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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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Do you think there should be a Centrist Liberal choice in Austria’s General Election?


In order to contest the Austrian General election a party/list, which is not already represented in the current parliament, needs to collect 2.600 valid signatures from eligible voters ahead of the election.

Neos and LIF who together main to provide a Centrist Liberal choice in the September General Election have begun their efforts to secure the necessary declarations of support. For those who think they should be one of the choices in the election here is the link:

http://us6.campaign-archive2.com/?u=8557dd947c134693a81dd863e&id=63702f561d&e=3a255d03ad

 

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Far-Right FPÖ continues its decline while new politics rises in Austria


Two national opinion polls in recent days have shown that the steady decline of the (Far-Right) FPÖ continues, with the Party now dropping below the 20% mark. Comparing the average figure from the most recent 5 polls with those at the beginning of January the FPÖ has lost 1.4 percentage points. Look back 15 months and support dropped by -7.2. Both these figures are a higher loss than any other party. Polls for the forthcoming State elections in Tirol and Salzburg do not suggest that any significant boost will come in either State as the FPÖ appears to be flat-lining.

Market poll:

SPÖ: 26%, ÖVP: 24%, FPÖ: 19%, Greens: 14%, TS: 10%, BZÖ 4%, Others: 3%

Austria Trends poll:

SPÖ: 26%, ÖVP: 23%, FPÖ: 18%, TS: 15%, Greens: 13%, BZÖ 2%, Others: 3%

Current average based upon last five polls:

SPÖ: 27.0%, ÖVP: 24.0%, FPÖ 19.4%, Greens 13.4%, Team Stronach: 10.6%, BZÖ 2.2%, Others 3.4%

Percentage variation across last five polls:

SPÖ: 26%-28%, ÖVP: 23%-25%, FPÖ 18%-20%, Greens 13%-14%, Team Stronach: 9%-15%, BZÖ 1%-4%

Not yet the Stronach affect

State elections in Lower Austria and Kärnten, combined with polling data, indicate that Team Stronach (TS) has supplanted the FPÖ as the ‘party of protest’. This places a significant hurdle in the way of an FPÖ recovery but the full threat of TS may yet to be fully felt. When the Austro-Canadian, billionaire businessman, Frank Stronach founded his party back in September 2012 its initial average ratings were slightly higher than they are now at 11%. The TS poll ratings are currently the most volatile of all the Parties but their higher ratings are moving up and they have the potential to damage the declining FPÖ move than other Parties.

Will the next government be a Kenyan coalition?

The current governing Grand Coalition of SPÖ (Social Democrats) and ÖVP (conservatives) is presently securing an average polling rating of 51% (down -4.3 points on the last General Election). While enough to form the next government (general election at the end of September 2013) a stable administration would suggest they will need to look for a third partner.

Following the Sate election in Kärnten the country now has its first three party coalition. The new ‘Kenyan’ administration (Red, Black, and Green) has been formed by the SPÖ, ÖVP, and the Greens. Commentators are suggesting that this State governing coalition may be the forerunner of Austria’s national government. Publicly the SPÖ and ÖVP both talk about wanting to maintain two party government – either with each other or another partner.

The Greens too are talking of two party government after September, in their mind a Red/Green administration – an outcome favoured by some in the SPÖ based upon the experience of the ruling SPÖ/Green administration in the State of Vienna. Unfortunately for those in favour of this the arithmetic just does not currently work. The polls show combined SPÖ/Green vote averaging 40.4% currently, that’s 0.7 points higher than at the last election. The SPÖ average of 27% is the same as January 2013, down 1.6% points since January 2012, and -2.3% when compared to the last General Election in 2008. Meanwhile the Greens are -0.6% points since January, that’s a further 0.4% average drop compared to January 2012. However, their current rating is 3% higher than their election result of 10.4% in 2008. In short, with six month to go before the general election, a SPÖ/Green government looks a remote option.

Green hopes and threats

The Greens hopes may rest on their performances in the two forthcoming State elections – Tirol & Salzburg. Polls suggest that while in Tirol the Party might nudge its vote up a little, while in Salzburg it may be able to achieve a significant advance. Given their recent success in Kärnten, further success in Salzburg could give the Party momentum going into the general election campaign.

Even this success may not be enough to allow the Greens breakthrough the 15% barrier and reach the promised land of +20%. Internal struggles and organisational weaknesses outside of Vienna pose real difficulties. Should they shift Left to try and take support from the SPÖ (as many activists seem to want) or try to widen their base by appealing across the centre left and right? These questions appear to remain unresolved in election year.

The Greens also face the possibility of seeing their share of the vote decline if one or both of two of Austria’s new parties make an impact at the General Election:

Austrian Pirates – The Pirates have been unable to make an impact in the recent State elections and they are polling 1% in polls in which they are specifically named. However, the Pirates have three hopes for success. Firstly, the Germany General Election is also taking place next September, if their sister Party can generate positive headlines this could help raise the Austrian Pirates profile. Secondly, a ‘Pirate’ issue (internet freedom etc) could once again make the headlines and in so doing make their message more relevant to voters. Thirdly, the Party appears to have resolved its internal difficulties of last year and will go into the campaign as a united force.

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Were the Pirates to revive their fortunes they would draw at least part of their support from the Greens vote. I wonder if the Greens remain sufficiently concerned about the Pirates. I’m reliably informed that Greens regularly attended open Pirate meetings last year in order to keep an eye on them.

 

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NEOS – Potentially the bigger threat to the Greens comes from NEOS the new Liberal Centrist Party which has now formed a joint election platform with the Liberal Forum (LIF). NEOS has already score a success with the defection  from the Greens of four leading members of Green Economy (business wing of the Greens). The Party represents a major threat to the Greens whose voter base contains a significant proportion of Social Liberals and centrists, as well as the potential to attract liberal voters currently supporting the ÖVP and to a lesser degree the SPÖ. With an activist base drawn from former Greens, ÖVP, Liberals and others, the Party has a broad Centrist appeal and in the longer run may have the potential to eventually reach the 20% mark that escapes the Greens – for now the NEOS target of 10% would see the Greens drop back below their 2008 level.

 

 

Sources: Market/Standard 02-04-13
Hajek/ATV 31-03-13
Karmasin/profil 23-03-13
Gallup/oe24 16-03-13
Karmasin/heute 15-03-13

 

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Delight at efforts to build a new politics in Austria – ALDE encouragement for NEOS


Guy Verhofstadt, MEP, Leader of the ALDE Group in the European Parliament, has voiced his support for NEOS, Austria’s new Liberal Centrist Party.

http://neos.eu/journal/mep-guy-verhofstadt-wuenscht-neos-viel-erfolg/

The Party has formed a joint election platform with the Liberal Forum (LIF) and together they will compete in the General Election in September under the NEOS banner.

https://viennalife.wordpress.com/2013/03/17/joint-election-platform-confirmed-for-liberal-minded-forces/

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More about NEOS:

https://viennalife.wordpress.com/2013/03/09/coming-home-why-liberals-in-austria-now-have-a-place-to-go/

https://viennalife.wordpress.com/2012/12/04/it-will-have-to-be-a-big-tent-hence-neos/

http://neos.eu/

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Joint election platform confirmed for “liberal-minded forces”


Yesterday (16-03-13) saw the NEOS General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to form a joint election platform with the Liberal Forum (LIF). The Liberal partnership, it’s reported, will be going forward into the General Election under the slogan ‘The stalemate is strong, Together we are stronger’ – a reference to the perceived lack of ability by the ruling Grand Coalition (Social Democrats and the conservatives) to achieve reforms in key areas.

The LIF had already agreed to the alliance and so the Assembly vote was the final step in creating the platform. The decision has gained coverage today across the Austrian press:

http://derstandard.at/1363239262082/Fusion-von-NEOS-und-LIF-fix

http://www.news.at/a/nationalratswahl-neue-wahlplattform-neos-lif

http://www.krone.at/Politik/NEOS_und_LIF_ziehen_gemeinsam_in_Nationalratswahl-Jetzt_ist_es_fix-Story-354983

http://www.kleinezeitung.at/nachrichten/politik/oesterreich/3268759/neos-lif-ziehen-gemeinsam-nr-wahl.story

http://www.wienerzeitung.at/nachrichten/oesterreich/politik/531926_NEOS-und-LIF-ziehen-gemeinsam-in-die-Nationalratswahl.html

http://diepresse.com/home/politik/innenpolitik/1376768/Neos_Liberale-Ehe-mit-Hindernissen?_vl_backlink=/home/politik/innenpolitik/index.do

It’s been a significant week for NEOS and the new Liberal platform with their first appearance in the Austrian opinion polls .

 

178934_343836822378911_2061264889_n2013-03-17 09.42.25

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NEOS makes debut in national opinion polls


It’s been a busy week of press coverage for one of Austria’s new parties, NEOS (and its electoral allies), culminating with their first mention in a national opinion poll (Karmasin published in Heute):

SPÖ – 27%; ÖVP – 24%; FPÖ – 20%; Greens – 14%; BZÖ – 2%; Team Stronach – 9%; NEOS – 2%

It may not be earth shattering but for a grouping with limited resources, which have gradually been raising their profile, it is a major jump forward. They will be hoping to build on the media coverage and their growing organisation to push these poll ratings towards the 10% they are aiming to achieve come the national elections.

Pinks is also attractive with Liberal Green

NEOS (party colour pink) has made the news this week with two major stories. First the new Liberal Centrist Party secured agreement on an electoral pact with the Liberal Forum (LIF). They already have working arrangements with the Liberal youth party (JuLis) and the new pact brings together Liberal groupings into a single electoral platform using the short name of Neos and longer ballot paper name Neos – Austria and New Liberal Forum.

Here are links to interviews from a Neos, LIF, and JuLis perspective (in German but Google translate works well enough):

NEOS – Matthias Strolz

LIF – Angelika Mlinar

Julis – Claudia Gamon

The second headline grabbing story was the defection of four Greens, all described as high ranking members of Green Economy – association of Green entrepreneurs linked to the Green party.

National news interview

Also this week Matthias Strolz (NEOS) and Christopher Clay (Pirate Party) were interviewed by Armin Wolf on ZIB2. neuwal have produced a transcript of the interviews (again in German but Google translate can help).

So Liberal, Green, Conservative lite, Centrist?

A few weeks ago I was hearing/reading of NEOS described as conservative lite. This week the accusations have included a LIF front and Green by another name.

The reality would seem to be a broad liberal movement drawing support from economic and social liberals, liberal greens, and centrists of left and right shades – a new type of movement in Austrian politics.

Who will win?

Austrian politics has had a well established party pattern. With NEOS, the Pirate Party and (even) the creation of Austro-Canadian billionaire Frank Stronach, Team Stronach, voters will not be short of something new and different.

The questions are who (if any) of the ‘new’ will capture the public’s imagination? Will people power and new ways of campaigning win out for NEOS, or the Pirate Party? Will Franks millions be the key factor? Or simply will it be the established parties with State Party Funding, well tested traditional campaign organisations, and established brands win out?

 Karmasin poll published in Heute 15th March 2013

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