(new) party night in Ukraine

(new) party night in Ukraine

Yes, there’s yet another new party on Ukraine’s political scene – Azov’s new National Corps Party.

Friday they held their founding congress where, among other things, they agreed on policies to expand presidential powers, sever ties with Russia, expand the right to bear arms and  “[restore] the death penalty…for treason and the embezzlement of government funds by officials in excessive amounts” (uhh wut), capping off the day with a torchlit march through central Kyiv.

If they’re really, properly serious about becoming an electoral force (which is doubtful when their new leader says things like “[there] are several ways of coming to power, but we are trying something through elections, but we have all sorts of possibilities”[my emphasis]), they’re stepping into a crowded and not-particularly-profitable far-right marketplace.

Just look at recent KIIS poll numbers for the far-right/nationalist parties, below, shaded in boring grey (and that, as I’ve noted before, are far below those for other European far-right parties).

This isn’t even including the OUN, who polled a whopping 0.3% on a different firm’s poll a few weeks ago.

It’s the same story across all the polls over the last year – there’s “an already fragmented radical electorate,” and one that, even hypothetically (i.e., impossibly) combined, can barely toe past Ukraine’s 5 percent electoral threshold. And now this National Corps wants to squeeze itself in? Bonne chance, gentlemen. They might be able to fare better than some of their comrades in the short term – I predict they’ll poll reasonably well in the first few polls they show up in – but I imagine they’ll find their <5% ceiling in due course.

Yes, I’m far from Kyiv right now and have more familiarity with a bunch of numbers than anyone on the ground there more up to speed with the ins and outs of Ukraine’s factionalist far-right. Still, I don’t think this has much to do with proper, democratic party politics. To me this move seems to be about little more than trying to lend a veneer of legitimacy to a very small minority of football hooligans and hardcore hangers-on — a minority who remind me more and more of a gaggle of wannabe Montagnards than a genuine political party.

Separatism in Ukraine, by the (small) numbers

Separatism in Ukraine, by the (small) numbers

I found some interesting numbers in one of the past waves of the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS) Omnibus survey.

In the September 2015 wave (specifically from September 9 to September 24, for anyone wanting that level of detail), KIIS asked more than 2,000 Ukrainians in face-to-face interviews:

  • Would you like to see your oblast secede from Ukraine and become an independent state?
  • Would you like to see your oblast secede from Ukraine and join another state?

KIIS interviewed in all Ukrainian-government controlled areas of Ukraine; they didn’t interview in Crimea or in the “LNR,” though they did interview in the “DNR” (they no longer do). For the overall Ukraine and regional numbers I’m only including Ukrainian government-controlled areas – I talk about the “DNR” numbers towards the end of this piece.

The resounding answer to both these questions? No – fewer than 2% of Ukrainians are interested in their oblast seceding and becoming an independent state or joining another state.

Well then.

The regional splits are pretty interesting, with western Ukrainians leading the very-small-number separatist brigade (4% for both questions) and eastern Ukrainians at the head of the slightly-larger-but-still-not-very-big crew of those who are ambivalent about separatism (11% for both questions). Boring graphs below.



I’ll draw your attention to the fact that the overwhelming majority of people in eastern Ukraine (that is, Kharkiv oblast and the Ukrainian government-controlled parts of Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts) state that they don’t want their oblast to secede and become either an independent state (88%) or join another state (85%).

Looking at some of the numbers by oblast is more striking, even when taking the small sample sizes into consideration.

Re: becoming an independent state:

  • Just under 9% of people in Zakarpattia (far western Ukraine, bordering Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania) said they’d like to see their oblast secede from Ukraine and become an independent state – the most of any oblast. There isn’t a particularly large sample size here but given what I know about the history, politics and demographics of Zakarpattia I’m not surprised to see higher than other oblasts.
  • Only 3% of people in Odessa oblast and in both Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts (reminder, only the Ukrainian government-controlled parts) said they’d like to see their oblast secede from Ukraine and become an independent state.
  • Exactly 0.00% of people in Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Zaporizhia and Sumy oblasts said they wanted to see their oblast become an independent state. Anyone wondering about the digits past the first two decimal points there should be advised it’s an infinite string of zeroes.

Re: joining another state:

  • Like above, just under 12% of people in Zakarpattia said they’d like to see their oblast secede from Ukraine and join another state. Again, the most of any oblast and not surprising.
  • Just over 6% of people in Donetsk oblast and 5% in Luhansk oblast (again, only the Ukrainian government-controlled parts) said they’d like to secede from Ukraine and join another state. Remember, the other parts of these oblasts are occupied by ostensibly separatist statelets…
  • More than 3% of people in Zaporizhia oblast, less than one percent of people in Dnipro and Kharkiv oblasts and a round 0.00% of people in Chernihiv and Sumy oblasts said they wanted to see their oblast join another state.

But what of separatism in the apparently separatist “DNR”? As I pointed out a few months ago, polling and surveying in a place the “DNR” can’t possibly be easy. I can only imagine how bad social desirability bias (“the tendency of [respondents] to give socially desirable responses instead of choosing responses that are reflective of their true feelings”) might be in an globally-unrecognized puppet state with a laundry list of human rights abuses to its name. It’s likely one of the main reasons no one, as far as I know, tries to do surveys there anymore.

So what did people in the “DNR” have to say about separatism compared to their Ukrainian government-controlled Donetsk oblast brethren across the “ceasefire” line?

As you can see below, the numbers are pretty different; they suggest a plurality in the “DNR” is in favour of becoming an independent state, but are equally split when it comes to joining another state (can’t imagine what other state they were thinking of).


Even if – if ­– these numbers actually reflect how residents of the “DNR” feel, it’s far from a ringing endorsement of separatism, especially when you consider the level of Ukraine-crucifies-children-level propaganda people there have been hit with over the past two years. And the same percentages of people say yes and no when they’re asked if they want to secede from Ukraine and join another state? Hardly confident numbers for an entity that already considers itself a “separatist” state.

Of course, this all assumes that there are next to no issues with social desirability bias there at all, that respondents definitely wouldn’t feel pressured to say certain things to a stranger in a fiefdom where they could be thrown “in the cellar” for being critical of the regime. OK.

Looking for a popular secessionist movement? You’re better off coming to see me than going to Ukraine.

September 2016 poll: Party preferences in Ukraine

September 2016 poll: Party preferences in Ukraine

The Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS) released results from a new poll this week (link in Ukrainian).

They talked to 2,040 people between September 16 and 26, 2016 across Ukraine except for a) Crimea and b) areas of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts not controlled by the Ukrainian government (i.e., the useless-passport-offering “LNR”/”DNR”).

KIIS’ key findings, in brief:

  • Over the past six months support for Batkivshchyna has declined slightly, while support for Bloc Petro Poroshenko has increased slightly.
  • Support for the Opposition Bloc, Samopomich, Oleh Lyashko’s Radical Party and Hromadyanska Posytsia has remained largely the same.

KIIS’ data over time is below. If you have some moral objection to the quality of my jpeg you can go look at the original link.


Keep in mind this table above only includes Ukrainians who a) said they’d vote and b) knew who they were going to vote for – which is only 41% of people who actually took part in the survey. The table below includes regional breakdowns as well as figures for non-voters, undecided voters and those pesky ballot spoilers (though no Ukrainian Edible Ballot Society yet).

A few thoughts and speculations of mine from across the sea. Comments and whatnot welcome.

What of Batkivshchyna and Bloc Petro Poroshenko?

The numbers for Batkivshchyna and Bloc Petro Poroshenko in this poll are a bit different from Rating’s poll that I talked about in August, despite fieldwork only being about a month apart.

  • Batkivshchyna’s 15.4% here versus 18.3% in Rating’s poll (2.9% difference)
  • Bloc Petro Poroshenko’s 14.5% here versus 9.1% in Rating’s poll (5.4% difference)

The other parties over 5% here (Opposition Bloc, Samopomich, Radical Party and Hromadyanska Posytsia) are largely the same. As for Za Zhyttia I’ve just learned they came out of the Opposition Bloc in May.

But why the difference for Batkivshchyna/Bloc Petro Poroshenko? The “difficult to answer” might have something to do with this – 31.1% (!!) of people in this poll said they didn’t know who they were going to vote for, compared to 16.3% in Rating’s poll. (I go on at length about this below)

That’s….a big difference, so big it makes me think something’s up methodologically here. Are interviewers from these different firms following up with people who immediately respond “don’t know” in the same way? For example, are Rating’s interviewers prompted by their script to ask again, which leads some of those “don’t knows” to respond with a party whose name they know – which could often be Batkivshvchyna? Are KIIS’s prompted to do the opposite, to accept the “don’t know” answer without prompting for a different answer? I know from experience that the way interviewers are led and trained to follow up with respondents can make a difference.

I’m purely speculating – and I’m not saying either one of these is right or wrong – but to see that big a difference between two different polls by different firms using the same method (in-person interviewing) makes me think it could be down to something like this.

Of course, another explanation could be that the apparent increase for Bloc Petro Poroshenko and the apparent decline of Batkivshchyna are reflective of an actual, significant change in what people think over the course of a month. I doubt this.

Anyone know?

Region, region, region

No Ukrainian political party (as I understand it) has ever really been able to capture significant, meaningful support from all parts of the country. That doesn’t look like it’s about to change.

Parties like the PoR-remnant Opposition Bloc pick up almost all their support in southern and eastern Ukraine, while Lviv mayor Andriy Sadovyi’s Samopomich, not surprisingly, gets most of its support in western Ukraine. Even the two ‘big’ parties of Batkivshchyna and Bloc Petro Poroshenko can’t pull in consistent support across Ukraine, as you can see below in the absolute most cluttered PoS chart you’ll ever see.

“Your chart sucks.” -You, just now.

When the bottom of the table’s more interesting than the top

I’m most interested in what’s going on down here in the relegation zone, which I haven’t bothered to translate because I’m a) too lazy and b) if you’re reading this you’re probably Ukrainian/speak at least some Ukrainian and can read it better than me anyways.

First, the 5.8% of people who said they’d vote ‘against all’ or spoil the ballot. That’s high, even just for a poll; by way of comparison, in that debacle of a Hungarian referendum last week 4% of voters spoiled their ballot in protest, a figure I still can’t get over.

Second, the 22.3% of people who said they wouldn’t take part in voting. I don’t have much to say about this – I don’t actually think that’s a remarkably high or low number, though the difference from west to east (17% compared to 28%) is worth noting. Is this down to more western Ukrainians heading their own more recognizable parties (e.g., Sadovyi, Lyashko, Hrytsenko, Tyahnybok), or is it a matter of different regional political cultures and attitudes towards democracy and (non) voting showing through? Both?

Lastly, the 31.1% of people who said “difficult to say” (don’t know, basically). As someone schooled in the arcana of Canadian, British and American electoral politics I have to admit I don’t think I’ll ever be able to wrap my mind around the idea of almost a third of people not sure who they’re going to vote for.

This 31.1% figure says more to me about Ukrainian party politics and the state of Ukrainian democracy than any other figure here. No party, whether small, not-as-small or in-theory-biggest, seems able to capture the interest and imagination of post-Maidan Ukraine at all. To quote Sonic Youth, fragmentation is (still) the rule.


I’ve got my hands on the most recent KIIS Omnibus data (that’s publicly available – from May 2016). Been running some numbers. Will have some reasonably interesting analysis of my own in a few days.

Donbas, elections and visa-free travel: latest Razumkov Centre poll

Donbas, elections and visa-free travel: latest Razumkov Centre poll

New Ukraine survey/poll data, new blog post.

The Razumkov Centre just released findings from a survey. Boring stuff: more than 2,000 respondents, interviewed between Sept 9-14, 2016 across all of Ukraine except Crimea and the “LNR”/”DNR”, 2.3% MoE.

A few findings I found particularly interesting:

Special status

Half (50%) of respondents did not support granting special status to Donbas, with 23% agreeing and 27% being unsure (“difficult to say”).

The regional numbers don’t throw up any surprises, with respondents from western Ukrainian being the least supportive and respondents in eastern Ukraine in Donbas being the most supportive.


I’d like to see breakdowns by a few other factors, particularly age and level of education (presumably done behind the scenes already? Not significant, possibly), but the Razumkov Centre does provide us with a comparison of how people responded to these questions six months ago.


It’s not the decline in those saying ‘no’ over the two surveys (56% down to 50%) that grabs my attention here – it’s the increase in those respondents who aren’t sure (20% up to 27%) when it comes to special status for Donbas. Based just on these numbers here (i.e., without a bunch of data to nerd around with, whether the sample sizes are large enough to show regional trends over time, etc.) I’d say that an increasing number of Ukrainians aren’t sure what ‘special status’ means at all.

Elections, elections

The numbers aren’t all that different when it comes to elections in the occupied territories in Donbas (the “DNR”/”LNR”) – just under a quarter (24%) support them, half (51%) don’t support them and a quarter (25%) aren’t sure at all.

Again, the regional breakdowns are no surprise (though I’ll highlight, as per the Razumkov report, that the differences for eastern Ukraine and the Donbas aren’t statistically significant).


Want to see the most useless table ever? It’s right there. There’s basically been no significant change over six months on this one.


Visa-free regime with Europe

In the same survey (presented in a different document), people were asked what they thought about the still unrealized visa-free travel regime with the EU. Just over a third (35%) said visa-free travel with the EU was important or very important to them and, not surprisingly, it’s a lot more important to people in western Ukraine.

Yes, the colour scheme was a deliberate choice.

Fortunately the Razumkov Centre points out something about age before I can ask about it – younger respondents (aged 18-29) were more likely to say that a visa-free regime was important or very important (61%) than respondents 60 years and older (18%). Not particularly shocking.

But most Ukrainians aren’t expecting visa-free travel to land anytime soon. Only 7% expect it by the end of this year, 45% expect it in 2017 (either early or later in 2017) while one in five (20%) say it’ll never come. That pessimism is much stronger in eastern and southern Ukraine than anywhere else.


Comments/interpretations welcome.

Czech Republic, Muslims and the left, Part 1 ½

Czech Republic, Muslims and the left, Part 1 ½

This is partly a sequel and a reboot of my previous post where I trudged through European Social Survey data on left/right splits on Czech attitudes towards Muslims and, like Sarah Conner in the first and best Terminator, generally looked confused as I tried to figure out what exactly the hell was going on.

To recap: less than half (44%) of Czechs surveyed in the 2014 ESS said they thought Muslims should be allowed to come and live in the Czech Republic (30% “a few”; 13% “some”; 2% many). Big differences by age and left/right self-identification. Confused me. Has caused me to spend more time this week with SPSS than I wanted.

Who’s left, who’s right?

Here’s the left-right scale from the ESS:

2016-09-19-19-41-40I’ve divided the scale up into five categories for this analysis:

  • Far left: 00 and 01
  • Left: 02, 03 and 04
  • Centre: 05
  • Right: 06, 07, 08
  • Far right: 09 and 10

There’s a pretty obvious pattern by age when it comes to left-right self-identification in the Czech Republic, with older respondents more likely to place themselves on the left – a pattern I wouldn’t be surprised to see in other former Eastern Bloc countries.


These numbers are worth keeping in mind when you’re looking at the graphs below, since some of the groupings here (e.g., self-identified far right 65+ Czechs) are clearly just a handful of people.

The left, the right and everything in between

Remember, less than half (44%) of Czechs surveyed in the 2014 ESS said they thought Muslims should be allowed to come and live in the Czech Republic.

Take a look at the graph below, because I make a lot of graphs. These are the numbers that threw me for a loop when I first saw them – people who identify as far left are the least supportive of Muslims coming to the Czech Republic? And the right and far-right are most supportive? Well, survey says.


Numbers don’t lie

…but they don’t always tell the whole story.

Remember from the table above that older Czechs are more likely to self-identify as far left/left. This also shows up when you look at the average age of each point on the left-right scale.


But is it about being on the left or being older? To me, it does look like it’s at least partly about age. Older Czechs, without looking at left/right self-identification at all, are less likely to be supportive of Muslims coming to their country than younger respondents.


But if it was all about age I’d expect to see a few different numbers and trends than I’m seeing here. The overall level of support is pretty similar among 15-19s, 20-24, 25-29s, 30-34s, and 40-44s (I don’t know and can’t explain what is going on with the 35-39s there). If this was all about young people being more socially liberal than their parents, etc., I wouldn’t expect figures for Czechs under twenty to be the same as Czechs as old as Jaromir Jagr.  Coupled with the fact that fewer than one in five Czechs from 15 to 19 placed themselves anywhere on the left of the scale, it makes me think there’s more going on here than some kind of cohort effect.

As evidence of this, here’s my final, behemoth graph.

While some of the sample sizes are a bit small, I think it’s clear from this that people who’ve placed themselves on the far left are less likely to be supportive of Muslims coming to live in their country, while the opposite is the case for people who’ve placed themselves on the far right. There’s even some difference between the closer-to-the-middle left and right for most age groups.

Yes, the numbers are small. Open it in a new window.

I welcome any comments, questions or other interpretations of this data, though comments on the quality of my graph-making will be haughtily rebuffed.

Conclusions, questions, caveats an’ a’ that

My takeaway? Anyone worried about the rise of anti-Muslim sentiment in the Czech Republic better look at more than just the usual suspects on the far right.

Yes, some of the numbers I’ve spat out here are about age/cohort effects like we see in other western countries, including my own, but this to me it looks to be more about being on the left/right than anything else. With Czech legislative elections coming within the next year and presidential elections in 2018, it’d be good to know a wee bit more about what exactly the deal is here.

But is this just a Czech thing? Is it related to current social democrat and anti-Muslim firebrand Miloš Zeman being in charge? Would we see this sort of thing if we looked at data from other central European and/or post-communist countries? Would we even see it if we looked at the Czech Republic with 2016 data? Would we see the same thing with different questions about Muslims, refugees, etc.? Could this be used as a wedge issue across ideological lines in a future Czechxit referendum? And so on.

The caveats from my last piece apply here – fieldwork from Nov 2014 to Feb 2015, other variables I haven’t even mentioned (like region), the fact I’m not Czech enough to immediately make sense of all this, a few small sample sizes, etc.

Czech Republic, Muslims and…the left?

Czech Republic, Muslims and…the left?

Earlier this month the European Values Think-Tank in Prague (or Think-tank Evropské hodnoty for the more Slavistically-oriented among you) released findings from a survey on the impact of Russian disinformation operations in the Czech Republic. It’s a worth a read, as is their paper on how and why Russia’s taken such an interest in influencing Czech affairs and why us non-Czechs should actually care.

But what grabbed my attention was a survey question on perceived threats to the Czech Republic (page 8 for anyone following along at home):

Which threats are currently the most serious for our country? List three threats at most, please.

The top three most commonly-mentioned threats?

  1. Refugees: 50%
  2. Terrorism, attacks, assassinations: 42%
  3. Islamic fundamentalism: 21%

Keep in mind the Czech Republic is a country that might have as many as 3,500 Muslims out of a population of more than 10 million (i.e., 0.03% of the population) where a grand total of 134 Syrians applied for asylum last year, according to the UNHCR. It’s a country where you’re more likely to see some dumbass fake ISIS attack/“protest” from a gaggle of far-right clowns than, say, an actual Muslim.

Czeching the data (yes, a “Czech” pun)

To try and understand more about what Czechs think of Muslims, I looked at data from the 2014 version of the European Social Survey, where they asked more than 2,100 Czechs:

please tell me to what extent you think the Czech Republic should allow Muslims from other countries to come and live in the Czech Republic? 

  • Allow many to come and live here
  • Allow some
  • Allow a few
  • Allow none

More than half – 56% – said that no Muslims should be allowed to come and live in the Czech Republic. Less than a third (30%) said “a few” Muslims should be allowed, 13% said “some” and 2% said “many,” for a total of 44%.

  • Allow many to come and live here: 2%
  • Allow some: 13%
  • Allow a few: 30%
  • Allow none: 56%

This isn’t surprising, especially given the data from the European Values Think-Tank and what we already know about Czech politics and President Miloš Zeman’s not-exactly-subtle hostility to Islam and refugees.

Left foot forward?

But Czechs on the left seem to be the least willing to welcome Muslims.

Czechs who told ESS interviewers they voted for the Communists (KSČM) in the last election were more likely than voters of all other parties – 64% versus 52% – to say that no Muslims should be allowed to live in the Czech Republic.

Looking at the parties individually, only supporters of Tomio Okamura’s Front National-linked far right movement were more likely (71%) to say this. Even supporters of the governing centre-left social democrats (ČSSD) were more likely (59%) than members of other centrist/right-wing parties to say that no Muslims should be allowed to live in the Czech Republic.

The ESS also asks people to rank themselves on an 11-point left-right scale (below), which is where things get even more interesting.


The mean left-right score for those wanting to allow “many,” “some” or “a few” Muslims (5.43) is higher – meaning further to the right – than those who don’t think any Muslims should be allowed in (4.73).

This still boggled my mind so I broke the left-right scale up into a few different permutations to see if this relationship held up:

  • 3 categories
    • Break the left 4 into a ‘left’ category, the middle as its own mushy ‘centre’ and the final four as a ‘right’ category.
      • Left: 63% allow no Muslims
      • Centre: 61%
      • Right: 46%
  • 5 categories
    • Break the left 2 into a ‘far left’ category, the next three as ‘left’, the middle as its own mushy ‘centre,’ the next three as ‘right’ and the final two as a ‘far right’ category.
      • Far left: 77% allow no Muslims
      • Left: 59%
      • Centre: 61%
      • Right: 48%
      • Far right 41%
  • 5 categories, a bit different
    • Break the left one into a ‘far left’ category, the next four as ‘left’, the middle as its own mushy ‘centre,’ the next four as ‘right’ and the final one as a ‘far right’ category. I wanted to try this to isolate that far left/right to each endpoint of the scale.
      • Far left: 81% allow no Muslims
      • Left: 60%
      • Centre: 61%
      • Right: 47%
      • Far right 42%

This totally blows my mind – it looks like the more one identifies to the left, the more likely they are to not support Muslims being allowed to come and live in the Czech Republic.

What’s my age again?

I’ve lost my mind in enough SPSS data tables to know that when a totally counterintuitive finding like this pops up there’s often something else that actually explains it.

Is it age? It could be, given that there’s also a clear relationship between age and (lack of) support for allowing Muslims to come and live in the Czech Republic (case in point: many/some/few Muslims? Mean age 43.1 years. No Muslims? Mean age 46.3 years).

I thought this might be the case, especially when I realized that KSČM supporters tended to be much older than supporters of other parties (a mean age of 60.8 years compared to 47.8 years for all other parties combined). This relationship also holds true for the left-right scale – the average age of those identifying on the left was higher than those identifying themselves on the right:

  • 3 categories
    • Break the left 4 into a ‘left’ category, the middle as its own mushy ‘centre’ and the final four as a ‘right’ category.
      • Left: mean age 52.2 years
      • Centre: 44 years
      • Right: 41 years
  • 5 categories
    • Break the left 2 into a ‘far left’ category, the next three as ‘left’, the middle as its own mushy ‘centre,’ the next three as ‘right’ and the final two as a ‘far right’ category.
      • Far left: mean age 54 years
      • Left: 51.7 years
      • Centre: 44 years
      • Right: 41.6 years
      • Far right 38.4 years
  • 5 categories, a bit different
    • Break the left one into a ‘far left’ category, the next four as ‘left’, the middle as its own mushy ‘centre,’ the next four as ‘right’ and the final one as a ‘far right’ category. I wanted to try this to isolate that far left/right to each endpoint of the scale.
      • Far left: mean age 56.1 years
      • Left: 51.6 years
      • Centre: 44 years
      • Right: 41.1 years
      • Far right 39.7 years

So which is it?

I ran a quick logistic regression analysis to see whether age or placement on the left-right scale was a more accurate predictor of one’s support for allowing “many,” “some” or “a few” Muslims into the Czech Republic.

In short, I found that the placement on the left-right scale (that is, identifying more to the right) was a slightly stronger predictor of supporting allowing Muslims into the Czech Republic than age (that is, being younger).

In other words, it’s more about being on the left than being old.


  • I ran this over a few hours in a basement in a pair of ill-fitting sweatpants, so do hold it up to that standard.
  • This data is from fieldwork done between November 2014 and February 2015 – before the refugee crisis really turned sour.
  • There are many, many other variables I need to look at before drawing some sort of iron-clad conclusion on this. Some I’ve looked at but not ranted on about here (e.g., gender, region, socio-economic status, etc.).
  • I’m no expert on Czech politics, history, society and/or political culture, which is why I’ve really drawn no conclusion here other than “shit, this is interesting!”
  • If you’ve read this far, ask me about your prize.

Russian Duma elections: just how bad was voter turnout?

Russian Duma elections: just how bad was voter turnout?

According to Vladimir Putin, voter turnout in Sunday’s Duma elections – estimated at 39% as I write this – was “not the greatest, but high.”  Was it?

I took a look at IDEA’s Voter Turnout Database, which has data on all parliamentary, presidential and European Parliament elections across the world since 1945. Where does a 39% voter turnout in a national parliamentary/legislative elections rank?

Well, for starters:

  • The lowest turnout in an American congressional election was 2014, at 42.5%. Yes, that’s pretty close to 39% and might make easy fodder for the quick-to-false-equivalence crowd, but keep in mind that:

1. Americans vote in congressional elections every two years (all House of Representative seats plus 1/3 of the Senate) unlike the rest of us who go every four, five or six years. Voter fatigue much?

2. 2014 was a midterm election (i.e., not voting for a President at the same time) which always have markedly lower turnouts than in presidential years. Case in point: 2010: 48.6% / 2014: 42.5%. 2008: 64.4% / 2012: 64.4%, the years Obama was (re)elected.

  • The lowest turnout in recent Canadian history was 2008 (59.5%), if anyone other than me cares about Canada as a reference point. We’d had one less than three years before, both producing Stephen Harper (Conservative) minorities, or ‘hung parliaments’ for the more British among you.
  • As for the UK, the lowest was 59.4% turning out in 2001 for Tony Blair and Labour’s second straight victory.
  • France’s lowest was 55.4% in 2012. Legislative elections, since 2002, fall right after presidential elections in France (i.e., a month after you vote for president).
  • Next door in Ukraine, the October 2014 Rada elections had a turnout of 52.4%.

It gets worse when you look at the entire data set for parliamentary elections (excluding countries like Australia that have compulsory voting, and leaving out two outlier elections that had [!!!] 2.3% and 100.3% turnout)…out of more than 1400 national parliamentary elections worldwide, 4% had voter turnouts of 40% or less. Only 11% even had voter turnouts of 50% or less.

I guess it all depends on what your definition of высокой is.