The Dim-Post

February 24, 2013

My theory about what’s happening in the polls

Filed under: Politics,polls — danylmc @ 7:03 pm

Latest aggregated poll, click here for the interactive version (it doesn’t contain the latest TV3 numbers it does now).

nzpolls20130225

My guess about what’s happening at the moment is that centrist voters are soft on National, but if they vote for National they get National plus some insignificant, powerless support parties, while if they vote Labour they’re also effectively endorsing the Greens and Winston Peters since they’ll be major components of the Labour-led government, and most of those center-voters distrust Peters and/or the Greens to the extent that they’ll continue supporting National despite the ongoing blunders and disappointments.

I’ve seen people on Twitter wondering how anyone could still support National, but if you think about the Shearer-led Labour/Greens/New Zealand First alternative, it’s hard to imagine that being anything other than a short-lived disaster. Centrist support for National seems very sensible from that perspective.

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45 Comments »

  1. Very perseptive Danyl.

    National is appaling but the alternative unthinkable – sorry state of affairs is it not

    Comment by Andrei — February 24, 2013 @ 7:25 pm

  2. And the small matter of Labour being twice as appalling ipwithout taking into account their likely circle jerk with the Gweens and Winnie.

    Comment by titsonabull — February 24, 2013 @ 7:28 pm

  3. Or it could be that centre voters can’t discern much difference between National and Labour rhetoric. Any differences in positioning at the moment seem more about tribal matters than ideology.

    Comment by billbennettnz — February 24, 2013 @ 7:44 pm

  4. I’m probably missing something but if that were the case, wouldn’t the aggregated poll show National’s increased support coming from Labour in the past few months? Instead, they both seem to be increasing at the expense of NZ First, and possibly some more minor parties that don’t register for the chart.

    Comment by MikeM — February 24, 2013 @ 8:20 pm

  5. Yes I think you are right. That and Labour has moved to the left.

    Comment by swan — February 24, 2013 @ 8:34 pm

  6. If Danyl’s analysis is correct, Labour could boost its poll numbers by ruling out dealing with Winston post-election (and possibly the Greens, too, although I doubt Danyl would recommend that).

    Comment by Hugh — February 24, 2013 @ 9:18 pm

  7. As would be expected, the red and green lines trend through the middle of their data sets, but the the blue line appears to follow the bottom values of the blue data and similarly, the black line trends along the upper edge of the black data set. Am I missing something here? I expected to see all lines to be centred through their respective data sets.

    Comment by pmofnz — February 24, 2013 @ 9:47 pm

  8. I found the latest TV3 numbers to be rather odd, to be honest and looking at the poll trends, it appears that the TV polls are largely consistent with each other and their collective findings largely contradict what Roy Morgan and Fairfax seem to be finding. Both Colmar-Brunton and Reid Research seem to jump around a great deal as well.

    Also, I’d also like to add that there doesn’t seem to be any real consideration for the fact that when one looks at the right side of the political spectrum in this country, there’s a complete dearth of viable alternatives to National. Contrast that to the other side. A Labour voter would traditionally be more left (their flirtations with centre right not withstanding) and there are other options like the Greens (who are becoming increasingly mainstream) available, as well as Mana which would appeal more to those that may find the Greens to be a bit milquetoaste. For the record, I hope this doesn’t read as a “Greens are stealing Labour’s votes” screed, because that’s not the intention.

    As a final bit, I’d like to mention that Frank Mackasy also made a fairly interesting observation in his blog recently regarding the polls (which focused primarily on RM, C-B and Fairfax since he posted it before the Reid polls were published) – that Roy Morgan were actually pretty close when it came to predicting what National would get in the 2011 elections. What was more notable though was that they accurately predicted the combined vote that Labour and Green would get, but possibly (in his estimation) failed to account for people that said they would vote for the Greens, only to change their mind at the last minute and voted Labour.

    Comment by Vagabundo — February 24, 2013 @ 10:38 pm

  9. Vagabundo

    Frank Mackasy has blogged two or three times now about the apparent inaccuracy of the Colmar Brunton poll leading up to the 2011 election. I’d like to point out that, in each of his posts (including the one you mention) he chooses, for some reason, to compare the election result with the Colmar Brunton poll conducted TWO WEEKS prior to the election. Perhaps I’m missing something here, but if someone wanted to compare the predictive ability of a political poll, wouldn’t they compare the election result to the poll carried out closest to the election?

    Colmar Brunton carried out a poll in the week prior to the election. Why now, would Frank ignore that poll?

    Comment by Guess the pollster :) — February 24, 2013 @ 11:03 pm

  10. Most people live in very low information environments. Going about their everyday lives, they read a small number of cues, and form their opinions incidentally.

    Coalitions figure low down on the list of things influencing the formation of these opinions. Positive and negative coverage counts for more, and having NZ’s leading political reporter stare down the camera hypnotically while uttering subliminally coded sweet cooing noises ranks highest.

    Comment by George D — February 24, 2013 @ 11:10 pm

  11. Most people live in very low information environments.

    I think people live in different information environments which often don’t overlap much. I’m not sure if it’s possible to rank them in terms of access to some supposed objective political reality.

    I think the implied assumption that being better informed about politics leads to better decisions is also suspect.

    Comment by NeilM — February 25, 2013 @ 12:20 am

  12. George D #10: Indeed. Not everyone has the sort of attention spans us blog posters do.

    NeilM #11: If better information isn’t the circuit-breaker, could it be overall education levels?

    Comment by deepred — February 25, 2013 @ 1:03 am

  13. I’ve seen people on Twitter wondering how anyone could still support National,

    They just have to shout much louder at conservatives that they hate children, kauri trees and the people of Christchurch.

    Comment by NeilM — February 25, 2013 @ 1:06 am

  14. If better information isn’t the circuit-breaker, could it be overall education levels?

    Given that both Rodney Hide and Charles Chauvel were university educated I’d day it’s not a great indicator.

    Comment by NeilM — February 25, 2013 @ 1:16 am

  15. Guess the pollster :) at comment 9

    Yeah, I just checked the C-B results against the blog post we’re both talking about (I’m assuming we’re both referring to the same one), and it seems like it’s a mix-and-match of the one published two weeks prior and one week prior. Labour and National have numbers from the one two weeks prior, the minor parties tend to have numbers from the one that was more recent. End result is that it turns out C-B wasn’t too far off of the Labour election result, but still overestimated the party votes that National would get (by 3%, rather than 6%).

    Judging from what’s in the comments though, he’ll be reposting with the numbers amended since someone has brought that issue to his attention.

    Also based on looking at the interactive poll, it appears that the Reid and C-B polls tend to be statistical outliers. All the polls use landline calls, don’t they? I wonder if there any minor differences in how the polling is conducted by the various firms. A 10-point discrepancy in two polls conducted roughly 10 days apart seems a bit strange, to be honest.

    Comment by Vagabundo — February 25, 2013 @ 7:58 am

  16. Labour’s senior leadership are not presenting a compelling case to govern. Now, those of us external to the party might say this is a bad thing, since we all imagine the purpose of the Labour party leadership is to guide the party to election victory. However, in the dysfunctional culture of the parliamentary Labour party the primary purpose of the Labour leadership is to guarantee incumbency protection to a lazy clique of aging MP’s.

    Until the internal culture of the parliamentary Labour party changes from focusing on crushing talent to ensure has-beens like Trevor Mallard and co have a job for life to one of a relentless focus on victory they’ll languish in the low-mid thirties.

    Comment by Sanctuary — February 25, 2013 @ 8:14 am

  17. @Vagabundo, yeah all the main polls sample households by landline number. There are quite a few other ways that their methods vary though, such as their sampling and selection approaches and what they do with undecideds.

    Those sorts of things can help explain differences, but what I find interesting is even the DIRECTION of the differences have varied over the last few weeks. It’s one thing to say that a particular poll is biased in favour of this party or that, but when the DIRECTION of the differences between independent polls varies that says, to me, that at least one of those polls is volatile.

    Poll volatility isn’t talked about much – you’d have to watch a poll very closely and compare it to others regularly to notice it.

    Give me a stable poll over volatile one any day, at least then the biases can systematically explored and attempts can be made to reduce them.

    Andrew

    Comment by Guess the pollster :) — February 25, 2013 @ 8:38 am

  18. >if they vote Labour they’re also effectively endorsing the Greens and Winston Peters since they’ll be major components of the Labour-led government

    I don’t think most people would know the stats at the moment, and use them to base their decision on. A poll at this point isn’t about fearing Winston Peters, there’s no real election looming – people would genuinely use it to signal which party they are most aligned with. Which is bad news for Labour, just as it has been for 5 years now. It’s all good news for Winston, though, he can make or break govt on these numbers.

    @pmofnz That question gets asked every time Danyl produces one of these graphs. The answer is that he adjusts for the bias of the polls in his aggregator for the trendline. The blue polls have been consistently over for a long time. We can speculate on why, but the fact remains.

    Comment by Ben Wilson — February 25, 2013 @ 8:54 am

  19. Sanct,

    I doubt most of those polled care about the eternal internal Labour Party battles, they just don’t see the current politicians as an alternative government. Some of that is down to Shearer, and some to the apparent movement to the left.

    If the poll had included a question on whether Helen Kelly was president of the Party, I suspect a large number would reply yes. The Greens, if they can muzzle loonies, are likely to pick up recent Labour voters who aren’t strongly interested in politics and also don’t like bellicose unions.

    Comment by Bruce Hamilton — February 25, 2013 @ 8:59 am

  20. These polls (I think) also only report the preferences of decided voters. It’s unclear to me how big the pool of “undecided”/”I don’t know”/”I don’t care”/”I don’t vote” responses there are. Possibly some of the variation between polls can be explained by people drifting between decided/undecided.

    Comment by RJL — February 25, 2013 @ 9:05 am

  21. I think you are right – and that’s exactly what National’s polling will be showing it. It’s why Key et al carry on about a five-headed monster of Labour-Greens-Mana-Maori-NZ First, which is done without challenge and without recourse to the fact that the actual result will more likely be Labour-Greens coalition with NZ First abstaining.

    I have no idea why Shearer et al aren’t talking about the National-John Banks Act-Peter Dunne-Maori Party-Colin Craig Conservative Party possibility on the other side. My theory is that this would push the centrist floaters you mention back into undecided and make the left’s numbers look a lot healthier and the election choice a lot starker.

    Comment by Bill Engrish — February 25, 2013 @ 10:26 am

  22. Much of National’s blunders are being shielded by John Key’s popularity. People genuinely like him and rather have him in charge than Shearer. But also rather him than any other Nat politician.

    Currently John Key is National’s biggest asset and until Labour is able compete with that, chances are slim of a change of government.

    Also, people generally trust John Key to deal with Banks/Dunne/Craig, but I doubt anyone thinks Shearer can really deal with Peters

    Comment by eszett — February 25, 2013 @ 10:40 am

  23. I have no idea why Shearer et al aren’t talking about the National-John Banks Act-Peter Dunne-Maori Party-Colin Craig Conservative Party possibility on the other side.

    Probably because there is a real risk that voters would think “The only way to avoid a hydra of the left or right variety is to give National an outright majority”.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — February 25, 2013 @ 10:41 am

  24. …there is a real risk that voters would think “The only way to avoid a hydra of the left or right variety is to give National an outright majority”

    Is there any way to have an MMP coalition which couldn’t be somehow characterised as an x-headed hydra? I mean, people voted outright to keep the system after some time of working with it. If you seriously wanted a single party to govern with outright control then MMP was hardly an optimal preference.

    Comment by MikeM — February 25, 2013 @ 11:01 am

  25. It seems to indicate (still) that the Anyone but Key (ABK) vote is fragmented and somewhat Peoples’ Front of Judaea-ist.

    And given the limited support for Peter Dunne and Winston Peters, it also implies the electorate has become increasingly polarised as has happened in the States. Or in the case of the undecideds, no-one seems to speak for them.

    Comment by deepred — February 25, 2013 @ 11:11 am

  26. Much of National’s blunders are being shielded by John Key’s popularity….But also rather him than any other Nat politician.

    True dat.
    It does make me wonder what the cunning plan will be to sell the transition from a sugar coated authoritarian to a genuine authoritarian.

    I can (weirdly) imagine people voting for Crusher, but Joyce? It would be a tacit admission that the public fully accepts the dominion of our lizard overlords.

    Comment by Gregor W — February 25, 2013 @ 11:20 am

  27. @MikeM,

    But remember, there were still 42% who didn’t want to keep MMP … and not all of that 42% was National-voting in 2011.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — February 25, 2013 @ 11:26 am

  28. deepred wrote “Or in the case of the undecideds, no-one seems to speak for them.”

    the undecideds don’t seem to be a very powerful voting bloc. I thought Alamein Kopu did a great job of representing the undecided position in 1999, but they couldn’t decide whether to vote for her, even though she absolutely oozed undecidedness.

    Comment by kahikatea — February 25, 2013 @ 11:49 am

  29. I can (weirdly) imagine people voting for Crusher, but Joyce?

    I think Hekia Parata would make an excellent leader of the National Party. Or Tau Henare.

    Comment by richdrich — February 25, 2013 @ 12:29 pm

  30. Parata is truly a hugely talented MP and quite the smooth communicator, after all.

    Comment by Vagabundo — February 25, 2013 @ 12:32 pm

  31. She was against letting Wanganui Collegiate integrate (and thus doom it to closure) according to today’s Dimpost. But she was shouted down by her Cabinet colleagues.

    This moves her up a few notches to negative 75 odd in my estimation

    Comment by Conrad — February 25, 2013 @ 12:42 pm

  32. Fair enough, can’t fault her for that one.

    Comment by Vagabundo — February 25, 2013 @ 12:44 pm

  33. Does anyone really care what it is that make whom vote what this far out?

    Thursday question time was interesting. No John, “invite me to your next barbie” Key. Stephen, “I’ll turn Johns meat while he’s away from the barbie” Joyce showed his hand is close to his chest. First time I’ve seen the speaker step into to translate his mumbled gibberish.

    Helen and the memory of that last mess of a third term has a lot to answer for.

    Comment by Costanza — February 25, 2013 @ 12:58 pm

  34. centrist voters like me, who supported labour under clark/cullen have shifted to national and won’t go back especially with labour’s obsession with regulations/tax policies and intentions of going together with greens/mana etc.Have gone too far to the left with union influences (little/claire curren/dr clark etc) and their appaling nag/nag/negativity whenever they are on the news.No hope in hell average fair people will vote for a coalition like this.

    Comment by straight talk — February 25, 2013 @ 1:15 pm

  35. One of the sources of said negativity has just been punted down the order, while Shearer’s opened the door a little for Cunliffe to get back to the front bench soon.

    Comment by Vagabundo — February 25, 2013 @ 1:51 pm

  36. @Costanza at 12.58 pm
    The Prime Minister is NEVER in the house on Thursdays. Neither is the Leader of the Opposition.
    Key isn’t there. Neither was Helen Clark.
    Shearer isn’t there. Neither was Goff.
    That is just the way it works and you shouldn’t take any notice of the fact that someone else answers on the PMs behalf.

    Comment by Alwyn — February 25, 2013 @ 1:55 pm

  37. Conrad #31: And it wasn’t too long ago that Bill English wanted to debunk perceptions that his party only cared about the rich.

    Comment by deepred — February 25, 2013 @ 3:14 pm

  38. PS: Here’s the exact quote: “It’s a legacy of the mistrust older people now have for National … If you decide you’ve been let down, it’s harder to change your mind. … There’s a perception that rich people vote National, and it’s true. I hate that. It would do us good to drive some of those people away.”

    Comment by deepred — February 25, 2013 @ 3:22 pm

  39. Am I missing something here? I expected to see all lines to be centred through their respective data sets.

    The regression is weighted to election results. Thus, a Green poll result has about 2% subtracted from it, and a Labour one has 3% added.

    This puts NZ First and Labour vote at several percent above their poll performance (their voters wake from their slumber triannually), and National and Green vote below (National voters disproportionately answer their landlines, traditionally many Green voters stay home or switch by election day). The assumption is that these trends will remain accurate, and in the absence of intervening information which an election would provide, it’s a reasonable assumption.

    Comment by George D — February 25, 2013 @ 6:28 pm

  40. Thanks for that George D – a plausible explanation in plain English. Unfortunately the answer by Ben Wilson further up at 18 still left me in the dark, but cheers anyway.

    Comment by pmofnz — February 26, 2013 @ 12:03 pm

  41. straight talk at 34 has got it I think. Labour is moving to the left. They want to come up with exciting ideas, and it inevitably means intervention/ regulation etc.

    Comment by swan — February 28, 2013 @ 10:24 pm

  42. #41: More likely they’re trying to decide whether to consolidate the Left core with ‘Old Labour’ values, or pander to Waitakere Man with ‘bludger on the roof’ rhetoric. There was originally a pledge to roll back the electricity asset sales, until they inexplicably pulled back from that – maybe it was because it was David Cunliffe’s idea before he was demoted?

    Comment by deepred — February 28, 2013 @ 10:45 pm

  43. Its not about policies, offering alternatives or mimicking Key’s success. Labour can move to the left or right and will get little traction in the polls until they start selling themselves and their cause.

    To do that they need reporters to back them and nod approvingly when they speak and be slightly afraid of them. Sadly most reporters are in awe and fear of National and don’t privately rate Shearer or Labour. National continues to get a pretty easy ride and stay up in the polls.

    If a respected reporter came out and angrily said enough of this rubbish, the lies and half truths are shameful (I’m thinking The Hobbit, Sky City, Kim Dot Com, John Banks) and consistently stood up to being cunningly spun, we would see a change in the polls.

    Yes, it’s all about the hypnosis of telly (and radio to a lesser degree). The pundits are immensely powerful as they frame the debate, allow airtime to who they like and give tacit approval and disapproval signals for audience to pickup on.

    Comment by nigelsagentinthefield — March 2, 2013 @ 9:48 pm

  44. If a respected reporter came out and angrily said enough of this rubbish, the lies and half truths are shameful…

    You mean like Gordon Campbell does every week?

    Comment by Gregor W — March 4, 2013 @ 9:14 am

  45. If a respected reporter came out and angrily said enough of this rubbish, the lies and half truths are shameful…

    Then the public would shrug, and go back to their morning coffee or evening meal. Quite frankly, the public are smarter than you, Nige.
    They know that ALL politicians, regardless of their political stripes, trade almost solely in rubbish, lies, and shameful half truths.

    Comment by Phil — March 4, 2013 @ 2:07 pm


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