Polls, Politicians, Peanuts and Popcorn
As soon as elections are announced – anywhere around the world – the media immediately starts running polls. Where does this one stand? What about her? What if this guy drops out – how does it affect the ones that remain? Dozens of questions are thrown at the population, even before things have been finalized, and the media reports on these polls as though they were given at Sinai. I must admit, that although I have been actively involved in politics for over 20 years, I am still amazed at how people take these polls so seriously.
Yes, polls are an important tool, but not when conducted in 2-3 days, as 90% are. A reliable poll should take no less than 30 days. It should include at least 6 focus groups for an in-depth analysis. These 6 groups should be equally divided as 3 men’s groups and 3 women’s groups. The questionnaire should contain at least 40 (yes, 40) well-planned questions and asked to 1,000 people from a diverse background. The method of reaching the people should be via a combination of landline telephones, cellphones, internet, email and WhatsAPP. This will accurately reflect the society being tested and produce serious results. After the data has been gathered, it must be analyzed by statistical experts who can then arrive at intelligent conclusions. When a poll, following these rules has been taken, open your eyes and read it because the results will be very close to the final reality.
Unfortunately, the polls printed in the media are nothing like I listed above. They do not have focus groups, contain just 6-10 questions, use landline and cellphones only and the random sample of the population is between 400 and 500. This is why they are tremendously inaccurate. I realize that all polls have a slight margin of error but recently, many polls have been horribly inaccurate. Consider these few examples:
This past August, Andrew Gillum ran in the Democratic primary for Governor of Florida. Polls had him in 4th place at 12%. The result? Andrew Gillum won the primary with 34% of the vote.
This past November, many states across America voted for Senator. Believe it or not, 40% of the polls predicted the WRONG winner!
Let’s go to Brazil where, this past October, there was an election for President. The front runner was a guy who had already been president twice. He left office in 2010 and was now running for a 3rd His name is Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. All polls showed him winning. Trailing close behind him was a woman named Marina Silva. Polls had her just 2-3 points away. In 3rd place – at just 15% – was Jair Bolsonaro. Here is a direct quote from a Brazilian website; “Bolsonaro does not poll well, even for the number 3 man in the line-up…” Well, guess who won and is now President of Brazil??? Jair Bolsonaro, the guy who “does not poll well”!!!
Back to the USA: I don’t think I have to remind you of what happened in November 2016. Every poll had Hillary Clinton as the winner. All the “experts” predicted it and the polls backed them up. According to the polls, it wasn’t even going to be close. Sorry, Mrs Clinton, but just like the other examples above, the polls were horribly wrong.
And finally – let’s travel back in time to May 31, 1996, in Israel. It was the first – and only time – that Israel had a direct election for Prime Minister; Shimon Peres vs Benjamin Netanyahu. All polls – yes, every single one – had Shimon Peres as the winner. Mina Tzemach, considered to be Israel’s leading political pollster (who is still being used today by all media outlets, although I have no idea why…) printed her final poll on election day; A seven point victory for Peres. That’s a big lead on the final day; seven points! Yet, as we know, Peres lost and Bibi became Prime Minister of Israel.
I could easily give other examples from recent elections all over the world, but this is an article, not a thesis. The point is clear; polls that are taken quickly to just get some data into the morning newspaper are highly unreliable and not worth the paper they are printed on. The only polls that are to be taken seriously are those that are conducted in a scientific manner, following the professional methods I listed above. Based on that, please keep reading because you are about to be pleasantly surprised.
Timor Group is an international political consulting firm. They have managed dozens of winning presidential, parliamentary and municipal campaigns on four continents and have an amazing, proven record of success. In December 2018, an American “Political Think Tank” decided to conduct an in-depth, deep analysis of the new Israeli political party, Zehut, of which I am one of the founding members. They considered all of the Israeli polling companies but quickly realized that Timor Group was in a different league. They hired Timor to conduct this scientific, in-depth analysis of Zehut and two weeks ago, Timor presented a 60 page report of their findings. This wasn’t just a simple poll to see how many seats Zehut will get. It was about potential. It was about issues and how the Israeli public understands, identifies, supports or opposes the Zehut ideology on such core issues as legalization of marijuana, school vouchers, separation of religion and state and much more. It studied the entire Israeli population and broke down the data by gender, age and political affiliation. While the American Think Tank is not prepared to make the report available to the general public, they did share it with the top management of Zehut. We were invited to a five hour explanation of the survey by Timor Group where they explained and analyzed the results and findings. I left that five hour meeting with my head spinning from all the data but, at the same time, I left on cloud nine! In a few words let me simply state what Timor Group said: Zehut has the potential – in these coming elections – to be the third largest party in Israel! Zehut needs to overcome one major hurdle, and if we succeed in doing that… we will witness a political revolution, the likes of which, has never been seen in Israel before.
Let me get right to the point. After all their data was gathered and analyzed, the official conclusion of the Timor Group was that 15% of the Israeli public are ready to vote for Zehut in these coming elections on one condition; they must be convinced that Zehut will pass the “minimum threshold”. (Note: in order to enter the Knesset, a party must win a minimum of 4 seats – which is approximately 140,000 votes) I must explain that 15% translates to about 630,000 votes (18 Knesset seats) so really, there’s nothing for Israelis to worry about. The problem, is that according to Timor Group, Zehut – right now – is polling at just 2 seats because the public is deeply worried about the “minimum threshold”. In different words, 630,000 Zehut voters are worried that Zehut won’t get 140,000 votes! Yes, you read that right. 630,000 people want to vote for Zehut but need to know that 140,000 will actually do it!
The political consultants at Timor told us that – in all their years of experience – they never saw anything like this. Normally, a party that is currently polling at 2 may have a potential of 5. They have worked for other Israeli parties who were polling at 8 but had the potential to hit 11. That is the norm. However, in the case of Zehut, polling at 2 but potential for 18?? That has simply never been done in political history!
On one hand, this shows that our message is getting across to the Israeli public. They identify with our message and want our dream to come to fruition. The only thing they need to be convinced of is that we will pass the “minimum threshold”. I must add that the 60 page report by Timor found many other things but this is – by far – the most important of all. This is our challenge and must be at the forefront of everything we do. Let’s get to work and make it happen!