Benjamin Netanyahu’s nationalist campaign prevailed in a close race that appeared to be trending
|Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu|
away from him the last week. Netanyahu went into full campaign mode, telling his Likud voters that all was lost unless they turn out. He shifted to the right in rejecting a two-state solution and warning that Arab voter turnout was a threat.
By 9:00 pm (MST), it was clear the final polls and the exit polls were wrong. Bibi was going to win a four-to-six seat victory over the center left Zionist Union Party.
Most U.S. media outlets, from New York Times, Washington Post
and Wall Street Journal
, to CNN and Fox, stayed with the exit polls even though Wikipedia had a live feed, which by 8:00 pm (MST) showed Likud with 24 percent of the vote (they ended up with 23.2% compared to 18.7% for the Zionist Union).
Democrats, from President Obama to Secretary of State Kerry to Minority Leader Pelosi, aren’t happy. Obama and the administration now have an even tougher opponent. Not only did Netanyahu accuse the administration of working against him (i.e., opponents in the West financing his local opposition), but he moved to the right as he apparently secured a stronger coalition. All conditions unlikely to generate a rapprochement.
Polling in multi-party races with the top two parties receiving less than half the vote means that simple margin of error, much less any specific polling flaws, accounts for much of the variation. In addition, while Jewish voters have a philosophical disposition, their parties tend to come and go; i.e., party loyalty is less a factor and a less useful predicator.
Exit pollsters specifically mentioned the low cooperation from what appeared to be more conservative voters and the fact they quit polling early as explaining some of their failure to catch the Likud surge.
Most interesting was the strategic voting driven by polling. The polls clearly motivated Netanyahu and Likud strategists to switch from appearing as frontrunner to likely losers. The goal being to draw other conservative parties’ votes to Likud. Also, many individual voters seeing the late polls showing the Zionist Union winning independently decided to support Likud to put them over the top. Evidence for this came from media interviews with voters.