Is Berlusconi set to confound the pollsters?

Posted on February 2, 2013

The polls for today’s Italian General Election have been clear for quite some time. Mario Monti, the EU’s pet technocrat, was going to get a welcome kicking in a popular rejection of unaccountable, top-down government from Brussels. Silvio Berlusconi, clambering from the grave like a permatanned Dracula, was going to be roundly beaten in both Houses of Parliament by the Leftist “Common Good” coalition led by Pier Luigi Bersani.

Well, it seems the pollsters shouldn’t have been so certain. Early voter samples by TV station RAI in the key battleground of Lombardy suggest that while Bersani is leading in the Lower House, Berlusconi may be on track to be the biggest political player in the Senate – meaning he will have the power to gridlock the Left’s plans. Cue all sorts of impacts on the stability of the Euro and its so-called recovery…

If RAI’s numbers are correct, and Berlusconi really is going to hold the Left to an effective draw of one house each, what has happened to make the polls so far off?

The UK General Election in 1992 holds some of the answers. The polls predicted a big win for Kinnock and the Labour Party, but on the day the Tories won out (not, arguably, to the long-term benefit of the centre right in Britain, but that’s for another day).

The explanation was simple: people lied to the pollsters.

It turned out that the human element still persists in polling – plenty of voters either wanted the Tories to win or feared the consequences of a Labour victory (or both), but were too embarrassed to tell a stranger from a polling company “I’m voting Conservative.”

The same may have happened in Italy – quite plausibly, given the very public pillorying Berlusconi came in for after his disastrous handling of Italy’s sovereign debt. Bizarrely, that would mean that the Italian equivalent of John Major in 1992 might be Silvio Berlusconi today – not a comparison anyone ever expected to be drawn.

It seems that supporting Silvio, perhaps the world’s most consistently brash political extrovert, has become a very private matter. If his supporters have gone to the ballot box to put him back in the limelight, I doubt he’ll care about how proud or public they might be.

Bunga Bunga…



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8 Responses

  1. Bill Quango MP:

    But it does look as though the exit polls disagree.

    Latest Italian polls. Rai (Piepoli pollster) Senate Bersani 36-38% Berlusconi 30-32% House Bersani 35-37% Berlusconi 29-31%

    A good effort from Berlusconi. If a disgraced, corrupt, multi-millionaire, lying, manipulative, media obsessed British ex-politician ran for government again and got those sort of numbers, I’d be very very surprised.

    It must be a comfort to Tony Blair knowing if things get really bad, he has a good possibility of getting his old free house back.

    25.02.2013 17:30 Reply

    • Mark Wallace:

      The key here is that Exit polls are different to the forecasts based on votes counted. Exit polls can be affected by the voter shyness element I mention above. The RAI projection in Lombardy has Berlusconi 11% ahead http://www.forexlive.com/blog/2013/02/25/lombardy-region-turning-into-a-laugher/

      There are also important differences between the Lower House (which the Left seem to be winning) and the Senate electoral systems. The LH gives a big bump in seats to the party which wins the overall vote nationally, while the Senate allocates seats on a regional constituency basis. Also, the Senate election only allows over-25s to vote, meaning that the angry youth vote of the Left (or the 5 Star Movement) aren’t voting in that election.

      25.02.2013 17:45 Reply

    • Jeff Todd:

      Yes Berlusconi is almost a charicature; womanising, self-obsessed, corrupt as hell, etc etc. However he does not exactly hide it, does he? In that respect he is probably the most open and honest politician in Europe; what you see is what you get.

      25.02.2013 18:01 Reply

  2. mark:

    The polls could be right. But then again
    a) how much data are they based on, and what is the error rate associated with that level of data
    b) Berlusconi controls Rai

    25.02.2013 18:30 Reply

  3. Ethan:

    Don’t worry. The EU has a system for just this kind of thing. They make you keep on voting till you get it right. Failure to welcome assimilation gets you a imposed ‘tecnocrat’ ruler if you repeatedly get the ‘wrong’ result.

    25.02.2013 22:51 Reply

  4. therealguyfaux:

    The Shy Tory Factor, it’s called; many people think that, if they tell a pollster (who may only be interested in finding out the voter’s intentions) they will vote Tory, that the pollster will push-poll them: “And what if I were to tell you that the Tories are going to do [heinous thing] when they get in– would that change your vote?”, and the voters don’t particularly want to be hectored. So they tell a pollster they are uncommitted, or Lib Dem, or Labour, anything but Tory. It is the Tory voters more than any others who are wary of push-poll calls, hence they are the Party whose potential vote is more underrepresented in polls, or so I’ve been led to believe. (A similar instance in America, where potential voters did not want to admit they were not going to vote for a black candidate for fear of hectoring is memorialised as the “Bradley Effect”– Google it.)

    26.02.2013 02:53 Reply

  5. SRN:

    Voter shyness may be a factor, but opinion polls in UK have a terrible reputation for accuracy, mainly due to the large amount of voodoo they add to the raw data, much of which is based on media sentiment and coverage. But they have been guilty of exaggerating, and sometimes grossly over-estimating, Labour support, even into elections (1970, 1992, 1997), never mind mid-term rubbish they publish. But looking at who runs pollsters, there is a definite Labour connection at some of them. (Youguv, Mori). They have been politicised by the Left, because they feed and push media narrative. UK pollsters are mainly rubbish because they have little interest in reflecting voter intentions and much more interest in influencing them.

    26.02.2013 05:21 Reply

  6. Ben Everitt:

    Have you ever considered accountancy?

    26.02.2013 13:13 Reply

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