Who will win the EP elections?

23 Apr 2014
By: Votewatch

EPP Still Just Ahead of Socialists

by Kevin Cunningham and Simon Hix

Despite slipping back slightly since last week, EPP remain just ahead of S&D: on 217 to 208 seats. While S&D parties have remained stable in European election polls in most countries over the past week, EPP parties have fallen slightly in France, Finland and Poland.

A 9-seat difference between these two groups is still only a small lead given the margins of error in the polls and the poll fluctuations over the past few weeks. Our simulations of potential outcomes, based on the margins of error in the polls and our statistical model, suggest that EPP now have a 74% chance of coming out ahead of S&D, while S&D have a 26% chance of coming out ahead of EPP.

Regarding the other groups, ALDE remain third, just ahead of GUE/NGL in fourth. ECR and G/EFA are now neck-and-neck for fifth place, as a result of gains for Green parties over the last few weeks in Spain and Sweden. EFD remain seventh.

Amongst the non-attached MEPs and not currently attached national parties, our latest forecast suggests that the seven parties who could form a new radical right group with Le Pen and Wilders will win 35 seats: 20 for FN in France, 4 for PVV in The Netherlands, 4 for FPÖ in Austria, 4 for LN in Italy, 1 for VB in Belgium, 1 for SD in Sweden, and 1 for SNS in Slovakia.

The updated summary tables are here.


Socialists and EPP Tied

by Kevin Cunningham and Simon Hix

16 April 2014

For the first time in our forecast, the EPP have pulled ahead of S&D, and are now standing about 13 seats ahead: on 222 to 209.

This change over the past two weeks is a result of a significant rise in support for EPP parties in Poland, perhaps related to insecurity as a result of the crisis in Ukraine.  EPP parties have also made gains in France and picked up one more seat in several other member states.  Meanwhile, S&D parties have declined slightly in Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, France, and Greece.

Nevertheless, the difference between these two groups is still reasonably small given the margins of error in the polls and in our statistical model and also given that things can swing back in the next few weeks.  For example, on the basis of 1000 simulations of what might happen in the elections, we estimate that there is still a 25% probability that S&D will be larger than EPP.

Regarding the other groups, ALDE remain just ahead of GUE, but we estimate that GUE now have a 24% probability of being larger than ALDE.

Overall, the three centrist political groups – EPP, S&D, ALDE – would be down considerably on their current standing: from 72% of MEPs in the current Parliament, to 65% in the new Parliament.  Of the remaining MEPs, our current forecast has 12% for the two other groups on the left (GUE and G/EFA), 10% for the two other groups on the right (ECR and EFD), and just under 13% who are not currently members of any political group, and who are mostly on the radical right.

On this last issue, our latest forecast suggests that Le Pen and Wilders will have enough MEPs from enough member states to form a group: with approximately 38 MEPs from 7 member states.  This forecast is based on the 5 other national parties who have suggested that they will join the French FN and Dutch PVV: Austrian FPÖ, Belgian VB, Italian LN,  Slovak SNS, and Swedish SD.  The make-up of this prospective group has not yet been finalised, however.

The updated summary tables are here.


Socialists and EPP Tied

by Kevin Cunningham and Simon Hix

2 April 2014

Our latest forecast has S&D and EPP tied on 212 seats each.  While S&D parties have made gains in some member states, particularly in Italy where the Renzi government is in a “honeymoon” period, they have fallen back in Poland and several other countries.  Meanwhile, EPP member parties have risen in recent polls in Slovenia and in one or two other member states, but have seen support fall considerably in Italy.

Regarding the other groups, ALDE remain just ahead of GUE.  But, given the sample sizes of the polls, the difference between these groups is quite small.  For example, using a standard margin of error around our latest forecasts, we estimate that GUE have a 27% probability of being larger than ALDE.

The European Parliament released its own forecasting model this week, also using opinion poll data in each member state (see EP’s prediction here). While our model has S&D and EPP neck and neck, the EP’s latest forecast has EPP ahead of S&D.

The difference between these two sets of forecasts probably arises from how we treat national election opinion polls.  Both methods pool recent EP election opinion polls in each member state.  However, whereas the EP forecast also pools recent national election polls, we apply a statistical model to “correct” these particular polls.  We do this because we know from previous EP elections that national election polls over-predict support for large parties, particularly in government, and under-predict support for small opposition parties, particularly anti-European parties.  As a result, we think this explains why the EP forecast has slightly higher seat share predictions for some EPP parties in government than our model.  Nevertheless, we cannot evaluate whether this is the case, because the EP has thus far only released EP group aggregate seat predictions but not seat predictions for each member state.

Find the summary tables here.


Socialists and EPP Neck-and-Neck, but Juncker Leading Schulz

by Kevin Cunningham and Simon Hix

19 March 2014

The headline results of our latest update are:
• the S&D and EPP are now neck-and-neck, on 215 seats to 211;
• but, in a head-to-head vote between the two leading candidates for the Commission President, Jean-ClauderJuncker (EPP) is leading Martin Schulz (S&D).

This latest forecast is based on new opinion polls from most member states and a new run of our statistical model. We have also updated the forecast with new information we have gathered over the last few weeks about which groups some of the new parties will join and also about the make of the candidate lists of some of the electoral coalitions (in Croatia, Latvia, and Poland) that will split between several of the groups. This information has generally favoured ALDE, who are now likely to pick up more MEPs from Croatia, Germany and Poland, in addition to gaining in the polls in some other countries. Meanwhile, some of the GUE parties have slipped slightly in recent polls. As a result, ALDE are now back in third place, ahead of GUE.

In the battle to be the largest group, the EPP are now within four seats of the Socialists. In practice, this means that these two groups are neck-and-neck, as the difference between these two groups is within any standard error-margin in the polls. EPP parties have recovered in the polls in several member states over the past few weeks.

Also, the EPP candidate for Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, is likely to have more support in the new EP than the S&D candidate, Martin Schulz.In a straight run-off vote between these two, it seems reasonable to assume that EPP, ALDE, ECR, and the Czech ANO (who are likely to join ALDE) would support Juncker, and together these groups add up to 323 MEPs (43.0%). On the other side, if we assume that the S&D, GUE, and G/EFA support Schulz, then he would be backed by 311 MEPs (41.4%).

However, will all these groups hold together in support of Juncker or Schulz? After all, ALDE, GUE, and the Greens have put forward their own “lead candidates”: Guy Verhofstadt, Alexis Tsipras, and Ska Keller and José Bové, respectively.It is not clear that ECR would back Juncker. It is far from certain that all the national member parties of EPP and S&D would support Juncker and Schulz, respectively.And, what will the other 117 MEPs, in EFD and the Non-Attached, do?

As we get closer to the election, the battle-lines between the Spitzenkandidaten (lead candidates) may become clearer. Nevertheless, the EU governments may still try to impose their own candidate for Commission President on the new European Parliament, and this may be easier to do if neither Juncker nor Schulz command a clear majority after the election.

The updated summary tables are here Tables 17 March.


Socialists Marginally Ahead, Radical Left Up to Third

by Kevin Cunningham and Simon Hix

5 March 2014

Today we present our latest forecast, using new opinion polls from every member state except the United Kingdom, Cyprus, Luxembourg, and Malta, and a new run of our statistical model. We have also updated the results with new information we have gathered since our launch about which parties will stand in the elections and which EP groups they may join. And we have taken into account the decision by the German Constitutional Court to remove the 3% threshold for winning a seat in Germany.

The headline results are:

1) the Socialists remain slightly ahead of EPP, on 209 seats to 202; and

2) support for protest and anti-European forces, on both the right and the left of the Parliament, remains strong. In particular, the radical left group European United Left (GUE-NGL) move up to third place, ahead of the Liberals (ALDE).

GUE-NGL have replaced ALDE in third due to the rise of the Tsipras List in Italy and the Left Bloc in Portugal. The break-up of the major parties in Romania has also precipitated a fall in the total number of seats for the ALDE-aligned National Liberal Party (PNL).

The change in the electoral threshold in Germany is likely to mean at least four new parties winning seats for the first time in that country: the anti-European Alternative for Germany (AfD), the anti-internet copyright Pirate Party (PIR), the populist Free Voters (FW), and the extreme right National Democratic Party (NDP). For the Germany forecast, we have averaged results from three recent EU election polls (by INSA, GMS and FORSA, conducted between 17 and 24 February). Because these polls do not include the small parties, we have looked at the votes these parties received in the 2013 Bundestag election as a guide for their likely performance in May. We expect future EU election polls in Germany to include these parties, and some other small parties too.

More generally, support for these small parties in Germany is part of a broader trend across Europe, of a fragmentation of the electorate. Many more people are likely to vote for protest, populist, Eurosceptic or radical parties on the right or the left than five years ago. This is likely to lead to a fragmentation of the seats in the new Parliament and a “squeezed middle”.

With several new parties from a number of member states, we expect there to be enough MEPs from enough member states for three groups to emerge on the right of the EPP: the current ECR and EFD (or their new incarnations), and a new group led by the French National Front (FN) and Dutch Party of Freedom (PVV). Until the membership of this group is confirmed, we have left these parties and their potential allies either as “non-attached” or in their current groups.

The updated summary tables are here.

Finally, some of you may have seen the EP2014 election forecast posted on Twitter by Electionista, based on their polling data from every member state. The Electionista method is similar to ours, in that both PollWatch2014 and Electionista pool data from several opinion polls in each member state. However, there is one key difference between our method and theirs: where only national election opinion polls have been held so far, we apply a statistical model to “correct” these polls, based on what we know from previous European Parliament elections, that large parties, particularly in government, do badly while small protest parties do well (as we explain in the Methodology section on the website). In practice this means that in several member states, Electionista are forecasting a few more seats for large governing parties than we are. Encouragingly, our two methods currently produce quite similar overall seat numbers for the political groups. The real test, though, will be who is closest on the night of 25 May!


German Constitutional Court Changes EP Election Dynamics

by Simon Hix

27 February 2014

On 26 February the German Constitutional Court struck down the 3% threshold for winning seats in the European Parliament in Germany. This ruling will change the dynamics of the elections in Germany as well as the post-election group formation bargaining inside the Parliament.

With 96 MEPs elected in Germany in a single national constituency, removing the 3% threshold is likely to have a double effect on the election result. First, looking at the results in Germany in 2009, several small parties already have a large enough support base to reach the new de facto threshold to win a seat: of about 1% of the national votes, which is approximately 270,000 total votes. Second, encouraged by this lower de facto threshold, these small parties plus other small parties will be able to attract new voters from people who will now feel that voting for one of these parties will no-longer be a wasted vote. In combination, these two effects – one mechanical and the other more psychological –mean that several new parties are likely to win MEPs in Germany, such as the populist Free Voters (FV) party, the radical right Republican (REP) party and National Democratic Party (NDP), the Human Environment Animal Welfare (MUT) party, the Pirate Party (Piraten), the Retirees and Pensioners Party (Bündnis 21/RRP) and several other small parties that will now start to mobilise. The lower threshold will also ease the concerns of other parties that might have been close to the 3% threshold, such as the FDP and the Alternative for Germany (AfD).

In addition, with lots of new small parties elected in Germany, particularly from the populist right, this is likely to help the forces to the right of the EPP find a sufficient number of parties to meet the requirements for forming a group inside the EP (of at least 25 MEPs from at least 7 member states). Three groups to the right of the EPP – ECR, EFD, and a potential Wilders-Le Pen group – is now looking more likely than it was just 1 week ago.

We will incorporate this change in Germany in our next full update of our forecast, on 5 March.


Socialists ahead of EPP in a more polarized parliament

by Kevin Cunningham, Simon Hix and Michael Marsh

Corrected figures, 20 February 2014

The centre-left Socialists & Democrats (S&D) are slightly ahead of the centre-right European People’s Party (EPP) in the race to be the largest group in next European Parliament. Today PollWatch2014’s forecasting model predicts that in the May 2014 elections S&D will win 217 seats while EPP will win 200.

The next European Parliament will also be considerably more polarised than the current one: with fewer seats for the centrist groups and more seats for the radical left, radical right, and anti-Europeans. The combined seat-share of the three centrist groups – EPP, S&D and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) – is likely to be down to 65% (from 72% currently), while 29% of the seats are likely to be won by parties that are either critical of or radically opposed to the EU: in the centre-right/anti-federalist European Conservative and Reformists (ECR), the Eurosceptic Europe of Freedom and Democracy (EFD), the radical left EUL/NGL, and the non-attached (NI) members.

On the battle to be the largest group, while the difference between S&D and EPP in our forecast might seem quite large, we remain cautious about the group that is likely to be the largest in the European parliament. There are two reasons for this. First, support for these two larger groups depends significantly on the fortunes of a small number of large parties in Germany, France and Italy, the support for which has varied considerably. Changes in support for parties in these countries will greatly affect the overall make-up of the European Parliament. Second, with 12 weeks until the election on 22-25 May, European election opinion polls will not fully reflect final voting intentions which will depend on the nature of the campaign fought over the next 12 weeks. As such, the accuracy and relevance of the polls are likely to develop as we get closer to the election.

Our forecasting model combines two elements: (1) where European election polls have been taken in a member state, we simply take the standing of parties in these polls; but (2) for member states where only national election polls have been taken so far, we apply a statistical model of how these national election poll standings in the past have translated into European election outcomes. In 2009, this approach correctly predicted 720 of the then 736 seats won by each political group (a 98% success rate), and 660 of the seats won by each national party (a 90% success rate).

However, both elements of our method have a level of uncertainty. Using standard ways to estimate this uncertainty, the “confidence interval” around the current standing of S&D and EPP with 12 weeks until the election is about +/- 25 seats each. Also, given the situation of Socialists in France, Germany and Italy, the uncertainty is probably slightly larger for the Socialists than for the EPP and may also be lop-sided – where our current estimate is towards the upper end of the interval. Given these factors, the Socialists are likely will win between 190 and 230 seats while the EPP are likely to win between 180 and 225 seats. Put this way, there is a reasonable chance (approximately 40%) that the EPP might end up being larger than the Socialists come May.

The forecast that the next European Parliament will be far more polarised than the current one is more certain. What is not yet clear in this regard, though, is where all the MEPs from new political parties will sit and whether new political groups will form. We have assumed at this stage that the MEPs from parties who are not currently affiliated to a European party or group will sit as “non-attached” members. For example, we do not yet know where the Italian Five Star Movement (M5S) will sit, and we expect it to win 18 seats, or the Czech Action of Dissatisfied Citizens (ANO), who we expect to win 9 seats. As we get closer to the elections, we may be able to assign more of these new parties to groups.

There has also been media coverage of a possible new group on the radical right, formed by the French FN, Dutch PVV, Austrian FPÖ, Belgian VB, Italian LN, Swedish SD, and perhaps some other parties. In our first forecast we have left the MEPs from these parties in the groups in which they currently sit. But, if these parties were to form a new group, we are currently predicting that they will win 37 MEPs from 6 member states – which would meet one of the two legal thresholds for forming a group (of at least 25 MEPs from at least 7 member states).

If a new radical right group forms there would be 4 political forces to the right of the EPP: the conservative ECR, the Eurosceptic EFD, the new radical right group, and the remaining non-attached members (many of whom are on the extreme right, such as Jobbik from Hungary and Golden Dawn from Greece). Such a large number of MEPs and groups to the right of the EPP could transform politics inside the European Parliament, as it would force the centrist groups to work together in a “grand coalition” – starting with the choice of the next President of the European Commission. A large populist Eurosceptic bloc of MEPs could also influence the policy agenda of the next European Parliament, as this bloc would probably be opposed to deeper Economic and Monetary Union, fully open free movement of people, and a free trade agreement between the EU and the United States.

Here are the summary tables of the make-up of current European Parliament, broken down by each member state, and our current forecast of the make-up of the Parliament after the 2014 elections.

Prediction summary table 19 Feb 2014 CORR


Between now and the European Parliament elections in May, PollWatch2014.eu will produce a series of forecasts of the number of seats each national party and European political group will win in the elections. Our first set of forecasts are published today and our next set will be published in two weeks.