Sunday, December 9, 2018

Exclusive: Results of confidential poll revealed

In recent years, only one organisation has undertaken international standard opinion polls in Bangladesh - and that is the International Republican Institute (IRI). They, in effect, took over the role from Democracy International which undertook hiqh quality polling before and immediately after the 2014 election.

Since May 2014, IRI have conducted a total of six opinion polls, with the most recent one being in May 2018. After each poll, they have published a public version of the results, some months later, with the results of the May 2018 poll (involving 5000 respondents, representative of the population) made available in September 2018. 

However, in each case, IRI did not publish the key horse-race question which the organisation kept confidential. This question was:
"If the parliamentary elections were held next week, for which party would you vote?" 
BangladeshPolitico has however now obtained a copy of the results to this question (the slide states at the bottom: "Not for public distribution") involving all the six IRI polls undertaken since 2004.

May 2018 poll
In the most recent May 2018 poll, conducted between April 10 and May 21, 2018) the result was as follows:
Don't know/refused to answer:    62 %
Awami League:                           25 %
BNP                                            10 %
Jamaat-e-Islami                            1 %
Jatiya Party                                   1 %
Explicit Awami League's support has declined by half since the poll two years earlier in February 2016, which was the high-water mark of the party's support. It's decline is particularly precipitous during the most recent years, between April 2017 and May 2018, declining from 44% to 25%
Sep 2014                                   39 %
Jun 2015                                   46 %
Nov 2015                                  46 %
Feb 2016                                   49 %
Apr 2017                                   44 %
May 2018                                  25 %
BNP's support has also declined, however.
Sep 2014                                   29 %
Jun 2015                                   27 %
Nov 2015                                  23 %
Feb 2016                                   22 %
Apr 2017                                   12 %
May 2018                                  10 %
The "undecided/refuse to answer" category. 
Perhaps, the most significant change, however, involves the numbers of those who "don't know" or "refused to answer". This increased from 25% in February 2016 to 62% in May 2018, coinciding a precipitous fall in Awami League support.
Sep 2014                                   27 %
Jun 2015                                   23 %
Nov 2015                                  27 %
Feb 2016                                   25 %
Apr 2017                                   41 %
May 2018                                  62 %
(It should be noted in considering this result, that another poll result found that 30% of people were of the view that they were not "free to express their opinions at all" - compared to 17% who felt that they were free. However, previous IRI polls did not ask this question so one cannot conclude that this has got worse over time.)

The high level of people who were "undecided/refused to answer" could be good news for the BNP, suggesting either a large number of people who supported the Awami League between Sept 2014 to April 2017:
- are now no longer in the AL camp and are "undecided" and therefore could support the BNP in the future; 
- or that that this group are now supporters of the BNP, but are unwilling to reveal this because of the lack of freedom in expressing their opinion.
It is important to note that support for AL and BNP during different election cycles does move considerably between the parties so that in 2013, a Democracy International poll found the BNP was at 43% and the AL was at 31% - so it is not outside the bounds of possibility that the AL vote could be eroding.

However, one should note that the increase in the "undecided/refused to answer" happened in two stages. In the first stage between Feb 2016 and April 2017 (when this percentage of "undecided/refused to answer" increased from 25% to 41%), the Awami League support only decreased by 5% whilst the BNP support decreased by 10%. 

It is in the second stage between April 2017 and May 2018 that the increase in "undecided/refused to answer" from 41% to 62% coincided with a precipitous fall in the Awami League support from 44% to 25%. 

It is difficult to know what to make of the difference in the two stages.

I will write more about these results in future posts - as well as discussing other aspects of the poll relevant to the forthcoming election.

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