A survey of voting trends for the Presidential poll conducted by research team of the University of Colombo points to a probable victory by common candidate Maithripala Sirisena at the January 8th poll. In its conclusion, joint survey analysts Dr. T. L. Gunaruwan (University of Colombo) and Dr. D. S. Jayaweera (Tourism Development Authority) concluded [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Presidential Poll: Chances of Maithri winning greater, Colombo University survey reveals


A survey of voting trends for the Presidential poll conducted by research team of the University of Colombo points to a probable victory by common candidate Maithripala Sirisena at the January 8th poll.

In its conclusion, joint survey analysts Dr. T. L. Gunaruwan (University of Colombo) and Dr. D. S. Jayaweera (Tourism Development Authority) concluded that:

“This analysis (therefore) tends to indicate a probable victory for MS at the forthcoming Presidential elections. However, there is a significant share of undecided voters, which makes the competition still wide open for both parties; and the estimates made in this analysis are likely to be influenced by the decision that will be made by these undecided voters over the next two weeks.”

Here is the full text of the report dated December 27, 2014 obtained by the Business Times:


(a) Relatively smaller sample (little less than 1000) compared to total population of little over 15 million. Survey forms were collected at convenience, and therefore, district-wise or electorate-wise representative sampling could not be realised. The results have to be perceived having proper understanding of this aspect.

(b) Over 80 per cent of the sample were Sinhala Buddhists, and thus this sample has that bias, given that the overall share of Sinhala Buddhist voters is approximately 70 per cent of the total votes.

(c) No survey responses were obtained from the North (except one respondent from Jaffna, and two from Mullaitivu) while a large number of responses were obtained from the East, North Central, Western and Southern provinces. Only a few responses were obtained from Central, Uva, Wayamba and Sabaragamuwa Provinces.

(d) Sample characteristics indicate that it is overwhelmingly biased towards Mahinda Rajapaksa, as out of those who have cast their votes in the respective elections, over 75 per cent had voted for MR in 2010 and 2005 elections (when his national average stood around 58 per cent in 2010 and just above 50 per cent in 2005).


1. Around 20 per cent for the first time voters and nearly 13 per cent-15 per cent of the total respondents are still undecided. This indecision is still substantially high, and means that a lot could still change, particularly through the events and behaviour of parties over the next two weeks.

2. Only 1 per cent of the respondents in the aggregate sample pronounced preference to vote for a third candidate, while nearly 3 per cent would vote for no one. These ratios are 2 per cent and 7 per cent, respectively, with regard to fresh voters. This indicates the likelihood of a relatively lesser share of votes polled by any candidate other than the two main contenders, while the cancellation rate also is likely to be relatively low (please note that this percentage is compatible with what was observed at past national elections).

3. On the face of it, 44 per cent to 39 per cent split between MR and MS in a highly “MR-biased” (as explained in “d” above) sample points at the highly competitive nature of the forthcoming election, where the possibility of MR’s share going below 50 per cent is substantial.

4. The present survey thus adopted a different approach to examine the trends.

The 2015 vote base was divided into “new votes” and “non-new votes”; and the share of votes polled by individual candidates were considered with regard to “new votes”, while the “shifts” away from MR (in 2010) to MS (in 2015) and vice-versa were estimated and applied on to the population with regard to “non-new votes”.

5. As per the survey results, MR would obtain 38 per cent of the “new-votes” while MS wouldobtain 33 per cent. The balance would be accounted under votes obtained by other candidates, non-voters, and those who are still undecided.

6. With regard to “non-new votes”, nearly 28 per cent of those who voted for MR in 2010 would shift towards MS this time and 11 per cent would still be undecided, while 4 per cent of those who voted for SF in 2010 would shift towards MR in 2015 while 11 per cent would be undecided. It is interesting to note that nearly 30 per cent of those who voted for MR in the 2005 Presidential election would deflect towards MS in 2015, and around 9 per cent of those voted for Ranil Wickremesinghe in 2005 would deflect towards MR in the coming election.

7. Applying the basic survey results to the overall population, and using the 2010 election results as the basis for projections, it could be estimated that the chances are greater for MS to win this election with around 53 per cent of the total valid votes, assuming that the absentee voter ratio stays unchanged at around 25 per cent.

8. This pattern was cross examined through an “ethnicity based” analysis. This was attempted because the survey sample appeared overwhelmingly “Sinhalese”, and any shift calculated based on such a biased sample would only apply to that particular ethnic electorate. The results indicated the likelihood of MS securing a lead of over 2 lakhs of votes over MR in this electoral block, paving the way for an MS victory with a likely preference for him in Tamil and Muslim electorates. The survey results indicate that MS could secure the required 50 per cent of total valid votes if he manages to get around half of the Tamil and Muslim votes, while MR would require over 60 per cent of the Tamil and Muslim votes if he is to surpass MS in the overall competition and to cross over the crucial 50 per cent threshold.

9. The results thus indicate the importance for both candidates of their margins secured in the Sinhala electorate, which accounts for over 112 lakhs or three-fourth of the total number of registered voters. For instance, one lakh of lead lost for MS in the Sinhala electorate than the above indicated survey estimates would necessitate him to secure over 57 per cent of minority votes (compared to nearly 50 per cent required in the case of two lakhs lead in the Sinhala electorate) for an overall election victory.

10. Based on the survey estimates and a hypothetical 35:65 ratio of minority votes split between MR and MS respectively, the ethnicity specific analysis would yield an overall outcome closer to that projected under (7) above, with nearly 60 lakhs of votes (53 per cent) polled by MS, 50 lakhs (44 per cent) by MR, and 3 per cent going to others.

11. However, it must be emphasised that nearly 20 per cent of the first time voters, and around 13 per cent of the overall electorate, are still undecided, which could go into either camp over the next two weeks, and could either reinforce or reverse the overall estimates made in this analysis. It is interesting to note that only less than 1 per cent of the overall respondents pronounced interest in constitutional reforms or economic hardships such as high cost of living or unemployment. An overwhelming majority expressing preference for MR was for his war effort, strong leadership against external intervention, national unity and not reverting back to war or separatism, and those preferring MS were largely owing to accountability, transparency and governance issues in the MR rule.

It is therefore very clear that the Sinhalese vote base, largely reflected in the sample surveyed, is sensitive to the national issue, and those still undecided among them, even though a majority has not given reasons for their indecision, are prone to tilt towards the camp which assures them of peace and national security. The next two weeks of campaigning is therefore likely to be crucial for both candidates.

In a separate joint statement, Dr. Gunaruwan and Dr. Jayaweera said there was no formal involvement of the University of Colombo or SLTDA in this research, as it is the case with regard to most of “‘our research activities, and any involvement one could imagine is limited to the extent of us being employed at these organisations, and the research team comprised of several junior researchers and research students attached to the University of Colombo, and our academic and research contact points at several other universities”.

It said “our interests were purely academic and research in nature, and thus, we never released any of the interim outcomes of our still-ongoing research to media. However, we have recently observed several news items in media pertaining to a ‘Colombo University survey’ on presidential elections, some of which even contained our names, but with some contents we cannot claim ownership”.

Kelaniya University opinion poll predicts 53 % win for MR 

The Presidential election opinion poll conducted by the Mass Communication Faculty of the University of Kelaniya revealed that President Mahinda Rajapaksa would win the forthcoming election with 53 per cent of the vote.

Common Opposition Candidate Maithripala Sirisena will obtain 44 per cent while 3 per cent of voters may abstain from voting, the opinion poll predicted.

The survey was conducted in two stages by a group of university teachers and students analysing views of a random sample of 5000 voters in 25 districts, Head of the Mass Communication faculty of University of Kelaniya Prof. Rohana Lakshman Piyadasa told reporters on Wednesday.
The first stage under the ‘Most Popular Political Character’ was conducted before the handing over of nominations and the second was held after the commencement of election campaign. It was carried out in Sinhala and Tamil mediums based on the new electoral register according to ethnicity, gender, population composition, profession and age, he added.

Prof. Piyadasa said that they had planned to obtain views of a random sample of 250000 voters but it was reduced to 5000 due to financial and logistic constraints.

He disclosed that his faculty has conducted opinion polls in four previous elections and its predictions were very close to the final result. But predictions of such opinion polls could differ 5 per cent to this side or to the other in the end result of the election.

He further noted that unlike previous elections, electronic and social media and the word of mouth, have influenced the opinion of a large number of urban and semi urban and rural voters, especially the youth. (Bandula)

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