Tuesday, February 10, 2009

ISRAELI ELECTIONS: Do Not Trust the Exit Polls

Exit polls are predicting that the Kadima Party of Tzipi Livni has won 30 seats, to 28 for the Likud Party of Benjamin Netanyahu. Don't you believe it. Israeli exit polls, like those in U.S. elections, historically over-estimate the vote for left-wing parties. One need only remember the elections of 1996, when exit polls predicted a resounding victory by Labor, led by Shimon Peres, over Netanyahu. Labor and the Left loudly trumpeted their victory, announcing their intentions to wreak vengeance against the right and religious parties. Only, when counting of the actual votes was completed the next day, it was Likud that had triumphed.

I am not saying that the exit polls will be wrong this time, just that they should be viewed with a high degree of skepticism.

Another factor to take into account: The same exit polls that show Kadima taking 30 Knesset seats to 28 for Likud also show the right-wing parties with a total of 63-64 seats, enough for Likud to form a government in the 120-seat Knesset. The left-wing parties, including Kadima and Labor, have a total of only 56-57 seats. As a result, even if the exit polls are correct, the next prime minister nonetheless may be Netanyahu, not Livni.


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