Seth Ward’s University of Wyoming Israel Election Survey: Final Wrap up

Seth Ward’s University of Wyoming Israel Election Survey: Final Wrap up


This is an addendum to my previous report, posted at and…


Now that the coalition results appear to be final and the new Government of Israel is scheduled for swearing in on Monday, it’s time for one final assessment of the Survey.


One of the goals of the Survey was to create a set of data that allowed for indexing to determine which returns included the most accurate predictions. This exercise is necessarily arbitrary, and in order to create a “score,” several of the responses were scored.  


The question about the incoming Prime Minister was scored at 5—perhaps it is the most important of all the questions but it also was the least in doubt. Other scored responses were graded on a basis of 10. Respondents were asked to predict the party lists with the largest mandates; 2 points were given for each (in other words, a respondent mentioning the five largest mandates received 10 points). Respondents were asked how many mandates would accrue to largest party list. Interestingly, the average response was pretty close to 31, but only one respondent guessed the correct answer. Responses from 27 to 35 got partial credit of 6 to 9 points (one point off for each mandate difference); no credit was given for more than 5 mandates off.


With respect to forming the government coalition: respondents were asked about which party lists would be represented in the government; two points were given for each correct answer; 2 additional points were given to one respondent who listed only the four party lists that are in fact included in the coalition. Two others had all four but mentioned an additional party that was not part of the coalition; they earned 8 points. Respondents were asked how many days they thought it would take to form the next Government; most respondents thought this process would be a lot faster than it in fact was! Only two responses earned points, for guesses 41 days or longer from January 22. Interestingly, the few respondents who projected a protracted coalition process were not otherwise very accurate in their projections; despite earning points where no one else did, none of them were in the “top performers” or even above the average.


The average projection for the size of the coalition was fairly accurate. But, as noted in my preliminary report, there were quite a few who thought the coalition would be narrower than it in fact is, and these numbers were “balanced” by some rather unlikely projections for super-large coalitions. Fewer than half the actual responses were anywhere close to the actual coalition size. Again, 10 points were given for 68, 9 for 67 or 69, etc., with no points for 5 or more mandates off.


No question was asked about the total number of ministers and deputy ministers in the government. This is unfortunate, given that deliberations about the size of the government seemed to be more important in recent days than deliberations about the number of Knesset mandates represented. The coalition agreement includes legislation limiting the number of ministers and deputy ministers in the future; only time will tell whether this will actually come to pass.


The “average score” for respondents was 21. Five achieved scores of 30 or more: an Israeli-born fundraiser; a professor trained in the UK who is both a British and an Israeli citizen but did not vote in this election; a self-employed Canadian; a retired lawyer; and a Harvard undergrad.  The UK Professor had the high score—36. But I am not sure that the results would be the same if I had scored the open-ended questions. The respondents who scored 30 or more points discussed right-wing concerns, security, and Haredim getting their way, and in general had little to say about domestic issues and governance concerns. They did not predict that the Haredim would be excluded from the government.  And perhaps it is significant that the choices made by those who turned out to be most accurate in their projections, at least in the way that I scored them, made quite different choices for their own “voting preferences.”


This survey was in no way scientific; the sample was not particularly large, and survey was circulated without any regard for a representative population except to the extent that comments I received from people who told me they were familiar with the project suggest (unsurprisingly) that respondents were very likely to be persons with personal and/or professional interests in Israel.  The actual results were a little closer to respondent preferences than predictions in terms of balancing the right with the center (although voting for Kadima, Labor and Tzippi Livni rather than Yesh Atid), and in terms of not voting for Haredim. Perhaps the gap between the projection for the time needed to form a coalition should spark one more tweak to the process (in addition to the limitation of ministers, mentioned above, and an agreement to raise the threshold for entering the Knesset to 4%)—a shortening of the period given the Prime Minister designate to form a government. 


The greatest significance of the survey probably lies in its role as a teaching tool; some researchers may find the open-ended responses to be a fascinating cross-section of views—and perhaps a humbling one, in that some of the results were, in the aggregate, reasonably close to what transpired even though the reasoning offered by respondents was not at all in line with the results.


Many thanks to all who participated in this survey!


Seth Ward

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