So here is the puzzle: Given that A. the merged Likud Beiteinu list remains below the sum of its current components (Likud and Israel Beiteinu have 42 mandates today, but in most polls they get lower number of mandates as a merged list), and B. that the new (tentative, but almost a certainty) party led by former foreign minister and former Kadima leader Tzipi Livni gets 8-9 mandates in the polls, the question is clear: How come the spread between the Likud-right-religious bloc and the center-left blocs is currently at (almost) its maximum since we started our index?
Take a look at the new graph (as usual, the graph and all numbers are crunched by Prof. Camil Fuchs), and get the answer in the following comments:
We begin with some technical notes concerning the graph. As you might have noticed, it is a little different this week (you can compare it to recent graphs here, here, and here). As we previously mentioned, the Likud-Center bloc that we tracked up until three weeks ago or so is no longer a real option following the merger of Likud with Yisrael Beiteinu. The newly formed Likud Beiteinu is a right-wing party, and the ability of the Likud to claim a centrist status is basically gone. Thus, we decided to delete the "centrist" trendline from our graph, and keep just two blocs under scrutiny: right and left. But we added a line marking the 60 mandate point, as a reminder of the number of mandates needed for a Knesset majority.
Now to the essence of this week's poll-trend: Two weeks ago, we mentioned that we are not including in our graphs any of the polls that included "virtual" parties. Many such polls examine how Israelis respond to parties that are not yet formed – in fact, most of them will never form – most of them in the vast gray area of the Israeli "center". And we think (namely, Prof. Fuchs thinks) that this is the kind of “what if” questions that don’t have much value.
But this week we make an exception and do include polls which ask about “a new party led by (the former Foreign Affairs Minister) Tzipi Livni”. The reason for this exception is simple: there are clear indications that Livni will announce as soon as tomorrow (Tuesday) that she is forming a new party and will enter the race. So the question is valid and to some extent even crucial. It is already affecting the way Israeli voters think about their vote (naturally, the polls included today don't yet take into account the decision by Defense Minister Ehud Barak to retire from politics).
Other than the looming Livni entry, the other main event that affected the polls in the last couple of days was the Gaza operation Pillar of Defense. Its effect changed as the operation progressed. At the outset of the operation, it seemed to increase the support for Likud Beiteinu, but at its conclusion the polls found a slight decrease in the support for Likud Beiteinu, which correlates with the fact that the majority of Israelis did not support the ceasefire agreement.
So now, we're back at the question with which we began. If Likud Beiteinu doesn't get as many votes as it now has, and Livni is going to get close to 10 mandates (according to current polls), why is the spread between the two blocs still so wide? The answer is simple: whatever it is that Likud Beiteinu is losing, the beneficiary is not the Center-Left bloc, but rather the parties to the right of Likud Beiteinu. And although Livni seems to attract 8-9 mandates, they all come at the expense of other parties from the Center-Left bloc. The result is a spread of 18 mandates (69 versus 51) with both blocs far from the mid-line of 60, one below and one above.
About this feature:
The Israel’s Poll Trend feature is your best way of following Israel’s polls and understanding Israel’s political numbers. We regularly post an updated Israel’s Poll Trend page that includes the following:
1. Fine-tuned presentation of three possible coalitions: A right-wing coalition, a centrist coalition and a left-wing coalition. This presentation, prepared by Prof. Camil Fuchs, will be at the heart of our attempt to explain how Israel’s political story unfolds until Election Day.
2. The 10 most recent Israeli opinion polls: Namely, the 10 newest polls about political parties that were published by Israeli media. In the table you’ll be able to see where the poll was published, on which date, and the distribution of mandates among Israel’s many parties.
3. Short analysis of the numbers and the dynamics presented in the graph and the table.
Some technical notes:
1. We only use polls available to the public, and we attempt to gather all available polls without missing any.
2. The trendline is weekly – namely, it does not change with every poll but rather by week (based on all polls published during the week).
3. As we go along, the mathematical formula with which we draw the trendline should improve, and become more accurate.