Democrats Take An Early Poll Lead?
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Democrats Take An Early Poll Lead?

This is a long post.

Finally, a poll on who people will vote for. Actually, I find it annoying that more polls do not ask which party you support (or even better vote for if an election was held today) instead of ridiculous polls on whether people want unity in the country (it is like asking people do you think kittens should be tortured – the answer is clear, but meaningless).

Survey Data Methodology:

3,667 people from 18 provinces (Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Lampang, Prae, Nakhon Sawan, Samut Sakhon, Rayong, Lopburi, Nakhom Pathom, Nonthaburi, Chonburi, Mahasarakham, Surin, Ubon Ratchathani, Nakhon Ratchasima, Phattalung, Surat Thani, Nakhon Sri Thammarat)

By age:

  • those under 20 (5.5%),
  • those aged 20-29 (21%),
  • those aged 30-39 (26%),
  • those aged 40-49 (25.1%)
  • those aged 50+ (21.7%)

67.4% have less than a bachelor’s degree, 28.9% have a bachelor’s degree, 3.7% have a higher degree.

40.4% are traders/self-employed, 20.8% are farmers/contractors, 13.5% work for private enterprises, 11.2% are civil servants/state enterprise employees, 5.7% are housewives/househusbands/retired, 6.1% are students and 2.3% didn’t specify a job/unemployed.

BP: You should note my general poll disclaimer about a slight Democrat lean for polls although this was one is at least a “nationwide” poll instead of a Bangkok-centric one and the survey data doesn’t ridiculously oversample 18-29 year olds and undersample older voters like another recent poll. I would say it is about by about 4 points (i.e take off 2 points from the Democrats and gave that to PPP).

The main details of the poll are below:

1. Which Political Party Do You Support?
Democrats, 43.8% (men 39.8%, women 47.6%), PPP 39.6% (men 42.8%, women 36.5%), 16.7% other parties (men 17.4%, women 16.4%).

BP: Aside from the slight Democrat lean of the polls even if the Democrats were to slightly get more votes than PPP it doesn’t mean the Democrats will win. There are two types of vote that each voter has, constituency vote(s) and a party vote. Last time, the Democrats won 40.44% of the party vote compared to 41.08% for PPP, but for the constituency votes the Democrats received only 30.21% compared to 36.83% for PPP. I think this question is more in relation to the party vote (source).

Q2. By Age:

Under 20 20-29 30-39 40-49 50+
Dem 41.8 45.2 47.4 42.3 40.6
PPP 41.2 34.8 36.3 41.0 44.9
Others 17 20 16.3 15.8 14.5

BP: This is what I mean by the undersampling of older 50+ voters and why it disadvantages PPP.

Q3 By Education:

Less Than Bachelors Bachelors More Than
Dems 40.1 52.5 42.5
PPP 44 30.1 31
Others 15.9 17.4 26.5

It also had a vote divided up by occupation, but the formatting of the page doesn’t make this clear (11 categories, but 7 numbers) so I have skipped it.

Q4. By region:

North Central Northeast South Bkk
Dems 27 47.6 33.9 83.1 44.9
PPP 58.2 33 48.3 3.8 40
Others 14.8 19.4 17.8 13.1 15.1

BP: I am skeptical aside from Bkk as taking a couple of provinces for each region is not necessarily indicative of the entire region, i.e the South doesn’t include the Deep South where the non-Democrat parties do much better. However, it is broadly accurate (except I think PPP will do slightly better in the Central region and the Dems slightly better in the North). I can see a problem for the Democrats here and what happened to them in 2007. They win big in the South, but lose narrowly elsewhere. There are no prizes for second place (or more accurately only the first two or three winners in each multi-seat constituency become MPs) and the Democrats finished just behind in 22 constituencies – the by-election the Democrats won off PPP in Bangkok is example as the PPP candidate only pipped the Democrat candidate by less than 500 votes in December (they each received around 94,000 votes) so only needed a small swing to win this time.

There appears to be a small swing to the Democrats in the Central Region.

Question 5: Has your support changed from your previous vote?

For those who previously supported the Democrats 86.8% said they would do so again, 2.3% would support PPP and 10.9% would support other parties. For those who previously supported the PPP, 5.9% said they would support the Democrats, 84.3% PPP again and 9.8% other parties. For those who previously supported other parties 30.5% said they would support the Democrats, 23.3% PPP, and 46.2% other parties.

BP:The combination of the party vote of PPP and the Democrats at the last election was 81% and 19% for other parties and now for this poll it is 84% and 16% for other parties so there is only a small switch to the major parties. Now, you may say how can you discount the fact that
30.5% and 23.3% of voters who previously supported other parties are now going to vote for the Democrats and PPP respectively and as The Nation reports this “shifting loyalty is seen as a sign of growing discontent with the coalition alliance, which has failed to assume responsibility for the violent crackdown”? The statistics are slightly misleading by just looking at percentages.

For example, and for simplicty sake (and to save me from using the calculator or a spreadsheet) I will round up current numbers to 40% for PPP, 45% for Democrats, and 15% for other parties. 10% of PPP voters (4% of total electorate) and 10% of Democrat voters (4.5% of total electorate) are now going to vote for third parties whereas 30% of other party voters (4.5% of total electorate) will vote for the Democrats and 25% of other party voters (3.75% of total electorate) will vote for PPP. See how the swing doesn’t look so large now…

I wish they just asked, who do you want for in your party vote at the last election? I personally think this is the most important question as it can provide a reference point on how accurate the poll is – as you can compared it directly to the party vote at the last election.

Question 6. Do you support PAD?
Yes, 34%
No, 34.8%
Want to be neutral, 31.2%

North Central Northeast South Bkk
Yes 22.2 35.6 28.6 61.9 34.9
No 46.4 33.3 39.1 10.2 33
Neutral 31.2 31.1 32.3 27.9 32.1

BP: North and the Northeast is very much PPP land whereas the South is for the Democrats. BKK and the Central region, at least at the last election, are more split between the two. Same for those who support the PAD and those who don’t.

Now, how many months will we have to wait until the next such poll?

Finally, I will integrate my comments with Chang Noi’s latest op-ed “The election prospects of the Democrat Party” – one should also read this New Mandala post. Key excerpts:

At the December 23, 2007 polls, the Democrats lost decisively to the People Power Party (PPP), yet they still scored their second-best election result ever, taking 164 of the 480 seats, just over a third.

Only in 1976 did they win a larger proportion (114 of 279). At the 1992 poll, the last time an election led to a Democrat-headed government, they won less than a quarter.

How did the Democrats do so well in 2007?

Perhaps the most startling result was on the party list, the 80 seats decided on a vote by party. Nationwide, the Democrats trailed PPP by only 190,399 votes, and won only one fewer seat (33 against 34). At the 2001 and 2005 polls, the Democrats had won only a little over 7 million each time, and had trailed TRT by a mile. This time, both parties gained a little over 12 million votes.

How did the Democrats do so much better?

Several voters picked a minor party on the constituency vote, but then plumped for one of the two big parties (Democrats or PPP) on the party list. Possibly they made their constituency choice for “local” reasons (they liked the candidate) but their party list choice for “national” reasons (for or against Thaksin). The same thing had happened at the 2001 and 2005 polls. But this time many more people (around 15 per cent of voters) switched from small parties at the constituency vote to the two big parties at the party-list. And two out of three of these shifters moved to the Democrats, only one to PPP. That was what gave the Democrats their superior showing on the party-list poll. The shift to the Democrats was especially strong in the lower north, east, and central regions.

This shift has a clear implication: if the Democrats had some better candidates, they ought to do better in the constituencies.

BP: I also think the Democrats devoted more resources to improving their party brand and their party vote with the expectation that they will be in government.

It continues on the Democrat’s chances:

But where?

The two main parties now have an electoral heartland. The TRT/PPP has the upper north and the core northeast. The Democrats have the south (excluding the Malay-Muslim far south). Over the last three polls, this geographical division has become clearer and deeper. In these heartlands, the opponent is nowhere. In the northeast, the Democrats gained a pitiful 8 per cent of the votes in the constituency polls.

By contrast to these heartlands, the lower north and central regions have become an electoral checkerboard. Several 3-member constituencies returned MPs from two or three parties. Neighbouring areas voted in completely different ways. In the Chao Phya plain from the hill fringe down to the sea, voters have reverted to the old pattern of selecting candidates on local grounds with less attention to party. This is where the Democrats have to fish for opportunities.

The return to multi-member voting has produced many more close contests. At the 2001 and 2005 polls, most winners won by a mile. The multi-member format with more parties has fragmented the vote. In several constituencies, the winners gained only 30-odd per cent, and rivals were hot on their heels.

If only 1 per cent of voters voted differently, 11 seats could change hands. A 5 per cent shift could change a total of 60 seats, and a 10 per cent shift could change 104. Many of these “marginal” seats are in the checkerboard region of the centre and lower north. These have to be the Democrats’ targets at the next poll.

But what chance do they have?

Let’s suppose that all the seats that are vulnerable to small shifts by the voters do indeed change hands.

If there is a 1 per cent shift, the Democrats end up with three more seats, two won from PPP and one from a small party. If there is a 5 per cent shift, the PPP loses 23 seats, and the Democrats gain 18. That would be enough to give the Democrats the chance of heading a coalition. But it’s not that simple. There are also seats where the Democrats won narrowly in 2007 and are vulnerable to a slight shift in voting. They would gain 18 seats but lose 14 elsewhere. The net result would be that the PPP lose 9 seats while the Democrats gain 4 and other parties gain the other 5. If there is a 10 per cent shift in voting, the result is even more ambiguous. PPP loses 20 seats, but the Democrats gain only 3.

This is just a statistical exercise with not much bearing on reality. But what it shows is that small shifts in voting could change the result in contradictory ways. The Democrats have a good chance of winning some. But in others, especially in Bangkok and the east where the Democrats gained ground in 2007, the Democrats themselves are vulnerable.

Consider Chonburi and Rayong, the political fiefdom of Kamnan Poh. In 2005, Kamnan Poh delivered all the seats to TRT. But by 2007, Kamnan Poh had fled the country to avoid sentencing, and the Democrats won all the seats. Local opinion reckons there were two factors behind this astonishing swing: Poh’s sons did not pay enough attention, and the large number of army and navy personnel in the area were mobilised to oust PPP. At provincial and municipal elections only a few months later, the Poh family candidates won by a mile. The family was paying attention and the military was not a factor.

The Democrats have a chance to win at the polls rather than by another “accident.” But it won’t be easy. At the 2007 poll, a lot of public money and public resources were mobilised behind the attempt to prevent a PPP victory. How much this benefited the Democrats is impossible to gauge. And how far it will be a factor at the next poll is unknown.

BP: I don’t think one can underestimate the state resources devoted to trying to defeat PPP at the last election as blogged about last year – from the CNS plan to prevent the victory of the PPP (documents were confirmed to be real by the EC), PPP ads having to be submitted to the EC prior to airing etc. Then you have the resources devoted to defeat PPP, Democrat Deputy Leader Korn recently said at the FCCT that Puea Paendin outspent PPP 3-1. The result Puea Paendin won 24 seats to PPP’s 233 seats – just shows you how ridiculous the charge on vote-buying being behind PPP’s victory (Thanong covered Puea Paendin’s massive spending months ago with voters taking the Puea Paendin money and voting for PPP). The next election will be different with PPP moving out all the junta appointed provincial governors and putting their own people in.

On the other hand, you will have PPP treading water as government with a poor economy – a lot will depend on how they can pinpoint his on external factors and also on PAD (and PAD links with the Democrats). I still don’t think the PAD-Democrat link helps the Democrats outside of their “base” as well. Despite how weak and ineffectual the government appears now, things appear to be about the same as where they were in December 2007 election. There will likely be some realignments with some of the smaller parties consolidating or their factions (i.e Puea Paendin) joining PPP (a slight possibility of Newin splitting as well). Overall if an election was held at the end of the year, PPP will likely win a narrow victory with around 240 votes with Democrats behind at 170-175.