February 19, 2013
The Rosner-Fuchs Exchange, Part 4: On ‘Potential Labor Voters’
Professor Camil Fuchs, who has been a valuable contributor to Rosner's Domain for the past year, is a veteran Israeli statistician. He is a Professor of Statistics at Tel Aviv University, where he has also served as head of the Department of Statistics and Operations Research, and as the chairman of the School of Mathematical Sciences. Professor Fuchs, who is the official pollster of Haaretz daily and channel 10 news, has been one of the leading and most reliable polling experts in Israel for many years.
Last week we discussed mainly two parties and two personalities: Likud and Yesh Atid, Netanyahu and Lapid. But there are other parties- more than 30!- which we haven't talked about yet. While I'd like to ask you about several of them, let's begin with three women:
Zehava Galon, the head of Meretz, who doubled her party's representation;
Tzipi Livni, who didn't receive nearly enough votes to be considered a contender for the PM position (which was her goal when she reentered the political fray);
Shelly Yachimovich, who was hoping for much better results and was eventually disappointed by an electorate that apparently wasn't on the same page with her.
Here's a possible theory to explain all this (one which I hope will be polished by your comments and corrections):
1. Galon got the votes of potential Labor voters who wanted more focus on peace, focus that Yachimovich refused to provide.
2. Lapid got the votes of potential Labor voters who wanted to have impact because he didn't commit himself to the opposition.
3. Livni never took off the ground because people don't think she's good enough to be the PM. They did think that four years ago but have since realized that she isn't even good enough to be an effective opposition and party leader.
4. Interestingly, the fact that we had three women as heads of parties - as remarkable as it might seem - didn't move the "women vote" one iota.
I'm eagerly awaiting your response,
Your theory mentions 'Labor voters' or 'potential Labor voters' who fueled both Galon’s Meretz party as well as Lapid's party. I'm Sorry, but I don’t quite agree: Who are these 'Labor voters'? How many of them are there?
Here's a little bit of history: In the 2009 elections, the Labor party dropped from 19 to 13 seats in the Knesset, and became the fourth largest party in the Knesset, with less seats than the Likud, Kadima, and Israel Beitenu. That was the first time the Labor party was not one of the two largest parties. But the decline didn’t stop there. Ehud Barak split from the party in January 2011 and took with him to the new party four out of the thirteen Labor Knesset members. From January 2011 until the 2013 elections the Labor faction consisted of only 8 members.
The Labor’s decline was not only in the sheer number of Knesset members, but also in the public support they received: Our polls published in Ha’aretz in March – April 2011 predicted that “if the elections were held that day” the Labor party would have received between 4 and 6 seats. That was really rock bottom. Those 4-6 seats were the pool of hardcore Labor voters who remained loyal to the party in those turbulent times just out of respect for the “Labor” label.
When Shelly Yachimovich was elected to lead the party in September 2011, the predicted support increased to 12-14 seats, and a year later (May-June 2012) the polls predicted about 16-19 seats for the Labor and 12-14 for Lapid (who formally listed his party on April 29, 2012). Livni’s party was formed and announced much later (in November 27).
Yachimovich succeeded in restoring the party's strength and in stopping its freefall. The results of the elections are a disappointment for her, though, since in the last weeks before the elections, and especially after Livni’s arrival, Labor's ascent stopped and the party even suffered a decline when Labor didn’t seem to be “the final address” for many of the undecided voters.
I agree with you that “Galon got the votes of (some of) the voters who wanted more focus on peace” and I also agree that “Lapid got the votes of (some of) the people who wanted to have impact as he didn't commit himself to the opposition”. But I don’t think that those were 'Labor votes' or at least, not necessarily 'Labor votes'. Those were Kadima’s votes or 'swinging center-left' votes.
I also cannot agree that “Livni never took off the ground”. You are right about the fact that the majority of people don't think she's good enough to be the PM. But today, after the elections, the rumors are that she is likely to be a significant member of Netanyahu’s government, with actual responsibilities in the peace negotiations. I believe that for her, this is as high “off the ground” as she could have been expected.
Finally, I don’t know if there is data to support or refute the statement that the fact that we had three women as heads of parties didn't move the 'women vote' one iota. Unfortunately, in Israel we don’t conduct extensive exit polls (as they do in the US) to assess how various segments of the population voted. Through such exit polls we learned that in the US 55% of the women voted for Obama and only 44% for Romney (45% of the men voted for Obama and 52% for Romney). From the same exit polls, we also learned that 69% of the Jews voted for Obama (9% less than in 2008). It's a pity we don’t have similar exit polls in Israel.