I read this Haaretz story with interest to see how polls
were predicting Prime Minister Sharon's strokes would affect the upcoming Israeli elections:
Ariel Sharon's party, Kadima, will easily beat its closest competitors, the Likud and th Labor Party, even without Sharon at its helm, according to a survey conducted Thursday for Haaretz and Channel 10.
If elections were held Thursday, a Kadima headed by Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert would win win 40 Knesset seats, according to the poll, conducted by the Dialog company under the supervision of Prof. Camil Fuchs.
Should Tzipi Livni step into Sharon's shoes, Kadima would get 38 Knesset seats. Were Vice Premier Shimon Peres to take over leadership of the party, Kadima would win 42 seats - exactly the number of seats it would have garnered four days ago, when Sharon was still healthy.
I'm stunned by any poll that would predict a Peres-led Kadima is electorally equivalent to one led by Ariel Sharon. My first reaction is just to snort derisively, reject this and all polls, and then hunker down to wait for three months until the final nationwide poll tells us the answer. But there is a puzzle-loving part of me that can't resist trying to understand how this result could have been achieved. Here are the only ideas I can come up with -- let me know if you have your own:
- It is just sympathetic loyalty to a gravely ill man's creation, the Kadima Party. If this is the case, one would expect that within a week or two, that effect would fade as people face practical reality, and Kadima should drop, at least if led by Peres.
- This poll was not equivalent to the first in that many who didn't care in the previous poll -- undecideds -- are temporarily drawn off the fence by the intensity of the situation and reflexively support Kadima. This possiblity would predict the same future as the first explanation.
- The pollsters take perverse pleasure in setting Shimon Peres up for his inevitable fall, and just wanted to tweak him with one good result to get some juicy, over-confident quotes out of him.
- Netanyahu and other right wing parties called their faithful and prepped them to support Peres at this critical juncture, when poll watchers seek to guess which direction Kadima will fall, left or right. A Peres-led Kadima, or even the spectre of such a thing, would be a windfall for the Likud. Note that I'm not honestly speculating that Netanyahu called all the Likud voters likely to be contacted in a poll, even though I have received several Netanyahu calls myself over the years -- automated campaign pitches all, of course.
- Without knowing the entirety of the results, perhaps there was indeed the expected flight of voters back to Likud, but that it was balanced by a compensating influx of sympathetic Labor voters, all eager, in polls at least, to support the centrist party and the traditional Labor party mascot, Peres. I find it hard to believe that the new party's base of disaffected centrist Likud voters could find the werewithal to support Shimon Peres, so there has to be some other explanation.
- Typos, fake-but-accurate stuff. I'll check the polls again after the weekend and see if there is an editorial correction. It is possible, because I've seen Mofaz's poll support listed as 26 and 36 seats in different places. Hard to imagine that magnitude of careless error justifying a "Peres is the same as Sharon" story -- I know many believe that Sharon and Peres indeed are equivalent since the disengagement, but I can't believe they are equivalently electable in general.
- Alternatively, a fresh wave of Peres' great-great-grandchildren has reached voting age, leading to a temporary blip in polling results across the board.
Obviously, this isn't the last word on the subject.