties in Austria. However, the latest IMAS/Krone is again noticeably different to the other but shows a similar pattern to their May results:

June IMAS/Krone poll

SPÖ 27-29%,  ÖVP 25-27%,  FPÖ 18-20%,  Greens 11-13%,  Team Stronach: 7-9%, BZÖ 3-5%

May IMAS/Krone poll

SPÖ 28-30%,  ÖVP 27-29%,  FPÖ 18-20%,  Greens 11-13%,  Team Stronach: 6-8%, BZÖ 2-4%, Others 1-3%

 

Excluding the IMAS survey here are the current national average ratings for the Parties based upon last five polls:

SPÖ: 27.2%,  ÖVP: 24.8%,  FPÖ 18.0%,  Greens 15.2%,  Team Stronach: 9.2%,  BZÖ 1.6%,  Others 4.0%

And here are the current national average ratings including the IMAS poll:

SPÖ: 27.4%,  ÖVP: 25.0%,  FPÖ 18.2%,  Greens 14.6%,  Team Stronach: 9.0%,  BZÖ 2.0%,  Others 3.8%

 

The percentage variation across the five polls without the IMAS survey:

SPÖ: 27%-28%, ÖVP: 24%-25%, FPÖ 18%, Greens 14%-16%, Team Stronach: 8%-10%, BZÖ 1%-2%

The percentage variation across the five polls without the IMAS survey:

SPÖ: 27%-29%, ÖVP: 24%-27%, FPÖ 18-20%, Greens 11%-16%, Team Stronach: 7%-10%, BZÖ 1%-5%

 

So what is this telling us?

You can rightly look at the survey techniques and sample size for explanations of variations in the polls. But in this case IMAS is consistently and significantly different to the others no matter the sample size. Of particular note is that the other survey this weekend – the quarterly Hajak/ATV poll – again produced very different results for the Greens and BZÖ in particular:

SPÖ: 27%, ÖVP: 25%, FPÖ: 18%, Greens 16%, Team Stronach: 10%, BZÖ: 1%, Neos: 1%, Pirates: 1%, Others: 1%

My educated guess is that the IMAS polling has a problem identifying the Green vote and is overstating the level of BZÖ support. Despite this their findings should not be dismissed, what all the polls are suggesting is that the numbers of people willing to switch party or stay at home are greater than ever.

Therefore let take a look at the difference between the figures with and without IMAS. Here’s a  few more educated guesses:

  • The initial rise of the Greens took votes from the ÖVP and but at their higher poll ratings they damage the SPÖ. However, they also have the potential to attract new young voters in disproportionate numbers. If the Greens fall back it could therefore boost SPÖ and ÖVP which the IMAS variation suggests. But these voters tend to come from the motivated, liberal, section of the electorate, as does a significant proportion of the ‘core’ Green vote. If the Greens are really vulnerable watch the rise of the new Centrist Liberal party Neos who have a joint electoral platform with the LIF.

 

  • The BZÖ figure looks much more like a reflection of ‘Others’ than a true indication of their likely level of support. It’s noticeable that polling data continually indicates that they are the party, in the current parliament, with the lowest ‘identity’ or ‘clear narrative’.

 

  • IMAS and the other polling companies all agree that the FPÖ is now firmly below the 20% mark. Looking at the long term trends I expect them to fall back further by the General Election on 29th September 2013.

 

  • Also the polls agree that at best Team Stronach is stagnating and at worst in decline. Interestingly the press continue to focus on the damage Team Stronach is doing to the FPÖ. While the former is now a road block to the latter and has taken some support away, the battle between Populist-Right and Far-Right, respectively, has left both with less support than they had when Team Stronach was founded back in September 2012.

 

  • The desperate battle on the Right is resulting in a shrinking pool of voters for both parties. The situation for both the FPÖ and Team Stronach may be even worse by Election Day  as both parties have higher than average numbers of supporters inclined to stay at home. In the meantime the result of their battle has been a rise in the level of ÖVP support.

 

  • If, as I suspect, FPÖ and/or Team Stronach are vulnerable to voter defections then the ÖVP and SPÖ may increase their efforts to secure these voters. This would be the best chance for either party to reach +30% of vote share. However, too reckless as pursuit of these switchers could make either party vulnerable to losing centrist liberal supporters to either the Greens or Neos.

 

  • Based upon the above scenario it is not beyond the realms of possibility that on election night FPÖ/Team Stronach/BZÖ share of the vote could be less than 25%, the Greens become the third largest party and Neos enter parliament at the first attempt. Additional arguments for this scenario include that over 70% of the electorate have a generally positive view of Austria, the priorities of the electorate are not reflected in the ‘battle on the Right’, in addition to ‘bread and butter’ issues the questions of competence/transparency/honesty and gradual reform are underlining motivators for the majority of voters.

If the election was today I think the coalition (SPÖ/ÖVP) would be back in power and the FPÖ would just hang on to third place. That’s because in politics, like the economy, there is a time lag between the period of change and the recognition of a new situation. Today the vote would reflect the now out of date story of Austrian politics. But today’s trends suggest that things could be very different on the 29th September.

The problem though with predicting political outcomes is that unexpected events can at least briefly (and occasionally permanently) change the game completely. There are 99 days left to the election, it’s going to be interesting…..I think 🙂

 

Quick guide to the Parties mentioned 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 are the’ brands’ tried at various times in the last few years. Originally, a breakaway fromthe 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.

 

 

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100 days to the Austrian General Election – Parties at the starting gate for main campaign


As the countdown to Election Day begins here are the current national average ratings for the Parties based upon last five polls:

SPÖ: 27.2%,  ÖVP: 24.8%,  FPÖ 18.0%,  Greens 15.2%,  Team Stronach: 9.2%,  BZÖ 1.6%,  Others 4.0%

It’s worth noting that the percentage variation across these five polls is very limited:

SPÖ: 27%-28%, ÖVP: 24%-25%, FPÖ 18%, Greens 14%-16%, Team Stronach: 8%-10%, BZÖ 1%-2%

Trends:

SPÖ: Support back up to the same level as beginning of the year.

ÖVP: Up 2% points since January.

FPÖ: At lowest level of support in last three years and still declining. Down 2.8% since January and have dropped 8.6% points when compared to January 2012.

Greens: On the rise and they importantly have moved through the 15% mark – previously seen by many commentators as the ceiling for Green support.

Team Stronach: The Party has lost 1.4% support since January.

BZÖ: Unchanged since January and will fail to achieve the  4% needed to secure seats in the national parliament.

Voters: 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.

 

 

Sources: Hajak/ATV 21-06-13
Karmazin/profil 15-06-13
Gallup/oe 14-06-13
Karmazin/Heute 31-05-13
Gallup/oe 30-05-13

 

 

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If only 52% of voters have made a choice are the polls worth looking at? Well actually yes.


The two most recent polls suggest good news for the Greens, as well as the Grand Coalition government – SPÖ (Social Democrats) and ÖVP (conservatives):

SPÖ 27%,  ÖVP 25%,  FPÖ 18%,  Greens 15%,  Team Stronach: 9%,  BZÖ 2%, Others  4% (30th May 2013: Gallup/oe)

SPÖ 27%,  ÖVP 25%,  FPÖ 18%,  Greens 16%,  Team Stronach: 10%,  BZÖ 1%,  Others 3% (31st May 2013: Karmazin/Heute)

For the Grünen it’s been a good few weeks since their dramatic success in the Salzburg State elections.  With the exception of the IMAS poll they have polled 16%, 15%, 15%, and 16%. Breaking through the 15 points barrier is a big psychological boost. Expect the Party leadership to spend June talking about getting 15% in the General Election in September. If poll rating were to continue to hold we’ll then see them talking about 15% to 20% and becoming the third largest party.

The SPÖ will be happy to see their ratings back to 27% and hope this will halt the talk in the press about the downward slide in their vote after Salzburg.

For the ÖVP it’s now five polls in a row with them at 25% or higher and within striking distance of overtaking the SPÖ for first place.

As for the FPÖ (Far-Right), their poll rating is still slipping downwards. The recent publicity about their ‘negative migration’ stance may help them hold their hard core but is likely to drive some of their protest vote supporters into the hands of the more ‘respectable populist’ protest party Team Stronach.

Current national average ratings based upon last five polls:

SPÖ: 27%,  ÖVP: 25.6%,  FPÖ 18.4%,  Greens 14.8%,  Team Stronach:  9.0%,  BZÖ 2.0%,  Others 3.2%

 

Good news then?

But wait. Take a look at the Gallup/oe poll here and scroll about half way down the article. According to Gallup’s survey only 52% know who they would choose come the General Election in September.

So, if 48% of potential voters don’t know who they would vote for, are the polls worth paying attention too? Well it’s yet another reason why the public, journalists, and politicians shouldn’t get too excited about the individual polls we are seeing. But yes, for those who want to know what is happening today and how that might play-out in the forthcoming General Election, then the polling trends (rather than individual polls) are worth observing and understanding.

Those trends do have an impact and are only likely to be disrupted by the occasional unexpected turn of events (even these only rarely have a lasting impact). Here are three reasons why:

  1. Floating voters are more likely to be influenced by the ‘mood music’ of politics and the expectations as to likely winners (and possible coalitions).
  2. Journalist and sub-editors choose headlines and stories based upon the drama/expectations generated by the polls.
  3. Politicians like to ignore or hype polls to their advantage but these public polls (and their own private polling) combined with the headlines (see point 2) often drive their agenda/strategies.

I’m not arguing that polling trends are the only factor, campaigning by the parties and social changes are amongst some of the other key influences. But in an election year polling trends have an influence over the electoral story which parties either seek to fuel or need to counter.

What are the polls really telling us?

Most importantly that below the surface there is a lot of movement in support, that the levels of committed support for any given party are an increasingly small proportion of those indicating a preference in the polls.

The trend amongst strategists of parties in recent times has been to maximise voter turnout amongst the committed which often means fighting increasingly negative campaigns, which in turn lead to a lower overall numbers voting. Recent State elections, which had historically low turnouts, would suggest to me that this strategy may now no longer  be an effective formula – these low turnouts saw core voters staying at home/switching and previous non-voters turning up at the polling stations.

Despite the main parties wanting to make the election a straight fight A vs B with the others as minor sideshows, the reality looks as though it’s going to be very different. Each party is going to be seeking to secure support from those increasingly loosely aligned to one or two other parties while persuading their own support not to switching to a third or fourth alternative (or staying at home). With a volatile electorate and more parties (realistically) to choose from, individual poll headlines will be of even less value in predicting the outcome.

So we need to look to the trends and movements in support to provide the better guide to changes in attitudes amongst voters in the key two or three or four sub-battles each Party will have to fight and therefore the outcome in September. For example the ÖVP may talk about its challenge to the SPÖ but presently it is gaining from the fight between the FPÖ and Team Stronach – the ÖVP talking about traditional SPÖ issues is not about its main fight with its coalition partners but positioning to scope up voters from the populist camps.

Current poll trends amongst current parties in parliament

SPÖ

There is little evidence to suggest that they can do better than the 2008 General Election result of 29.30%. They are -2.30% compared to 2008; -1.6% down on Jan ’12 their poll average. Unless they have a good summer I would expect them to be below 27% on election night.

ÖVP

Although -0.4% points compared to 2008, they have been the big movers since January having added 2.8%. Their poll figures are reasonably steady but unlikely to rise much more unless FPÖ vote collapses (they have benefited in recent months from the FPÖ vs Team Stronach battle). Will probably only take first spot in the polls if SPÖ vote falls below 24% mark.

FPÖ

In major decline and it could get worse. Although +0.9% points compared to 2008, they have dropped 8.2% points in the polls since Jan ’12. Defeats in the State elections, internal problems, corruption and other scandals, combined with the emergence of Team Stronach as an alternative protest party, have taken their toll. Down -2.4% since January ’13, don’t be surprised if they fall further and are overtaken by the Greens.

Greens

The Grünen are riding a wave of positive press and poll ratings. Up 4.4% points compared to 2008 and now about to be in government in five of Austria’s nine States, things are looking good for the Party. It’s a little hyped but the trend is positive. The change from January (pre four State elections) and now is just +0.8%. What looks different is that they have started to break through the 15% mark in some polls. If the Greens can maintain unity they may well become Austria’s third party.

Team Stronach

Only formed at the end of September 2012 by the Austro-Canadian billionaire Frank Stronach, Team Stronach’s (TS) 9% at first glance seems impressive. However, despite the millions spent and disproportionate press coverage, the Party has seen its average poll rating drop from 11% to 9%. In the State elections TS did demonstrate the ability to motivate previous non-voters and disproportionately attract voters abandoning the FPÖ. If as I suspect the FPÖ continues to decline TS may well start to be the main beneficiary, it may also pull a few percentage points from the ÖVP and/or SPÖ if either falters.

BZÖ

Regularly polling between 1% and 2%, the BZÖ are all but certain to fail to reach the 4% threshold for seats in parliament.

 

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Volatile electorate or a rogue poll?


Two every different views of the state of the Parties in Austria have been published in the last twenty-four hours.

Exhibit one is the Karmasin/profil poll published yesterday. Very much in line with other surveys since the Salzburg State election, showing the Greens (left-centre) on the rise, the SPÖ (Social Democrats) declining, ÖVP (conservatives) slightly up, FPÖ (Far-Right) slipping a little further. The only difference to other polls being the better figure given to Team Stronach (Right-populist):

SPÖ 26%,  ÖVP 25%,  FPÖ 18%,  Greens 16%,  Team Stronach: 10%,  BZÖ 2%, (16th May 2013: Karmasin/profil)

Now exhibit two, the IMAS/Krone poll published today. This suggests a complete reversal of fortune for the ruling Grand Coalition with both the SPÖ and ÖVP just below the 30% mark, as well as for the Greens who appear to have fallen back significantly. The FPÖ figure remains consistent with other polls and the Team Stronach figure is at the low end of the current crop of surveys:

SPÖ 28-30%,  ÖVP 27-29%,  FPÖ 18-20%,  Greens 11-13%,  Team Stronach: 6-8%, BZÖ 2-4%, Others 1-3%  (17th May 2013: IMAS/Krone)

As Austrian polls generally have a fairly wide variable range I tend to avoid commenting on individual surveys, instead focusing upon the running average figure across the most recent five polls and looking at the underlying trends. But the IMAS poll is of note because it’s significantly out of line with other recent polls which have shown every similar figures and trends. It seems like a rogue poll but I’m going to look a little further at it when I can track down the full available data.

In the next week or two we will see whether IMAS have picked up on the start of a new trend or whether their survey is a blip in the ongoing story recorded by the other polls – a Green advance, the Coalition battling each other to be first with less than 25% of the vote, and the decline of the Far-Right. There is a third possibility with would be a true nightmare for all the party strategists, the electorate really has become extremely volatile – an argument that has some credence given the results in the four recent State elections.

Current national average ratings based upon last five polls:

SPÖ: 26.8%,  ÖVP: 25.2%,  FPÖ 18.8%,  Greens 14.6%,  Team Stronach:  8.8%,  BZÖ 2.2.%,  Others 3.6%

 

Sources:

IMAS/Krone 17-05-13
Karmasin/profil 16-05-13
Market/Standard 10-05-13
Gallup/oe24 09-05-13
Karmasin/heute 03-05-13

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Austrian voters say we are ‘not on the side of the big battalions, but of the best shots’


Or to put it another way, a lot of Austrian voters seem to think its desirable to have many small parties in the next Parliament. According to research carried out for der Standard newspaper, 47% of those surveyed believed that parliament would be more representative with many small parties representing diverse opinion.

Almost as many, 43%, believe that fewer parties in parliament would be better. Currently, there are  six parties represented in the Austrian parliament. Five of which are expected to secure seats at the election in September. The sixth, the BZÖ, has been averaging 2% or lower in the polls for over a year and a party needs to reach the 4% threshold to enter parliament.

To me this research provides further evidence that voters are not only frustrated with the current options but also more inclined to think in terms of party programme combined with who that party would be most like to join with in forming a coalition. Polling data from the recent four State elections would appear to support the idea of a more selective electorate influenced by perceived party competence, programme relevance, and potential coalitions. Interestingly, we now have 3 way coalitions at State level for the first time and Austria’s (current) fourth largest party the Greens, look set to increase its involvement in State government to five out of nine States, if discussions go as forecast.

For new parties outside parliament such as NEOS and the Austrian Pirates, both of whom are currently under the 4% threshold, these developments will increase their expectations and strength of arguments in the run-up to the General Election in September. For the new grouping in the current parliament, the party of billionaire Austro-Canadian businessman Frank Stronach, Team Stronach, these finds may explain why the party is stuck below 10% in the polls despite disproportionate press coverage and multi-million Euro funding. A vague populist platform, internal party strife, and reluctance to engage in a future coalition, are going to limit your reach and limit you to a battle with the FPÖ for a shrinking pool of voters.

As for the big battalions they will need to balance the ‘big party stability’ argument with a greater willingness to talk about different coalition options. For the SPÖ and ÖVP this will mean a stand up fight for who will be the largest party, while talking up the benefits of the Grand Coalition stability, and at the same time  being more willing to talk about alternative coalition combinations greater than two. The latter they seem to be increasingly doing in the aftermath of the four State elections earlier this year.

The headline is a partial quote from a somewhat famous Frenchman. I’m a bit of a fan of Bernard Cornwell’s ‘Shape’ novels and have always like this extract from ‘Shape’s Enemy’:

Richard Sharpe: No wonder Harris reads Voltaire. Listen: Dieu ne pas pour le gros battalions, mais pour sequi teront le meileur.

Teresa: God is not on the side of the big battalions, but the best shots.

Richard Sharpe: Not bad for a Frog, eh?

The use of the Rifle as a skirmishers weapon (Napoleon preferred his skirmishers to use traditional muskets) by the British and the subsequent development in the use of Rifle Regiments was an example of technology and flexible thinking changing the established norms for campaigning – in this instance the Napoleonic Wars.

A much more peaceful question is which of the  small parties have the potential to be the ‘Riflemen’ at the coming election – able to respond coherently to a fragmenting, sceptical, electorate; and adaptable to the changing campaigning environment in which new networks may be as important as traditional associations in engaging and motivating support? Or are any of the ‘big battalion’ parties able to develop their own ‘Riflemen’ capable of creating new electoral constituencies and once more build a broad electoral base? Voters are more volatile than ever, willing to consider other option or simply stay at home. When the dust settles after Election Day it will be the new ‘best shots’ and not the big battalions who will have, I suspect, ‘won the day’.

 

 

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Future blog post tells of shock results in Septembers Austrian General Election


Much to my surprise a blog post of mine from the future popped up in my electronic mail box. As it describes the results of this coming September’s Austrian General Election I thought it might be helpful to share it now.

 

Electorate votes for change

Pollsters had been warning in the months leading up to the General Election that below the headline figures there were record levels of ‘churn’ between the Parties. The electorate were said to be more volatile than at any time in the Second Republics history, the Parties could not take support for granted, and there were significant shift taking place amongst urban younger voters. They had also noted that the number of people with an optimist view of the future far outweighed those who thought Austria was in decline.

So whilst the poll may have been wide of the make in predicting this weeks’ General Election result they were right about the causes of the biggest shake-up in Austrian politics.

Looking at the exit poll data it seems clear that things could have been worst for the outgoing Grand Coalition SPÖ/ÖVP but for the strength of their respective party machines in being able to ‘get their vote out’. While both lost support to other parties their percentage of previous supporters staying at home was relatively low. One additional positive note for the coalition parties was that both had some success in attracting voters away from the FPÖ but these gains were not enough to offset defections to other challengers.

The Greens will be particularly pleased that while making gains in the urban areas they also made small inroads into the rural/urban fringe. Their success in taking votes from both the (conservative) ÖVP and (Social Democrat) SPÖ would have produced an even better result but for the fact that many of their liberal supporters switch to either NEOS or the Pirates.

Scandals, infighting and a negative message seem to have accounted for the poor performances of the three Parties of the Far-Right/Populist-Right.

Despite the millions of Euros spent since the launch of Team Stronach back in September 2012, the Party just wasn’t able to stretch its appeal beyond the protest vote – support coming primarily form previous non-voters and former BZÖ voters.

The FPÖ story at this general election remained the same as that at the early State elections. Former older votes primarily staying at home or switching to SPÖ or ÖVP, younger voters turned decisively to the Greens and new parties.

One prediction the polls got right was the collapse of the BZÖ. Like many of their MP’s, voters primarily switched allegiance to Team Stronach.

By building a broad Liberal Centrist base the new party NEOS has been one of the big success stories of the election campaign. By using social media and building strong networks the Party has been able to attract primarily urban votes from the ÖVP, Greens and to a lesser extent the SPÖ. With a tiny budget but a committed membership they have been able to achieve the same result as the multi-million euro campaign of Team Stronach.

Finally and much to many people surprise, especially after the poor showing of their sister party in Germany, the Austrian Pirate Party gained enough support to secure seats in the national Parliament.

Austrian General Election Result (September 2013)

OVP

22.5%

SPO

22.5%

Greens

17.0%

FPO

14.0%

TS

8.0%

NEOS

8.0%

Pirates

4.0%

BZO

2.0%

Others

2.5%

 

 

An interesting set of results but whether this blog post is from our reality or one of the many alternatives we will have to wait until the 29th September 2013 to find out 🙂

 

 

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