Popularity of Skvernelis is not a record breaking: one PM was even more popular

Saulius Skvernelis
DELFI / Andrius Ufartas

Even though the Prime Ministers Saulius Skvernelis popularity is quite noticeable (around 73 per cent), it is not a record breaking one among the states Prime Ministers. In July of 1999 the popularity of Rolandas Paksas, who was the leader of government at the time, had reached 75 per cent. However the ratings published by various companies of public opinion research differ. Why is that, LRT.lt asks?

The latest poll done by ‘’Vilmorus’’ and requested by the paper ‘’Lietuvos Rytas’’ shows that the current leader of government S. Skvernelis is seen positively by 72.5 per cent and negatively by just 9 per cent.

These high ratings were called record breaking ones by sociologists, but it appears that they have been rushed. Rolandas Paksas in 1999 was even more popular, with 74.9 per cent.
Negatively evaluating this politician was only 1.9 per cent. It held up for a few months before beginning to drop.

“When he was reelected as Prime Minister in January of 2001, his popularity was 55.4 per cent and in June reached only 44.7 per cent” – states sociologist Vladas Gaidys, who is also the director of public opinion research center “Vilmorus”.

A research done by another company shows that Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevičius during his time in office had the highest ratings in March of 2013, which was about 67,3 per cent. Meanwhile in October of last year, right before elections to the Parliament, polls showed that he was seen positively by just over 30 per cent respondents.

Why S. Skvernelis is seen so positively?

Algirdas Krupavičius, political scientist form Vytautas Magnus University, is sure that such high ratings are bound not to hold up during his time in office.

“These days popularity is based on trust and expectations. Without any doubt the “honeymoon” phase will end. As we saw in the case of A. Butkevičius, the “honeymoon” lasted for three years, then the popularity reached a breaking pint and started decreasing. The reasons were diverse: scandals and bad decisions by social democrats themselves. It is impossible for the ratings to stay high during the whole term” – commented A. Krupavičius to LRT.lt

According to him, the reason behind S. Skvernelis high ratings is his straightforward and clear rhetoric, which the electorate appreciates. “Also, S. Skvernelis gained authority while still working in the government of A. Butkevičius, at the Ministry of the Interior. Thirdly, he did not make any major communication mistakes” – A. Krupavičius named the main reasons of the Prime Ministers popularity.

As sociologist V. Gaidys told to LRT.lt that it is difficult to maintain popularity when you are the Prime Minister. “There are more people who are popular, but it is not as easy when you are the Prime Minister. If we would add Juozas Erlickas to the list, he would probably surpass even S. Skvernelis. It is doubtful that J. Erlickas has any enemies” – V. Gaidys joked.
However, not all politicians or heads of institutions, even if popular, would like to be evaluated in polls.

“During the time that I have been doing this, there have been cases when a person has a high rank but does not want to be rated. The most memorable case was regarding the previous general commissioner of the police Vytautas Grigavičius. He invited to talk and ask to cross him out of the list. At the time he was the first amongst all the rated people. He said that it makes it worse and people start talking that we only work for the ratings. President Algirdas Brazauskas had also called with the same request” – V. Gaidys remembers.

Poll results – extremely different

Often politicians don’t want to be rated not only because they are popular, but also because it doesn’t always reflect reality.

The difference in ratings can be seen in three surveys by different companies that have been published last week.

For example, a poll by RAIT, which was commissioned by BNS, shows that Remigijus Šimašius, the leader of Liberal movement, is positively seen by 33 per cent of respondents. “Baltijos tyrimai” poll commissioned by the news agency ELTA showed V. Šimašius popularity at 53 per cent, while “Vilmorus” poll commissioned by “Lietuvos rytas” revealed R. Šimašius popularity at 42 per cent.
According to RAIT, the popularity of Lithuanian peasant and green party leader Ramūnas Karbauskis was 51 per cent, “Baltijos tyrimai” – 44 per cent, “Vilmorus” – 64 per cent.
President Dalia Grybauskaite was positively seen by 67 per cent according to RAIT, 73 per cent according to “Baltijos tyrimai” and 64 per cent by “Vilmorus”.

Result can be changed by one word in the sentence

Sociologist V. Gaidys explains that these differences amongst the surveys may arise because of different wording or other reasons.

“I know how we present the wording but I don’t know how other companies do that. Time of the survey is also essential and it sometimes has quite an impact. For example, the dynamics were great when a lot of events were related to R. Karbauskis.

Identical wording is extremely rare and even one word can affect the result. I could give one example of this. We had two clients ten years ago regarding Lithuanian military involvement abroad: Parliament office and Ministry of Foreign Affairs. One asked whether the respondents agreed on the involvement of our volunteers in peacekeeping missions, others asked if respondents agreed with our volunteers going to the hot zones.

The result of these surveys was completely opposite: first agreed on volunteer involvement in peacekeeping missions, second received categorically negative answers. Even though the survey was the same, the result ended up opposite” – V. Gaidys commented to LRT.lt

As stated by A. Krupavičius, political scientist from VMU, often companies choose different age groups as well. Some pick people from the age 15 who can’t vote but are part of those polls. There will be more liberal amongst those respondents. Other companies include only people who are legally of age. The second reason would be events – if the survey is conducted at different times and some resonant events happen, an error may occur” – explained A. Krupavičius.

What those survey and differences tell to the voter? “When we ask this question of the voter, he states that it has no impact on his decision. However, some effect does exist: if one or another clear leader arises, the voter will more likely choose the leader instead of a political force of policy” – A. Krupavičius told LRT.lt.

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