The first round of Egypt’s presidential election is tomorrow, which means it’s time for everybody to make their predictions. I think the biggest story of late has been the surprise surge of former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq. I say surprise, although an Egyptian friend has been predicting his success for some time now. It’s difficult to get a handle on the race because the polling has been rather erratic. With that being said, I think it’s possible to analyze some of the polls and make some comments.
I created a poll of polls, using Al Masry Al Youm’s and Al-Ahram’s weekly surveys. I chose these two because they were the only ones to be released at nearly identical times for seven weeks.
A couple thoughts and random speculations on these numbers:
The two sets of surveys had some notable differences. Al Masry Al Youm’s had a far higher number of undecided voters (It would have been nice to know how the questions were worded). Al-Ahram, on the other hand, gave a slight edge to several candidates, most notably, Amr Moussa. In fact, Moussa polled on average 23 points higher in Al-Ahram polls than Masry’s. It looks like Al-Ahram was pushing respondents harder to make a decision, as its lower undecided number produced higher numbers for every major candidate. The fact that Moussa gained so much from this group, could indicate that a lot of the support we see for him in these surveys is not solidified, or even committed to voting. This would support the narrative that from the beginning, Moussa was largely running so strong due to name recognition.
People aren’t that undecided. One of the most notable aspects of these polls is the high number of undecideds in the race. Al-Masry Al-Youm even has 33 percent of all voters listed as undecided in their last poll. The thing is, the surveys also have a very high number of people claiming they will vote. In fact, the last poll shows that 87 percent of all registered voters will turn out. Voter turnout models are hard, US pollsters still struggle with it, but these firms still need a better screen. Turnout in the recent parliamentary polls was around 54 percent. The difference between those two numbers (87 and 54) is roughly the number of undecideds in their poll. I’m definitely not claiming that all the undecideds did not vote in the last election, and will not vote in this one. But I do think it’s safe to assume that opinions are a bit more solidified at this stage in the race. We probably shouldn’t speculate about where this mass number of undecideds will go. They might not go anywhere.
Shafiq’s surge is real. According the poll of polls, Shafiq is in second place with 21 percent of the vote. The Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsy and Hamdeen Sabahi are also enjoying small surges, although remain far behind. Shafiq was smart in having a strong ground operation and playing to his base. He probably also took note of the brief surge of Omr Suleiman, which showed that their was a constituency for a law and order candidate. Shafiq didn’t try to straddle several social cleavages (like Moussa and Fotouh), he just built a base within one group and developed a clear message.
We get to see if in Egypt, the Party decides. Morsy is enjoying a late surge but still looks like he will fall short of the top two. This seems like a great opportunity to really see the strength of the Brotherhood’s ground operation. Morsy doesn’t have the personal popularity of other candidates. If he alone polls far better than the surveys indicated, we can probably infer a lot about the MB’s grassroots strength.
Final Predictions: Shafiq and Moussa win the first round, although a strong possibility that it will be Shafiq and Morsy.