Who is going to win?
"Rather than using improper methodology, the misestimations in previous elections were a result of adjusting the findings according to political parties’ expectations. This, in turn, erodes the credibility of pollsters.”
Those are the words of Professor Özer Şencar, an experienced pollster and the owner of Metropoll Research.
His comments are correct. For a very long time, in fact more or less since the mid-1990s, opinion polling in Turkey has gone haywire. As is the case in many things, it has become alla Turca and a tool for satisfying the ambitions of interest groups wishing to manipulate society.
Nowadays, with June 24 presidential and parliamentary elections fast approaching, we are witnessing the heyday of such efforts. There is an apparent “opinion poll inflation”. Since there is no transparency, all “cooked up” results somehow become a reality in the world of “post-truth”.
When reporting the results of different polls, Ahval assumes a function mostly ignored by the rest of the media. When we are sharing the findings of opinion surveys, if the company is officially or unofficially affiliated to any political party or partisan interest group, we also share that information with our readers so as to allow them to draw their own conclusions.
When seeking the answer of the question “who is going to win?” we can nevertheless detect some truths hidden inside this dark forest.
I want to share with you the conclusions I have made after talking to some relatively reliable and independent pollsters, as well as the representatives of political parties running, and some observers.
- Emergency rule: Due to the political environment of fear and repression after the July 2016 coup attempt, even the most experienced polling companies are cautious about the reliability of voters’ stated preferences. The answers voters give might not reflect their true choices.
- Reluctance: According to pollsters, the share of undecided voters at the moment is around 10 to 12 percent. This percentage is very high. Because of the fear and (due to differences in candidates’ profiles and ambiguous election promises) uncertainty surrounding the election, experts think this share will go down by 5 percent in the last 24 hours before the election and 5 percent of the voters will make their decisions at the very last minute.
- Young voters: In my opinion, this is the most important factor. The number of those who will vote for the first, second, or third time (meaning those who first voted in the November 2015 elections) is around 10 million. According to off the record comments regarding an important recent poll, this group still has a tendency not to vote. We have not figured out what the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), are doing to convince religious and conservative young people to vote. However, some pollsters also believe the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) is almost inactive with regards to this problem. Pollsters say that any party that aims to win the elections should succeed in attracting young voters.
- Numbers: According to careful calculations, only one million votes, not more, could determine the results of the elections. It is such a knife-edge situation.
- Turnout: This is also a very critical factor. Pollster companies behind closed doors state that an increase in voter turnout would strengthen the AKP. Why? Because, until the elections in November 2015, some “relaxed” AKP voters did not bother to vote, thinking their party would win anyway. But, when they realised in the June 2015 elections that an AKP win was not guaranteed, the voter turnout increased in the November snap elections. Therefore, experts think that if voters feel Erdoğan is losing and turnout increases, the AKP vote will increase. Analysis of previous elections also confirms that argument.
- In relation to this, I should add a comment Şencar made to DW: “In Turkey, the votes that have the potential to determine the outcome of the election belong to the AKP pool. The shifting of votes between opposition parties does not affect the balance. At the moment, the 50-50 balance between the ruling party and opposition parties stays intact.”
- Good Party: Meral Akşener’s votes are falling. It is uncertain what is the extent and the speed of this fall, but this is a reality observed in field studies.
- CHP: Despite the enthusiasm and the encouraging scenes in election rallies, objective studies show that up to now Muharrem İnce has only managed to regain the voters that were leaning to the Good Party in the west of the country and nothing beyond that.
- People’s Democratic Party (HDP): At the moment, the pro-Kurdish party seems to be barely over the election threshold of 10 percent, but pollsters do not think this share is stable. The HDP's votes are closely related to external factors and are quite fragile. Comments to DW by Hakan Bayrakçı, the owner of pollster SONAR, concur with what I have heard from various sources in recent days. “At the moment, it seems like the HDP will receive enough votes to pass the threshold for the parliament. Yet, the situation is still on a knife-edge. Their votes fluctuate within a +/- 0.5 band,” he said.
- Leadership and alliances: One pollster, after reviewing the data he collected, noted that the disconnect between opposition party candidates negatively affects voters and underlines that at least a joint photograph of the candidates – the CHP, Good Party, and Islamist Felicity Party- might help reverse this negative public perception.