Friday, October 19, 2007

Opinion polls and political manipulation?

Since the debate between the prime minister and the main opposition party leader on Friday night, a handful of polls have shown a shift of support towards the Civic Platform party, led by Donald Tusk – all except one, that is.

The initial indicators of growing support over the weekend for the free market orientated Civic Platform were not convincing simply because they were those self selecting polls that people vote for on web sites or via telephone call to TV stations.

But two polls published this morning seem to reveal a genuine shift.

In a poll by OBOP in the "Dziennik" newspaper conducted a day after the Tusk – Kaczynski debate, Tusk’s party got a massive 46 per cent, which translates into 236 seats in parliament - five more than the minimum required to form a majority government.

I don’t find that poll believable at all.

Possibly the most believable is an opinion poll conducted by PBS, which indicates 38 per cent support for the Civic Platform (PO) and 37 per cent support for the Law and Justice (PiS). That means PO has gained five percentage points over the weekend, compared with a survey taken by the same pollster last week, while PiS lost one percent.

How much this has to do with Friday’s debate is unclear. According to a poll commissioned by the Rzeczpospolita newspaper, only 5 per cent of Poles say they changed their minds after the debate between Donald Tusk (PO) and Jaroslaw Kaczynski (PiS).

Whatever, there does seem to have been some movement away from the government in the last few days.

But one poll, slipped out yesterday by the Polish public television station TVP, bucked the trend – it showed the governing Law and Justice in the lead by four points – just as it was last week and the week before.

A closer look at the poll, however – and something that TVP did not mention (oops!) when they published the poll initially – was that the survey was taken before Friday’s debate. On the ninth and tenth, in fact. The poll was published on one of those 'tickers' running along the bottom of the screen, but you would think that the most important thing about that particular poll was, when it was taken.

Critics are also pointing out that PGB is Law and Justice’s favourite pollsters, as it usually gives leads to the Kaczynskis when no other company does so.

So, is there some manipulation going on here?

Well, you certainly could say that of state television, TVP. But the opinion pollster PGB has since recorded a similar wild shift since the debate, as well.

PGB was the only pollster to pick the winner of the Tusk - Kaczynski presidential election in 2005 - so the Kaczynski's must be a little concerned.

But I really can't see support shifting so hugely from one debate. Tusk will bounce, but not like a helium balloon.

But keep your eye on PGB, and close them when TVP election polling news comes on the TV - just in case.