Ruling party leader not scaring voters any longer?

A new survey into trust for politicians showed that the top three places were taken by leading ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party figures. It also shows that the days of PiS leader Jarosław Kaczyński keeping distance from the political spotlight are at an end.

The IBRiS survey indicates that as many as 47 percent of the total number of respondents trust President Andrzej Duda, while 38 percent distrust him.

In second place was PM Mateusz Morawiecki with a 45 percent support and a 42 percent distrust.

Third came former PM and newly elected MEP Beata Szydło, with 38 percent support and fifty percent expressing misgivings.

Not just a backseat driver

The fourth politician in whom the respondents put their trust was, perhaps surprisingly, the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party leader Jarosław Kaczyński, who had distanced himself from the political frontline until the recent European elections when he took an active part in promoting PiS social policies.

A total of 36 percent percent of respondents put their trust in Mr Kaczyński with 46 percent mistrusting him.

It also turns out that Mr Kaczyński’s result surpassed that of former PM and current European Council head Donald Tusk who garnered 33 percent support and 49 percent opposed. This was still better than the Civic Platform (PO) party leader Grzegorz Schetyna’s rating of just 20 percent..

Comment:

Polls on which politicians the public trusts need to be taken with a pinch of salt. Just because a politician is trusted does not mean people will vote for him.

The classic example of this in Poland was Jacek Kuroń in the 1990s. He was always the most trusted politician with 70 percent or more approving of him. But when he stood for President in 1990 he only got nine percent whereas the much less trusted at the time Lech Wałęsa and Aleksander Kwaśniewski both got well over 30 percent.

Similarly, just because the voters don’t trust or like someone does not mean that they won’t vote for them. Margaret Thatcher won three elections in the UK in the 1980s even though she was never liked.

But Jarosław Kaczyński has for years courted deep unpopularity, even when his brother was winning the Mayoral race in Warsaw or later for President of Poland. Jarosław Kaczyński was perceived as a shadowy aloof figure, often out of touch with ordinary voters.

His experience of leading from the front in the 2007 election was not a good one. He was PM at the time but he decisively lost the 2007 general election to Donald Tusk. The turning point in that campaign was a debate between him and Mr Tusk which Mr Kaczyński lost, and lost badly.

The Presidential election of 2010 which came in the aftermath of the tragic death of President Lech Kaczyński was not breakthrough for his twin brother either. Despite a sympathy vote for law and Justice (PiS) Jarosław Kaczyński lost narrowly to Bronisław Komorowski. The subsequent Parliamentary elections in 2011 were also lost by PiS and its leader.

As a result of these experiences, Mr Kaczyński kept a low profile in both the Presidential and Parliamentary elections of 2015, choosing not to stand for President or even be PM designate. Some speculated that he may be preparing for retirement.

But in the European elections this year it was Mr kaczyński who fronted the campaign and made no pretence of hiding that he is the decision maker behind the government’s policies. The results of this public opinion survey show that the public has come to respect Mr Kaczyński.

The transformation in the public’s perception of Mr Kaczyński has come as a result of the popularity of the policies of his party. The government is popular because it has delivered on its promises. The party has stayed united and the country it leads is doing well. The relative popularity of the leader of such a party cannot, therefore, be a great shock.

Public feelings for Mr Tusk have moved the other way. Some have issues with him for packing in being PM in Poland in 2014 and going to Brussels. Others are tired of his constant psychodrama over whether he will return to Polish politics after he finishes his term in Brussels. Finally, there are many who do not remember well some of Mr Tusk’s policies when he was in office.

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