London, We Have A Problem: Why British Pollsters Were So Dreadfully, Terribly Wrong

Nate-Silver-Polling-Problem

Michael Barone writes: “The world may have a polling problem.” That’s the headline on a blogpost by Nate Silver, the wunderkind founder of the fivethirthyeight.com website. It was posted on 9:54 Eastern Time the night of May 7, as the counting in the British election was continuing in the small hours of May 8 UK Time.

“Polling provides useful information, but information whose reliability is often ephemeral and increasingly, it seems, limited.” 

That was an hour after the result in the constituency of Nuneaton made it clear that all the pre-election polls were wrong. Nuneaton, in the Midlands just east of Birmingham, was number 28 on a list of 42 marginal two-party contests. Projections based on pre-election polls were that Labour would win 35 of these 42 seats. Instead Conservatives won 34 of them.

Nationally, the pre-election polls predicted that Conservatives would win about 280 seats, barely ahead of Labour and far short of a 326-seat majority. The exit poll pegged them at 316. They ended up winning 331.

NYTvsAmerica

“Readers may have noticed that all these errors seem to come from one ideological direction. In nations where the dominant media lean left–the New York Times and the old-line TV networks here, the BBC in Britain, Ha’aretz in Israel–opinion on the right has been understated in the polls.”

Something similar happened in 1992, when pre-election polls showed the two parties tied but Conservatives won by a 7.5-point margin. The most common explanation, advanced by Conservative analyst Rob Hayward: “shy Tories” were unwilling to tell pollsters they favored the Conservative party.

obama-cellphone-ap-640x480

“Evidently, some people don’t want to identify themselves as troglodytes to telephone interviewers or even on robocalls.”

British pollsters made adjustments then but, as Hayward notes, they didn’t work this year. Internal party polls apparently did better. American pollster Stanley Greenberg, working for Labour and using a longer questionnaire, found the party’s numbers sagging. Australian consultant Lynton Crosby, running Conservatives’ campaign, assured party leaders they would win 300 seats. Read the rest of this entry »


Netanyahu Forms New Israel Government

netanyahu-wsj

61-seat majority leaves Netanyahu little margin for error

TEL AVIV— Nicholas Casey and Joshua Mitnick report: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu finalized a deal late Wednesday to establish a new governing coalition, concluding weeks of negotiations after his March 17 election landslide victory.

“The present government is going to be even more dysfunctional than the last government given how narrow it is. Something has got to give.”

— Sam LehmanWilzig, a political-science professor at Bar Ilan University

At a joint news conference with Naftali Bennett, the leader of the pro-settler Jewish Home party and the last hold out in the coalition haggling, Mr. Netanyahu said he planned to immediately inform Israel’s president as required by law that he had successfully formed a majority coalition.

“No one was surprised that the negotiations were drawn out with all the parties, but no one was surprised that it ended on time.”

— Benjamin Netanyahu

Mr. Netanyahu’s struggle to form a coalition was a turn of fortune for the Israeli leader after his Likud party won a decisive mandate for a fourth term in the March vote. He opted to dissolve parliament and call early elections with the hope of forming a more cohesive and stable coalition. Now, he faces the prospect of more instability instead.

Mr. Netanyahu’s new majority numbers just 61 seats held by right-wing and religious factions, leaving Mr. Netanyahu with little margin for error in the 120-seat parliament, called the Knesset.

Analysts say that while such a government might be hard to topple from the outside—it will be solidly right-wing—such a narrow majority could leave it vulnerable to pressure from demands from individual lawmakers within his coalition that could endanger his government. Read the rest of this entry »


Amnesty International: Hamas Guilty of War Crimes in Gaza Conflict

israel-gaza-city-072914

HAIFA, Israel –   reports: A horrific missile attack that killed 11 children in Gaza during last summer’s war between Israel and Hamas, for which Israel was broadly condemned at the time, was actually caused by a Palestinian missile misfiring and killing its own people, Amnesty International charged in a report released Thursday.

“Although Palestinians have claimed that the Israeli military was responsible for the attack, an independent munitions expert, who examined the available evidence on behalf of Amnesty International, concluded that the projectile used in the attack was a Palestinian rocket.”

“In the deadliest incident believed to have been caused by a Palestinian armed group during the conflict, 13 Palestinian civilians – 11 of them children – were killed when a projectile exploded next to a supermarket in the crowded al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza on 28 July 2014, the first day of Eid al-Fitr,” Amnesty’s report said. “The children had been playing in the street and buying crisps and soft drinks in the supermarket at the time of the attack.”

“Palestinian armed groups, including the armed wing of Hamas, repeatedly launched unlawful attacks during the conflict killing and injuring civilians.”

“Although Palestinians have claimed that the Israeli military was responsible for the attack, an independent munitions expert, who examined the available evidence on behalf of Amnesty International, concluded that the projectile used in the attack was a Palestinian rocket.”

“Unlike Hamas, Israel is vigorously investigating its conduct, aiming to draw lessons and minimize civilian harm. Meanwhile, Hamas continues to incite terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians, boast of building new cross-border assault tunnels, and test-fires rockets, in preparation for further violence against Israelis.”

— a spokesperson for Israel’s Embassy in London

The report highlights the fact that the blast could not have been caused by a drone attack or as the result of Israeli shelling. The crater was too shallow, it said, while “its circumference was too wide to have been caused by a tank shell.”

“The Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas, which against the wishes of the U.S. and others, intends to apply for membership of the International Criminal Court, next week, may be liable for this and other war crimes committed by Palestinians during the war if accepting ICC jurisdiction.”

“Palestinian armed groups, including the armed wing of Hamas, repeatedly launched unlawful attacks during the conflict killing and injuring civilians,” said Philip Luther, director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International. “In launching these attacks, they displayed a flagrant disregard for international humanitarian law and for the consequences of their violations on civilians in both Israel and the Gaza Strip.”

Israel’s insistence from the start that the 13 deaths were caused by one of Hamas’ own missiles going astray was generally disregarded as Hamas rushed to accuse Israel. Read the rest of this entry »


Bibi Prevails: President Obama Loses His Bid to Defeat a U.S. Ally

Netanyahu-victory-WSJ

It isn’t Mr. Obama’s habit to admit error, or to be gracious to his opponents, but it would serve the interests of both nations if he were.

The Israeli election that looked like a cliffhanger when the polls closed on Tuesday had turned into a decisive victory for Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud Party by Wednesday morning. With at least 29 seats in the parliament compared to 24 for the main center-left party, Israel’s Prime Minister should be able to put together a ruling coalition of center-right parties that is more manageable than his last majority.

“President Obama might also reflect on his own contribution to Mr. Netanyahu’s victory. Israelis surrounded by hostile nations sworn to their destruction are most likely to take risks for peace when they feel secure in America’s support.”

The victory is a remarkable personal triumph for Mr. Netanyahu, who is now Israel’s second longest-serving Prime Minister after David Ben-Gurion. He gambled that he could assemble a more stable center-right coalition, as well as by giving a high-stakes speech to the U.S. Congress on Iran two weeks before the election, and in the final days stressing above all the security themes that must be Israel’s abiding concern.

“While the results may dismay Mr. Netanyahu’s detractors abroad, especially in the White House, they surely reflect Israel’s security consensus.”

Mr. Netanyahu and Likud were trailing in the polls in the final week as the opposition stressed the rising cost of food and housing and an economy that had slowed to about 3% growth from near 6% in 2010. But in the closing days Mr. Netanyahu played up that foreigners (read: President Obama) wanted him defeated, and he rejected statehood for Palestinians, reversing a position he had taken in 2009. Read the rest of this entry »


ISRAEL ELECTION LIVE BLOG: Likud Cements Victory with Nearly All Votes Counted

bibi-election

With nearly all votes counted, Benjamin Netanyahu’s Lkud party is set to emerge as the election’s big winner with 29 seats. The Zionist Union trails behind with 24 seats. The Joint List of Arab parties is the third-largest party at this point, followed by Yesh Atid, Kulanu, Habayit Hayehudi, Shas, Yisrael Beiteinu, United Torah Judaism, Meretz and Yahad.

President Reuven Rivlin said he would work for a national unity government.

Ballots were cast at 10,372 polling stations throughout Israel. Read the rest of this entry »


BIBI REBOOT: Exit Polls Show Show Obama’s Israel Regime Change Efforts May Not Succeed

obama-frown-white-background

TV exit polls Tuesday night showed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Likud set to retain the Israeli leadership at the end of a bitter election campaign.

CAVN--zVEAAfx4O

Polling stations opened at 7 a.m. on Tuesday and Israeli citizens headed for the ballots to vote for Israel’s 20th Knesset. Polls from the end of last week had left options open for a tight race. The TV exit polls were published at 10 p.m., as polling stations closed, after which official results began to roll in. The official final results won’t be publicized until Thursday.

times-of-israel

Netanyahu, vying for the role for his fourth time (third consecutively), had made a last-ditch attempt over the past days to win back voters mainly from the right-wing bloc, vowing Monday night to block a Palestinian state should he remain in office.

Unlike years past, analysts had said the race between Likud and Zionist Union, the two leading factions, was too close to call with confidence, but the exit polls showed Netanyahu clearly better placed to build the next coalition.Bibi-Obama-AFP-Jim-Watson

UMM AL-FAHM — “We are in a historic moment,” Arab Joint List leader Ayman Odeh tells supporters at the party’s post-election event.

“We have the highest Arab voting rates since 1999,” he adds.

“We will block Netanyahu from forming the government.”

— Elhanan Miller

The Zionist Union’s candidate for defense minister, Amos Yadlin, insists the left and right are “tied” in the wake of tonight’s exit polls.

“I think this is a major achievement for Zionist Union. No poll gave us 27 mandates,” which the party gets in the polls. “I think you have to remember where Labor was three months ago, at 14 mandates, and where it is today.”

“Nothing is finished,” Yadlin insists. “Meretz passed the electoral threshold nicely and Yachad didn’t pass the threshold,” he notes, “so let’s wait for the final results. This is a tie, and the keys are in Moshe Kahlon’s hands,” he concludes.

Final turnout hits 71.8%, highest since 1999

Final voter turnout rises to 71.8%, according to final Central Election Committee data, higher than in the past five elections. It marks a five-point rise from 2013’s 66.6%.

Kahlon also tells Netanyahu to wait

Moshe Kahlon of Kulanu, like the ultra-Orthodox party United Torah Judaism, tells Netanyahu he will not decide who to support for premier until the final official results are published on Thursday.

He reportedly told the same to Isaac Herzog, who is frantically trying to put together a Netanyahu-blocking coalition that might force a unity government. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] George Will: There Is a Culture Clash Between the Obama Administration and Israel

George Will said he thinks the disagreement between the Obama administration and Israel is representative of a personal dispute between President Obama and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“We have a community organizer dealing with a commando; they’re not on the same wavelength. There’s a kind of culture clash between this administration and the administration of a country that lives in a dangerous neighborhood.” 

Will said the Obama administration….(read more)

National Review