Politics 31/01/2021

An imperfect triple tie (waiting for the undecided)

Junts would feed on ERC, and the Republicans border with Puigdemont's party and also with PSC, 'comunes' and the CUP

3 min
An imperfect three-way tie

BarcelonaThe polls cannot anticipate what the scenario will be in two weeks' time, but they can help us define the scenario at the start of the campaign. Especially in terms of the vote that has already been decided. If we look at the average of the polls that have been published, what we observe is a three-way technical tie between ERC, PSC and Junts per Catalunya. The order between the three parties changes from one poll to another, and the differences in the estimated vote are always small. So small, in fact, that they fall within the margin of error of the polls. This is why, statistically, we cannot say with sufficient confidence who comes in first, who comes in second - and who comes in third.

In the case of the latest survey, however, the tie is imperfect: in terms of votes, ERC would be slightly ahead of Junts per Catalunya, and PSC would be clearly in third position. Even so, this picture is, like all of them, an uncertain force. Despite this, it is worth going beyond the headline and delving into the details of the survey. Above all to analyze the flows of voters who stand between parties, which define the areas of competition that exist.

One important piece of information is often the loyalty rate: how many of the voters from the previous election already know that they will vote for the same option again. The party that shows the best loyalty rate is the CUP (66%), ahead of the PSC (62%) and Junts per Catalunya (58%). The other parties are below, and at the other extreme is Ciudadanos, which would only retain 24% of its 2017 voters. Carrizosa, the party's leading candidate, seems the chronicle of an announced collapse.

However, these escapes can be compensated by incorporations of voters from other options. The PSC and ERC are the parties that would collect more votes among people who in 2017 claimed to not have voted, while JxCat would basically feed from ERC, and the PP and Vox, from Ciudadanos.

However, as is often the case, the key to the elections will have to be sought in the 30% of people who declare themselves undecided. That's almost 2 million people. It must be said that this is not an anomalous figure: it is common for pre-election polls to find around 30% of undecided voters. That is why it is necessary to analyze who these two million undecided are. See what options they are hesitating between, to get an idea of how they might behave.

Half of the undecided are likely to be abstentionists

In this survey, around half of the undecided people press no party preference. In all likelihood, a good portion of these will be abstentionists. What happens is that, as usual, abstention is a behavior that is usually hidden in the polls because there is a certain conception of voting as a civic duty. But if half of the undecided are likely to abstain, the other half do express some preference, or doubt. And it's important to analyze them well. If we look at the doubts they express and their party sympathies, we see that the two parties with the greatest potential to collect these votes are, according to the polls, ERC and PSC. Especially ERC: of the almost two million undecided, there are more than 420,000 who mention ERC as one of their possible options. And the vast majority mention ERC in the first place. Far behind are the PSC, with some 250,000 people, and Junts per Catalunya, with some 230,000 people who, although they have not decided how to vote, would consider them as one of their possible options. The others have little potential to pick up undecided voters.

This may indicate more growth potential for ERC. But it is not evident that it can materialise, because these undecided possible voters are divided roughly equally between those who hesitate between ERC and the PSC, Junts, the 'comunes' and the CUP. This multiple frontier is quite unique and adds complexity to the political strategy of the republicans. A relatively similar thing happens to the PSC, because it shares doubtful voters with ERC, the 'comuns' and Ciudadanos in relatively similar proportions. The other parties have more concentrated exchanges with another party or block of parties and, therefore, a more obvious campaign strategy.

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