Saturday, August 27, 2011

Polls and Feedback

Rue89 has a good piece on the effect of polling on primary voters. The argument is simple: had it not been for polls showing that Ségolène Royal was the best-placed Socialist candidate to beat Sarkozy in 2007, she wouldn't have won the primary, and look how that worked out.

Indeed, as the article points out, when ideological differences between candidates are small, primary voters tend to be unduly influenced by horse-race polling, which is notoriously inaccurate. After all, none of the contenders has really been tested against the true opposition, voters are notoriously fickle, and much can happen in the many months between now and the presidential election.

At the moment, François Hollande appears to enjoy a not insignificant lead both in polling against Sarkozy and in comparison with other Socialist candidates. This probably reflects his assiduous efforts: by campaigning constantly, he has kept his name in the news and not just at the national level. One can't accuse him of not working hard for the nomination. Are there other factors? Does he seem a more likely "incarnation" of the presidency than his rivals? Are primary voters, disappointed with their choice of a woman last time around, looking for a man this time? Has Aubry failed to convince or connect?

I really don't know. The polling methodologies in France are too various and haphazard to have much confidence in their ability to pick winners or even to identify likely primary voters (France needs a poll critic like Nate Silver in the U.S., who can separate the wheat from the chaff). I frankly don't sense much enthusiasm among my Socialist friends for either Aubry or Hollande. Faute de mieux, either one will do. The primary campaign hasn't stirred much of a debate yet about anything important, and both leading candidates are cautious in the extreme, as well as seasoned enough to avoid major gaffes. So we just have to wait to see who staggers across the finish line first. As for Montebourg, Valls, Royal, and the other guy (Baylet, qui ça?), yeah, sure, anything could happen, but ...

5 comments:

Steven Rendall said...

People in the "Grand Sud" will be shocked to learn that Jean-Michel Baylet is unknown to you. Anyone who reads the newspaper he owns,"La Dépêche du Midi," knows that he is a prominent political figure--he must be, because his name appears in his newspaper at least twice a day. Down here he's a big man (and actually a fairly decent public official) who swings a lot of weight. But I guess he must be less imposing outside our area. --On another point, I'd be interested in your views regarding why one should take Hollande seriously. For some reason, I find him repellent, a true party hack, and I much prefer Aubry, though like many would-be Socialist voters, neither of them really turns me on (I was thinking I might vote for Strauss-Kahn instead, until...).

Arthur Goldhammer said...

Steve,I know who Baylet is, but to judge by his poll numbers, few other people do. As for Hollande, I share your lack of enthusiasm, but I'm not terribly enthusiastic about Aubry either. Voilà. In any case, I don't think we'll know what either is worth as a candidate until the party makes its choice. On s'engage, puis on voit.

Anonymous said...

Live from La Rochelle, your fearless reporter on the ground reports that
- it's pretty cold but the city's really cool
- La table de Marrakech is cheap, quick, and excellent, as are ice creams sitting on stone flags, legs dangling above the sea facing the religious-war towers
- pro-Ségolène Royal supporters surprised everyone first because everyone'd forgotten anyone supported her and second because, well, there are obviously more people than previously thought
- Martine Aubry is sulking. She keeps saying Hollande left the PS in a pitiful state and thus he shouldn't be entrusted with France. Yesterday was her big day, today was Hollande's, but she couldn't help it, she had to butt in. She gave a little interview when he was introducing his panel's speakers; then she walked in, forcing him to stop and greet her. Finally, when he started to talk, she left for another room with her entourage and went into the MJS plenary room where the MJS kids chanted MAR-TINE loud enough to cover Hollande's first words. (Classy)
- Hollande threw a hissy fit yesterday and didn't come for the Opening Plenary. The "Family portrait" had to be taken without him. His apology added insult to injury for a former Party Leader well aware of its customs: "I didn't know I was supposed to come". hm, yeah. Journalists had a ball with this one.
Young men in suits seem to adore him.
On a sidenote, he looked better when he was a bit cuddlier-looking; right now, he looks sick and famished. Poor guy.
- Many people were overwhelmed at Ségolène Royal's meeting, including - I looked them up!- Edith Cresson (first female prime minister and first politician target of obvious, shocking sexist quips) and Charles Fitterman (a former communist who worked with Mitterrand) who teared up. Not to mention the 15mn standing ovation that took everyone by surprise. Also surprising, the fact there were obvious 'banlieue" kids, not to mention teenagers, (including Justin Bieber types), swirling red scarves - I assume a football fan gesture?- and dancing on tables. Clearly more middle-class and working-class people at that meeting, very loud, lots of energy. Very different atmosphere from the other meetings (Aubry's at the science college in the morning, Hollande's where I went first, in an old chapel).
- Hollande supporters are supremely confident they'll win by a wide margin - some even think there won't be a second round. (Faith trumps basic math)
MYOS

Anonymous said...

Live from La Rochelle, your fearless reporter on the ground reports that
- it's pretty cold but the city's really cool
- La table de Marrakech is cheap, quick, and excellent, as are ice creams sitting on stone flags, legs dangling above the sea facing the religious-war towers
- pro-Ségolène Royal supporters surprised everyone first because everyone'd forgotten anyone supported her and second because, well, there are obviously more people than previously thought
- Martine Aubry is sulking. She keeps saying Hollande left the PS in a pitiful state and thus he shouldn't be entrusted with France. Yesterday was her big day, today was Hollande's, but she couldn't help it, she had to butt in. She gave a little interview when he was introducing his panel's speakers; then she walked in, forcing him to stop and greet her. Finally, when he started to talk, she left for another room with her entourage and went into the MJS plenary room where the MJS kids chanted MAR-TINE loud enough to cover Hollande's first words. (Classy)
- Hollande threw a hissy fit yesterday and didn't come for the Opening Plenary. The "Family portrait" had to be taken without him. His apology added insult to injury for a former Party Leader well aware of its customs: "I didn't know I was supposed to come". hm, yeah. Journalists had a ball with this one.
Young men in suits seem to adore him.
On a sidenote, he looked better when he was a bit cuddlier-looking; right now, he looks sick and famished. Poor guy.
- Many people were overwhelmed at Ségolène Royal's meeting, including - I looked them up!- Edith Cresson (first female prime minister and first politician target of obvious, shocking sexist quips) and Charles Fitterman (a former communist who worked with Mitterrand) who teared up. Not to mention the 15mn standing ovation that took everyone by surprise. Also surprising, the fact there were obvious 'banlieue" kids, not to mention teenagers, (including Justin Bieber types), swirling red scarves - I assume a football fan gesture?- and dancing on tables. Clearly more middle-class and working-class people at that meeting, very loud, lots of energy. Very different atmosphere from the other meetings (Aubry's at the science college in the morning, Hollande's where I went first, in an old chapel).
- Hollande supporters are supremely confident they'll win by a wide margin - some even think there won't be a second round. (Faith trumps basic math)
MYOS

Anonymous said...

French journalists provide their view:
- http://www.francesoir.fr/actualite/politique/primaire-ps-mignard-tire-sonnette-d-alarme-131396.html
-http://www.lefigaro.fr/politique/2011/08/26/01002-20110826ARTFIG00560-francois-hollande-compte-ses-troupes-a-la-rochelle.php
-http://partisocialiste.blog.lemonde.fr/2011/08/26/de-limpartialite-des-audiences/
-http://www.lefigaro.fr/politique/2011/08/27/01002-20110827ARTFIG00416--la-rochelle-royal-parvient-encore-a-etonner.php
-
http://www.lepost.fr/article/2011/08/27/2576875_dans-une-atmosphere-survoltee-segolene-royal-trace-le-chemin-de-la-victoire.html
-
http://www.liberation.fr/politiques/01012356523-valls-l-outsider-decide-a-peser
-
http://partisocialiste.blog.lemonde.fr/2011/08/27/quand-aubry-sinvite-a-la-pleniere-dhollande/