May 23, 2019

What Americans Don't Get About Bibi

“The votes have yet to be counted in full—more than 200,000 are still to be tallied, which could make a big difference for parties like the New Right struggling to make it into the Knesset—but a few truths about Israel’s election are hard to ignore:

The Polls Really Don’t Work: At 10 p.m. on election night, Mina Tzemach, Israel’s most prominent pollster, unveiled her eagerly anticipated prediction, putting Benny Gantz far ahead of Benjamin Netanyahu. It didn’t take long to realize the extent of her error, or, for that matter, the stunning inaccuracy of nearly every other poll that shaped and informed the debate leading up to election day. Moshe Feiglin, whose Zehut party was slated to score as many as seven seats, was out; Avigdor Lieberman, who was left for dead by most prognosticators, won bigly. The reason may be as much technological as it is political: Reaching most of their respondents online or via cellphone, pollsters are inherently biased toward overrepresenting the sort of people who are comfortable taking an online survey or chatting to a stranger about politics. As Tuesday’s results showed, vast swaths of the population—haredis, say, or immigrants from the former Soviet Union—had far less in the pre-election pas-de-deux of opinion surveys, which is why they ended up turning out in far larger numbers than anyone predicted, reelecting Lieberman and giving haredi parties a very strong showing with 16 seats. This fact is unlikely to change, making polling, long a staple of the political game, an increasingly questionable tool in a society where many reject technology’s pervasive reach.

Tel Aviv Really Is a Bubble: In Ramat Aviv, the city’s posh northern neighborhood—home to its university and much of the media class who edit newspapers, anchor newscasts, and publish books—the center-left bloc, comprised of Blue-White, Meretz, and Labor, won a whopping 80% of the votes. Four point three miles to the southeast, in the city’s struggling Shchunat Hatikvah neighborhood, Likud and Shas won 64% of the votes, a much more accurate reflection of the national zeitgeist. The same is true in virtually every other corner of the country: In Caesarea, the wealthy seaside town where the Netanyahus have a home, most people voted for Gantz; in Rosh Ha’Ayin, the working class small town where Gantz lives, most people voted for Netanyahu.”

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