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January 10, 2013

Two weeks to D-day, and they haven’t yet decided (or have they?)

http://www.jewishjournal.com/blog/item/two_weeks_to_d_day_and_they_havent_yet_decided_or_have_they/

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Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid (Photo: Reuters)

Less than two weeks before the election, and here is a seeming paradox: on the one hand, the spread between the two blocs (Likud-Right-Religious versus the Center-Left) is as wide as it has been for the last two months, but on the other hand the pundits and the statisticians constantly warn Israelis that the outcome of the coming elections might be noticeably different than the projected outcome of current polls.

We are going to address the possibility of outcomes other than the one now projected - an intriguing possibility - but first, we'd make you take a look at Prof. Camil Fuchs' updated bloc-tracker. As we did last week, the new graph includes not just the trend line for the two rival blocs, but also the (keep declining) trend line for that likely winner of the election: Likud-Beiteinu. Take a look:

 


As you can see in the graph, if elections were held today the center-left had no chance of forming a coalition or a so-called "blocking bloc" - a bloc large enough to prevent Netanyahu from forming his desired coalition. The very slight change in the gap might mean something or might be no more than a weekly fluke. 53 mandates that the left, the center and the Arab parties are projected to get can hardly be seen as a threat to Netanyahu.

One has to remember though, that in the Israeli system the people don’t vote for one of the blocs, but rather for one of 34 different parties - yes, that is the current number. Most of these parties will not get enough votes to pass the 2% threshold (some of them don't even pretend to have a shot at passing this threshold). Still, the Knesset will contain many parties within the two blocs (in the current Knesset there are 12 parties) - in other words, many parties in the coalition and many opposition parties. Of course, there can be cases of parties within a bloc that aren't joining the coalition, and parties of the opposite bloc that will be joining the coalition (that would be Netanyahu's hope).

So - is it likely for the outcome of the elections to be much different than the picture now drawn by the polls? yes and no. consider the following facts:
When the participants in the polls are asked for which party they intend to vote, about 25% of them say that they are still undecided. That is a significant number of voters.

Moreover, even those who currently state their voting intention seem quite undecided. In response to the follow-up question “Are you certain that you are going to vote for the party that you just mentioned, or you may vote for a different party?”, 29% replied that they are not certain and they named the other party that might get their vote.

We have, then, a large number of Israeli voters that are still pondering their vote and might surprise the pollsters with a last minute change of mind.

However, when the data are analyzed, it turns out that in a vast majority of the cases of those people that aren't yet certain in their choice, the other party they might consider belongs to the same political bloc. Namely, a voter might shift from Likud to Shas, but is unlikely to shift from Likud to Livni. Thus, despite the large number of undecided voters, a win of the Center-Left bloc still seems very unlikely.

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