vendredi 16 mars 2018

Russia: The Day before


Although the results of the Russian presidential election are quite known in advance, it is  nevertheless interesting to see what the polls tell and how they will fare.

I took all the results of all the polls referred to on Wikipedia since the end of December 2017. I added more recent polls that I found on the pollsters' web sites. There is an embargo on the publication of polls in Russia during the last week of the Campaign. The last poll I found was conducted by FOM and ended on March 11.

There are two "serious pollsters" who conducted polls almost every week, i.e. WCIOM and FOM. In addition two polls were conducted by the "Center of research on political culture of Russia" (CIPKR) and three polls were conducted by people around Navalny. These polls seem to have been conducted by Navalny's partisans and it is not sure at all that the methodology is scientific. However, since the results of these polls are not different from the results of other polls, there is no serious justification not to keep them in.The statistical procedure that I use is the same as the one I used in many recent elections, i.e., local regression (loess).

The first graph shows voting intentions for the main candidates, including non-disclosers, i.e., respondents who say that they will abstain, that they will void their ballot or that they do not know whom they will vote for. It shows that voting intentions are quite stable with Putin always close to 70%. The two other most important candidates, Grudinin and Zhirinovski get less than 5% and the rest of the candidates together get also less than 5%. The non-disclosers are also quite stable, at a level somewhat lower than 20%.

However, since the proportion of non-disclosers varies with pollsters and with polls, it is necessary to exclude them in order to examine the proportion of support for each candidate after excluding the non-disclosers. In this way the total support for all the candidates is 100% for all polls. The next figure shows the support for the same candidates excluding the non-disclosers. It shows Putin's support around 80%, perhaps decreasing a bit in the last weeks. The support for Grudinin and Zhirinovski is stable at 5% as is the support for the total of the other candidates.

Finally, one interesting question is whether the pollsters give the same estimation of the support for Putin. The following figure presents the estimates from WCIOM, FOM, CIPKR and FBK. There are trend lines only for WCIOM and FOM because they are the only two who conducted enough polls. In the following graph, the blue line is the trend line from the WCIOM polls and the green line, from the FOM polls, We also see two violet larger dots illustrating the CIPKR estimates, and three larger red dots illustrating the FBK (Navalny's group) estimates. The figure shows that the CIPKR tended to put Putin lower than the other pollsters and that FOM estimates that support for Putin is decreasing (from 83% in December to 75% on March 11). On the contrary, WCIOM estimates that Putin's support is stable at around 82%. In the end, there is a difference of 6-7 points between the estimates.


It will be interesting to see whether the Russian pollsters, particularly WCIOM and FOM managed to predict the support for the different candidates well. It is problematic that there is a ban on the publication of polls during the last week since we will not be able to estimate the reliability of polls and we cannot know whether the trend estimated by FOM went on during the last days or else, if support for Putin is stable, as estimated by WCIOM.

Unfortunately, I do not read Russian well enough (I read the numbers, at least 😊 and I get help from google translate) to examine the possible differences in the polls' methodology. I am open to receiving more information, in French or in English, on this question.

The main question on Sunday will be the turnout. In the WCIOM polls, about 70% say that they will go vote for sure. These figures are close to what we get in many established democracies. However, research shows that turnout is higher when elections are close races, which is not the case here. It will be a challenge to mobilize voters.

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