Sant Maral’s Politbarometer June 2012

The Sant Maral Foundation under L Sumati is the only credible polling that happens with any regularity in Mongolia. They have now released their second Politbarometer this year two weeks before the election following earlier poll results in April. Below are some of the highlights with a brief discussion.

Party Votes

Of valid answers to the question, “Which party would you vote for?”, the results were as follows with the April numbers in parentheses:

  • DP: 42% (33%)
  • MPP: 28% (32%)
  • CWGP: 3% (4%)
  • MPRP: 24% (12%)
  • Others: 3% (19%)

Clearly, some very important movement in these numbers. The current numbers have the DP far ahead of the MPP. A 42% share in the proportional representation would translate into 12 seats of so from the party list. To secure a parliamentary majority (39 seats), the DP would thus have to win 27 of the 48 majoritarian ridings. While this still seems like a tall order, it is also a distinct possibility. Note as well that the non-Ulaanbaatar results are drawing on polling in four aimags only (Sukhbaatar, Arkhangai, Selenge, and Hovd), so inference to national vote a bit shaky.

In an earlier post, I had offered the following two scenarios as the most likely outcome:

A. slight DP plurality (30-35 seats), but not enough to form government with CWGP. Result: DP-led coalition with MPP, PM = Altankhuyag

B. Strong DP: DP with a significant plurality (35-37 seats), but no majority, CWGP as expected. Result DP-CWGP coalition, PM= Altankhuyag

Given the current poll results, those two still seem like the most likely result, although scenario D with a DP majority would probably move up to C displacing a MPP plurality which now seems almost out of reach. Recall, however, that the poll only reflects the popularity of parties, not that of individual politicians running in majoritarian districts where 48 of the 76 seats in parliament will be decided.

Of course, my earlier speculation had completely discounted the possibility of a significant MPRP surge, or had at least relegated this to the sixth position among likely scenarios. The Politbarometer results suggest that such a surge is more likely than I had originally thought, but that it might still lead to a DP government. Even if the MPRP result were to be on par with the MPP and lead to around 7 seats in the new Ikh Khural, the MPP might still end up with a significantly larger party faction in parliament based on members elected directly in their ridings.

The analysis of voter movements suggests that the MPRP gain comes largely at the expense of the MPP.

Since Sant Maral offers separate answers for Ulaanbaatar vs. elsewhere in the country, that both large parties as well as the MPRP have more support outside of UB, while CWGP is the only party with stronger support in the city.


The rise in the support for the MPRP must be linked to the arrest of frm President Enkhbayar and the support that he has gained through portraying himself as a political martyr in this process and/or an indication of the success of populist appeals to the electorate.

However, the Politbarometer numbers do not indicate the increased importance of corruption as an issue that I was expecting from the very public back-and-forth in the Enkhbayar case. In April as well as in the current Politbarometer, corruption was ranked 5th among socio-political or economic problems by voters, though its rating increased relative to a drop in importance attached to the two top issues, unemployment and standard of living/poverty/income. Also, 5th was a “move up” for corruption for its 7th position in May 2011.

The MPP is seen as the least competent in addressing corruption between DP, MPP, and MPRP. Unfortunately, as I assume anti-corruption to be one of the central tenets of the CWGP campaign, they were not included in this question.


As some commentators have raised questions about the fate of Mongolian democracy through this election, trust in government institutions is an important question in my eyes. Here, Sant Maral asks, “How do you approve or disapprove the following statement: ‘In principal you can trust that the government is doing the right things for citizens’?”

Adding “fully approve” and “rather approve” together, we get a level of trust in government of 57% and of distrust (“rather disapprove” and “fully disapprove”) of 37%. This compares to 50% and 45% in April, respectively.

If the Enkhbayar case were the only imaginable impact on trust in government over this three-month period, we’d have to conclude that the prosecution of the former president seems to have raised levels of trust, but surely there are many other factors at play as well.

Individual Politicians

To get a sense of the popularity of individual politicians, Sant Maral asks “Whom of the prominent persons in the country would you like to name; who, in your opinion, should play an important role in politics?” Respondents are not prompted with a list of names and can name up to three.

Some big changes in the results here. While Enkhbayar was ranked second in this question in April with 17% hoping for a prominent role for him, he has lept to first place in response to this question in June with 22.5%. As this parallels the rise of the share of the MPRP in party preferences, the MPRP’s fate – not surprisingly – seems very closely linked to perceptions of the former president.

Current president Elbegdorj also made slight gains while the biggest loss of support came for union leader Ganbaatar who is running as an independent in the election, but whose support dropped from 26% to 14.5%.

PM Batbold’s popularity has been relatively stable at 11% (12% in April).

CWGP’s Oyun has dropped out of the listing of 10 most frequently-mentioned individuals in the June figures, as has Battulga, seen as a potential challenger to Altankhuyag for the leadership of the DP.

Note that the results on individual politicians may have been biased somewhat by the sampling for the Politbarometer which was limited to Sukhbaatar, Arkhangai, Selenge, and Hovd aimags outside of Ulaanbaatar. For example, Ulaan and Zorigt are from Sukhbaatar, Udval and N Batbayar (DP) are from Arkhangai, and Bayartsogt is from Selenge which may explain their high individual ranking, rather than some kind of national prominence.

About Julian Dierkes

Julian Dierkes is a sociologist by training (PhD Princeton Univ) and a Mongolist by choice and passion since around 2005. He teaches in the Master of Public Policy and Global Affairs at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. He toots
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9 Responses to Sant Maral’s Politbarometer June 2012

  1. Norovtuya says:

    If these polls hold, we may see an MPP-MPRP coalition, a bad-bad thing for the country. Combined, the former communists (they should be seen as one party which they are) out-poll the DP 52 to 42. This is bad.

    • But note that this is party preference which would only have an impact on the proportional representation seats, not the majoritarian ridings. I would thus not interpret these party preference numbers as directly leading to a particular distribution of seats in parliament. Also, poll only covered UB + four aimags.

  2. Norovtuya says:

    That’s the point. In plurality districts, they have always used ‘overwhelming force,’ unleashing their proxy armies, i.e. the totality of the local government.

  3. Bill Rafoss says:

    Good discussion fellows. I suspect you are both right: this could be a lot closer that we (I) thought. The MPP/MPRP vote could split allowing the DP to go up the middle, but the MPP/MPRP could also coalesce and form a government. I agree this only represents the PR seats, but if that vote translates into the FPTP seats, then it is tight. It also depends on the depth of the vote. Presumably the MPRP vote is quite deep in the countryside and this could skew the results. Bottom line: the DP has to work hard to win this one!

  4. From the survey results, it does appear that the DP will win the election in terms of showing independent strength and amount of seats in Ekh Khural. However, other than the allure of the numbers turning a plurality to a majority, how plausible is a DP & CWGP coalition? My general impression is that CWGP draws its core strength from being independent and not tied up in the corruption forces of the major parties.

    Also, how should we interpret the results of voters who “don’t know” or have “no answer” for the question of party preference; it is almost a third of the survey participants. While this could partially be offset by the 10.6 percent of participants who definitely said they wouldn’t participate in the vote, how do you factor in these non-party member voters?

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