The Dim-Post

April 6, 2012

Two polls

Filed under: polls — danylmc @ 11:06 am

Maybe it’s my built-in left-wing bias, but I found the recent TVNZ poll – which showed National gaining popularity over the first three months of the year – to be simply unbelievable. I don’t think the ACC scandal has really sunk in, but I was pretty sure the Crafer farms issue cost them a lot of votes. So I’ve been waiting for the Morgan poll to see if it confirmed the trend.

It doesn’t. According to Roy Morgan the Nats are on 44%, Labour 30% and the Greens 17%.

The first two results continue the trend showed by their previous polls for the year: National declining, Labour largely static, both of which seem credible to me given recent events: the Nats can’t catch a break, and Shearer’s big speech had minimal impact outside of provoking Gerry Brownlee into creating a diplomatic incident by insulting Finland.

But the Greens on 17%? A 35% increase in three weeks is hard to believe, and I’ll want to see more data before I buy it. If the Greens are surging it’d be interesting to know if it’s because the Nats are losing support to them, or if they’re losing support to Labour, who are then losing left-wing votes to the Greens.


  1. Alternatively, National is steadyish, Labour is gaining voters who said they wouldn’t and didn’t vote last time, and Greens are picking up Labour’s left.

    Comment by Jake — April 6, 2012 @ 11:19 am

  2. Or, as @kaupapa suggested, the Greens are attracting support from 2011’s non-voters, about a million eligible people. The future intentions of that large a group could have an impact on the makeup of the next Parliament.

    Roy Morgan’s press release gives %ages of “electors”; I have not found their definition of that term. But I suspect it is likely to mean people who say that are likely or highly likely to vote.

    Comment by Philip Lyth (@philiplyth) — April 6, 2012 @ 11:26 am

  3. The Greens swing a lot because they are a small party and so in any given poll of, say, 1000 people you might get only about 130 who vote Green. So, they tend to jump around 2 or 3% points in the polls quite a lot – whereas National and Labour are often more stable. But it’s still an encouraging sign that they are maintaining fairly high levels of support post-election – all the polls have them over 10%.

    Comment by Amy — April 6, 2012 @ 12:04 pm

  4. I don’t like drawing conclusions from single polls. Graeme Edgeler made the point on Twitter that previous non-voters were an unlikely source of Green votes in this case as the Roy Morgan release noted: “Of all electors surveyed 3.5% (down 0.5%) didn’t name a party. ”

    The Greens went up by pretty much the same amount National went down from the previous Roy Morgan poll. Maybe that 4.5 % of voters were focused on credible performance over recent weeks?

    Polling lag suggests the ACC stuff will show up more in the next polls. Then we may be able to talk a little more about any trends in support. Budget season is already starting with govt announcements about youth mental health and no doubt a series of others planned in coming weeks. We’ll soon see which other parties are properly prepared for that.

    Comment by Sacha — April 6, 2012 @ 12:16 pm

  5. What I would like to see some commentary on is where the money for the youth mental health stuff is coming from if we are having a zero budget? I assume it’s coming out of the existing health budget and probably mainly from continuing cuts to the public health budget.

    Comment by Amy — April 6, 2012 @ 12:21 pm

  6. And are we investing heavily in youth mental health because of the recent spate of suicides at Kings last year? Not that I want to sound paranoid and like I think our Ministers choose their policy priorities basically on back of conversation around the coffee tables in Remuera. But I don’t think it’s exactly news that our mental health services (youth and adult) are chronically under-funded – we’ve known that for a long time. So why the sudden focus on youth mental health right now?

    Comment by Amy — April 6, 2012 @ 12:23 pm

  7. Lynn Prentice adds a useful table of other recent Roy Morgan results and election night numbers for the left and right blocs:

    Comment by Sacha — April 6, 2012 @ 12:33 pm

  8. If I were as a big a Green supporter as you, Danyl, I’d stop asking questions and start cracking out the champagne.

    More seriously I think there is probably some overlap between potential National and potential Green voters, but it’s hard to think what has happened lately that would have made these sorts of people – mostly urban liberal technocrats whose main political identification is towards pragmatism and away from ideology – change their minds in the last few weeks. They tend to have a very low attention span towards stuff like the whole Collins/Mallard brouhaha (can’t say I blame them).

    Comment by Hugh — April 6, 2012 @ 1:07 pm

  9. @Amy: If it’s just sampling error, small party poll results should jump around *less* (in absolute terms). If p is the party’s true support as a proportion, sampling error is proportional to sqrt[p(1-p)], which is maximised at p = 0.5. Smaller p than that => (somewhat) smaller error.

    All: Hey, remember when Labour surged eight Morgan poll points in May 2011?:
    Somebody remind me how that turned out.

    Comment by bradluen — April 6, 2012 @ 1:48 pm

  10. Main take home message from the public. Labour “Who?”, Shearer “Who?”.

    Perhaps the Greens are catching the crowd ” I want to save the world and don’t follow politics, but have discovered that Greens have managed to lose some highly-visible MPs that I found disagreeable, and Russell and Co appear to be effective opposition”.

    Comment by Bruce Hamilton — April 6, 2012 @ 3:01 pm

  11. Built-in bias aside, it seems entirely credible that there is a chunk of voters who …

    1) are less and less impressed by the government (Key, National, ACC, Moonbeam, etc)

    2) are more and more impressed by the Greens (Norman, Hague, no Bradford, etc)

    3) can’t recall anything Labour MPs have done this year, except ticket scalping.

    Comment by sammy 2.0 — April 6, 2012 @ 3:11 pm

  12. @Bruce: In my experience people who don’t follow politics don’t really base their decisions on the concept of an “effective opposition”

    Comment by Hugh — April 6, 2012 @ 3:47 pm

  13. Both National and Labour have behaved like absolute berks this year, people might talk about a horrible quarter of a year for the government, but has Labour really been any better? Especially as the Labour brand is now synonymous with Trevor fucking Mallard. Perhaps the new Green voters are simply people who are turned off by political scandals and want some integrity.

    Comment by alex — April 6, 2012 @ 4:20 pm

  14. Especially as the Labour brand is now synonymous with Trevor fucking Mallard.

    Hmmmm. Could that be why Collins is pursuing her litigation? Mallard = scalping fuckwit; Mallard is Labour MP; therefore Labour are scalping fuckwits.

    Comment by TerryB — April 6, 2012 @ 4:30 pm

  15. @alex: The current level of scandals isn’t really any greater than the background magnitude that’s been bubbling along for the last ten years or so.

    Comment by Hugh — April 6, 2012 @ 4:36 pm

  16. That, and we just had Earth Hour (biggest ever), so being green is probably quite present in people’s minds.

    Comment by Flynn — April 6, 2012 @ 5:35 pm

  17. @ Hugh, true, there are always scandals but over the last term most scandals ended up being downplayed fairly easily, whereas the ACC scandal has just gone on and on and on, and also still features Mallard’s name regularly. It’s a complicated scandal too, so anyone caught up in it in any way is going to come off looking bad. Key has been dragged into it too, which can’t be helping his personal popularity.

    Comment by alex — April 6, 2012 @ 5:50 pm

  18. I wasn’t being tongue in cheek about a deliberate policy of associating Mallard with Labour. I’ve been mulling this over this I read the Huffington Post on The Santorum Strategy

    It is about pounding the most radical conservative ideas into the public mind by constant repetition ….
    Conservative language, even when argued against, activates and strengthens conservative brain circuitry. This is extremely important for so-called “independents,” who actually have both conservative and liberal moral systems in their brains and can shift back and forth. The more they hear conservative language over the next eight months, the more their conservative brain circuitry will be strengthened.

    Now the NACTs don’t always share the same moral conservatism as the Republicans but there’s enough of an overlap on crime and beneficiary bashing to mean that they might adopt a similar strategy if it appeals to their base. It would also mean that more care and long term thought was going into a re-election strategy than running the country. Which would be consistent with their actions so far. Sigh.

    Comment by TerryB — April 6, 2012 @ 6:00 pm

  19. “Conservative language, even when argued against, activates and strengthens conservative brain circuitry.” Jeez, Danyl, attracting the tinfoil hat brigade and it is neither ironic nor April 1. Is this a sign, a symptom or a warning?

    Comment by tinakori — April 6, 2012 @ 7:33 pm

  20. @alex: Ehhhh, I think the most recent scandal probably just seems of a great caliber than the previous ones because it’s fresh in our minds. I lose count of the number of times in the last ten years I’ve heard people saying “OK, we’ve had scandals before, but this one, wow! This is a biggy” And then forgotten about it in three months.

    I’d say this one is roughly on par with Liane Dalziel’s child-picture-drawing one.

    Comment by Hugh — April 6, 2012 @ 7:57 pm

  21. Maybe it’s not as mich as the poll suggests but Greens going up to some extent could be due to people being turned off by Labor and National seeking solace in a party that, because it hasn’t had to go through the unflattering business of being in power, can maintain the fluffy illusion that there are simple solutions. All we have to do is love the environent more and like magic all those nasty issues we’ve been trying to deal with for a couple of generations will disappear.

    Slight hyperbole yes but I think there’s something to that.

    It’s a long way out from the election and people have the luxury of dreaming still without really commiting to a vote.

    Still, if Labout sitting on 30% had to form a formal coalition with the Greens on 21% then that could be interesting. I really don’t think Labour is against mining or oil exploration, they make noises one way or the other depending on who they think they’re talking to, and there’s a number of other issues where thet would have trouble with the Greens on. The Greens on 5% they could handle. 21% would make for some serious cabinet postions.

    Comment by NeilM — April 6, 2012 @ 9:33 pm

  22. Hugh,

    In my experience people who don’t follow politics don’t really base their decisions on the concept of an “effective opposition”

    They don’t think in those terms by default, no. But an opposition that makes them take notice and go “hey they’re being an effective opposition” is an effective opposition.


    Comment by Lew (@LewStoddart) — April 6, 2012 @ 9:46 pm

  23. @21 – NeilM, while a 21% party vote for the Greens would make for an interesting outcome, I don’t think that’s going to happen. I think a more realistic outcome for the Greens is somewhere between 10~15%, probably closer to 10%. I’d happily eat my words if they get more than that, but I honestly don’t see a Labour-Green coalition happening, unless NZ First is in there.
    I’m guessing Labour poll numbers will peak at around 30~40% going into 2014 (let’s go with 35% – a number I’ve just arbitrarily picked out of a hat and entirely possible if Labour’s support keeps increasing at the pace that it is right now) and let’s say the Greens, who more or less have full access to the left, get 15%. That’s 50%, but then the Labour/Green coalition would probably want a few extra to keep themselves from being a lame-duck government and to prevent a 3rd National term – so boom, Lab/Green/NZF government. Mind you, I can’t see National getting 50% of the vote. 40% maybe? If they keep up their current performance, even that might be too much for them.

    Of course, at no point have I mentioned the Maori seats – can’t see the Maori party surviving their roll over on the asset sales, but a hell of a lot can happen in a few months, let alone 3 years – and Peter Dunne’s seat (he’s retiring at the end of the term isn’t he? I’ve heard that he is, but I may be wrong here. If I am, never mind.).

    Comment by Vagabundo — April 6, 2012 @ 10:13 pm

  24. @ Bradluen. Really? But could it be possible that the Greens (and other small parties which are more extreme in their views) tend to jump more from poll to poll depending on the methodology used (and, if, for example, the poll tends to over-sample conservative or liberal votes)?

    Comment by Amy — April 6, 2012 @ 11:23 pm

  25. Colmar-Brunton are typically 6% to 8% too high for National….and have been for close to 15 years. It’s a sample bias they obviously choose to do nothing about. They say the trend is what matters. Yeah….right. The Listener had an article on this a decade ago (before they got “NBR’ed” by APN). So if we knock off the requisite 6% to 8% from the 51% C-B gave them, that puts National on about 43%-45%….and Roy Morgan has them on 44%. That feels about right.

    It’s disgraceful that TVNZ allows the C-B poll to be so shonky for so many years.

    Comment by Steve (@nza1) — April 7, 2012 @ 2:18 am

  26. I should add that the C-B polls do tend to approach reality in the few weeks just prior to an election…though still on the high side. But once the election is over they go back to the 6% to 8% I refer to. They can’t aford to be TOO far off the actual poll result or it would undermine the cred of their puffed-up results for the rest of the 3 year term. I’ve been watching this since the late 90s. It stands out like dog’s balls.

    Comment by Steve (@nza1) — April 7, 2012 @ 2:22 am

  27. Steve, since “reality”, as you call it, is only definitively measured once every three years, how do you know the C-B poll is 6-8% out the rest of the time?


    Comment by Lew (@LewStoddart) — April 7, 2012 @ 8:51 am

  28. The Green vote is growing because of academic indoctrination, and because the Marxists have shifted to this cause because they see it as a better avenue to power than their old Labour avenues. (example Brian Edwards)

    Comment by Redbaiter — April 7, 2012 @ 9:23 am

  29. *** warning: original research follows ***

    It’s provably true that small parties have lower error if it’s just a simple random sample. The complication is that most pollsters weight their results, so that if e.g. you don’t have enough young people in your sample, you can make the young people you did survey count for more. This improves accuracy if you do it properly, but if you consistently undersample young people and young people are more likely to vote for the Greens, then your results for the Greens may be especially noisy. Furthermore, different pollsters have different weighting systems, so that noise would be amplified if you took all pollsters into account.

    Are the results for the Greens especially noisy? I looked at 2010 polls (2010 because overall polling was unusually stable across that year, if you don’t like this year do your own numbers). The average absolute change in results between Morgan polls were:

    NAT 1.6
    LAB 1.6
    GRE 0.8

    The average absolute change in results treating all polls (Morgan, Colmar, Digipoll, Reid) equally:

    NAT 2.6
    LAB 2.0
    GRE 1.35

    (These are significantly bigger, because house effects matter.)

    So in absolute terms, Green results were more stable than Labour’s or National’s. In relative terms, Green results changed proportionately more compared to the size of their vote.

    Not really related: A 50% LAB-GRE combined vote is probably 62-63 seats after accounting for wasted vote and the small advantage the Sainte-Lague formula gives to Green-sized parties relative to proportionality. That’s a safe-enough majority to avoid dealing with Harawira or Winston unless there are multiple overhangs.

    Comment by bradluen — April 7, 2012 @ 9:38 am

  30. Thanks bradluen. I think I was observing the proportionate change in Green vote being quite large. Then I asked a friend about it and they gave me the explanation above which I then repeated although it is obviously nonsense 🙂

    Comment by Amy — April 7, 2012 @ 10:20 am

  31. Amy @6
    I think the credit for youth suicide and mental health being on the policy radar is due to the Prime Minister’s science advisor, Peter Gluckman. But I’m also fairly sure youth suicide resonates with the PM and his Parnell supporters right now which is why money has been found for it. But as you ask, in a fiscal sinking lid environment, were has the money come from? Or is it all smoke and mirrors?

    Comment by MeToo — April 7, 2012 @ 11:52 am

  32. Much as I grumble about the polls, a bigger problem is the idiotic reporting of them. Like John Roughan in the Herald today …

    “The first proper poll since the election was published by TVNZ last Sunday ”

    Apart from, you know, all the previous ones. And this is not from a bonehead blogger, but a senior Herald editorial writer. Strewth.

    Comment by sammy 2.0 — April 7, 2012 @ 1:38 pm

  33. Got to wonder what makes the Colmar Brunton poll “proper” while the Ray Morgan polls aren’t.

    Comment by Vagabundo — April 8, 2012 @ 11:11 am

  34. what makes the Colmar Brunton poll “proper” while the Ray Morgan polls aren’t.

    I don’t trust Ray to provide truly independent estimates of 30% savings on document physical-copy output.

    Comment by Phil — April 8, 2012 @ 5:40 pm

  35. to amy
    sometimes when talking about suicides i would surgest you stop and think before you talk.
    my niece was one of 10 who killed themselfs in december in timaru last year
    it wasnt part of a rightwing /leftwing plot
    these kids didnt go to kings
    kids are still dying last weekend their was another 15 yearold who took his life
    My observation in new zealand is
    the poor kill their kids
    the middle class kids kill themselfs

    Comment by graham — April 10, 2012 @ 10:20 am

  36. Guess what Graham.

    History tells us that the State doesn’t seems to give too much of a shit when poor brown kids kill themselves.

    So while I sympathise with your family’s situation (as much as anyone can in the abstract) it doesn’t address the argument and furthermore, Amy’s point is completely valid.

    From MED:

    Ethnic differences

    In 2007, there were 97 Māori deaths from suicide, accounting for 20 percent of all suicide deaths in that year. The age-standardised rate of suicide deaths in 2007 was 16.1 per 100,000 population for Māori, compared to 9.9 per 100,000 for non-Māori. The suicide death rate for Māori youth (15–24 year olds) in 2007 was 28.1 per 100,000, compared with the non-Māori rate of 12.3 per 100,000. Since 1996, suicide death rates have declined for non-Māori but there is no obvious trend for Māori, although the small numbers of Māori suicide deaths make it hard to ascertain trends.

    Socio-economic differences

    Suicide is more common in deprived neighbourhoods. In 2007, the age-standardised suicide death rate in the most deprived areas (NZDep2001 quintiles 3–5) was 13.3 per 100,000 population. This was significantly higher than the rate of 7.7 per 100,000 population in the least deprived areas (quintile 1). Rates of hospitalisation for intentional self-harm show a similar pattern.

    Comment by Gregor W — April 10, 2012 @ 10:51 am

  37. Graham. I’m very sad to hear about your loss. Youth suicide is an absolute tragedy. So is adult suicide. We have alarmingly high rates of both in NZ and I’m not questioning that we need ot put more money into this problem. My question is why now and why only this area of mental health? I could give you a list of mental health services (addiction treatment, eating disorders, anxiety problems like phobias and OCD problems) that are massively under-funded and where waiting lists are long. And those are only the services I know about. A lot of those problems, if they are untreated, cause huge suffering and often (co-incidentally) ultimately lead to suicide. So if this is new money, that is going to be provided to treat youth suicide, that won’t come from the existing mental health or public health budget, then I’d say great. But if we are treating youth suicide at the expense of, say, diabetes prevention programmes in South Auckland or alcohol and drug addiction treatment programmes in prisons, then I’d like to see some more evidence that it is really the most pressing health problem in NZ right now.

    Comment by Amy — April 10, 2012 @ 11:14 am

  38. If this translated into an election result, the Greens would have so much influence in a coalition government, they would have to actually start getting some serious left-wing policy concessions to satisfy their base. At which point all the soft middle class vote they have been attracting would run a mile.

    Comment by swan — April 10, 2012 @ 5:04 pm

  39. This may be of use to people who are genuinely interested in how all the pollsters did when it came to predicting the election result.

    Comment by blogwatchernz — April 12, 2012 @ 12:36 am

  40. The latest Roy Morgan poll more than reverses the 6 April one – National higher (and Labour lower) than any time since before the election, and the Greens’ “surge” has disappeared. Which, at the very least, shows us that “margin of error” is a major caveat and not just a butt-covering footnote.

    Comment by Miguel Sanchez — April 23, 2012 @ 10:37 am

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