The Dim-Post

April 11, 2016

Colmar Brunton Polls

Filed under: Uncategorized — danylmc @ 5:34 am

TVNZ seems to be the only media outlet commissioning and running stories on political polls on an even vaguely regular basis (the Roy Morgan ones are out there but much lower profile). Which means they dominate political discourse more than single poll results probably should.

Having said that, the poor result for Labour seems plausible (they were also on 28 in the latest Roy Morgan). The party has moved to the far left for the first few months of 2016 and it hasn’t gone well. I think there are a few things driving this: Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn have excited the imagination of many left-wing political activists and there’s a desire to try and replicate that dynamic here. But those guys are operating in polities totally different to anything like the conditions in New Zealand. I also think that many in Labour are invested in a cyclical theory of politics in which what they’re going through now is equivalent to what happened to National during the 2000s. Which is a comfortable thing to think, because if true it ends with them being swept to power again sooner or later. And part of National’s rebirth involved a move to the far right under Don Brash. Shore up the base and then attack from a position of strength! So they keep trying the inverse of that.

But if you look at more recent history, their poll results under the centrist leadership of Shearer went as high as 36%. Then he was rolled, Cunliffe took the party to the left, and they wound up in the mid 20s. Then Little came in and seemed more moderate, and the poll results went up. But this year they’ve campaigned on free tertiary education, a UBI, fuck the TPPA etc, with a subsequent decline in support and they’re back in the 20s. It kind of seems like the voters are telling them something here.

I complained bitterly about Shearer’s centrism at the time, and I’m sympathetic to the forces moving the party to the left. But there don’t seem to be many voters available to them there, and plenty of voters available in ‘the centre’.


  1. Moving left is all very well, but you have to *sell* the policies.

    Is Labour in favour of a UBI? I’m not sure. Have they explained it well? No.

    I still don’t understand Labour’s position (du jour) on the TPPA.

    And free tertiary education seems like a good idea to me but it’s got to be part of something bigger.

    Sanders and Corbyn may be relatively left-wing, but their views seem informed by a clear view of what their respective societies should be like. They’re not scared of some radicalism (i.e. ideas that were mainstream 20-40 years ago) and they give every sign of actually believing in them and being prepared to argue for them. It’s the conviction and sincerity that sells.

    I often have the impression that Labour are slightly embarrassed by their own policies. That they’re trying to triangulate but just aren’t very good at it. No one is going to vote for that.

    Comment by Thomas Beagle (@thomasbeagle) — April 11, 2016 @ 6:02 am

  2. Some of the trend must surely be due to public perceptions of Andrew Little’s competence. Try as he might, his stuttering speaking style definitely puts many people off. For many (possibly most) NZ voters, who vote for reasons unconnected with their long term wellbeing, appearances of competence are all. Little needs coaching on giving short and unambiguous answers to questions rather than his somewhat annoying habit of redefining his argument 4 seconds into his answer. For the average voter this is a complete turnoff.

    Comment by Jack Craw — April 11, 2016 @ 6:11 am

  3. Clark being back in the headlines again got me thinking about how much she actually achieved making Labour a party that was capable of being elected for three terms. With eight years between her being voted out and now and the embarrassing mess Labour have become it’s all the more remarkable she was able to make it to three terms with such people surrounding her. Her comments about the TPPA suggests she’s not exactly impressed with the current direction of Labour either, there’s absolutely no one waiting in the wings with the sort of competence and leadership she possessed waiting to take over and lead them back into electoral relevance.

    Re the shift leftward ,the comments in the Moroney thread were enlightening for a number of reasons , one was extolling the virtues of her because she shows up at local union meetings. Awesome, except she already has the union votes and this might come as a surprise to a lot on the left but most people really, really don’t give a shit about unions. As someone who’s been a blue collar worker [is that the term they use these days?] for over 25 years no one ever talks about them at work and the last time I can remember anyone discussing them at length on site was the idiotic Hobbit fiasco that resulted in anti union protests on Labour weekend.

    A quick look at the stuff comments about the polls and theres the same drivel from people saying they are wrong because they use landlines, this was the exact same thing the left were saying in 2014 and how did that work out for them?

    Comment by Cliff Clavin — April 11, 2016 @ 6:15 am

  4. Style might also be an element. Winston Peters is picking up the 9% that Labour could have if it was a bit more populist…..though the risk of losing more people to the Greens would also be there, because Kiwi populist is a bit racist and steeped in many of the same unfounded preconceptions and prejudices that are National’s bedrock.

    Comment by Steve Withers — April 11, 2016 @ 7:00 am

  5. Thomas beagle: I agree. The hand of Roger Douglas seems to rest lightly on Labour;s emotional reactions to it’s own policies. Anything not neo-liberal and they seem to go all ham-fisted as possible: “No GST on fruit and veg”….WTF? That’s not a policy.

    Comment by Steve Withers — April 11, 2016 @ 7:03 am

  6. Stepping out of the way for Winston in Northland using the same dumb mindset of opposing the TPP and flag change etc. because they hoped it would dent Keys popularity hasn’t worked out well, what a surprise.

    Comment by David — April 11, 2016 @ 7:31 am

  7. I always see the NZ First vote as the people who are pissed off at National but are incapable of voting for Labour or the Greens because of tribal reasons. (Rather like the role the similarly named New Zealand Party played back in 1984.)

    Comment by Thomas Beagle (@thomasbeagle) — April 11, 2016 @ 7:48 am

  8. People seem to prefer competent malice to bumbling good intentions.

    Comment by Adrian — April 11, 2016 @ 8:32 am

  9. Clark being back in the headlines again… it’s all the more remarkable she was able to make it to three terms with such people surrounding her.

    Except, you know, most of the people around Clark during her tenure as PM have long since left the Labour Party.

    Side note; your comment is the closest thing to a compliment for Trevor Mallard I’ve seen in about three years.

    Comment by Phil — April 11, 2016 @ 9:13 am

  10. … long since left the Labour Party.

    The Labour caucus.

    Comment by Phil — April 11, 2016 @ 9:14 am

  11. ““No GST on fruit and veg”….WTF? That’s not a policy”

    Tell that to people, unlike you, who have to buy household groceries every week. And the comment shows you have no idea about politics either, for your enlightenment , ‘signalling’ is far more important than dense abstract things that no one cares about. Like it or not, short soundbite lines that show the public that the government cares about them is how national stays in power.

    Comment by ghostwhowalksnz — April 11, 2016 @ 10:04 am

  12. “People seem to prefer competent malice to bumbling good intentions.”

    Self-delusion never a good starting point for a recovery.

    I thought Andrew Little’s role in running the EPMU would give Labour a chance of returning Labour to the competence of Helen Clark’s years as PM. He appears to have improved the organisation of the Parliamentary party but he has been a major fail in presenting himself as a national leader. The flag debate was probably the biggest opportunity he failed to grasp. He could have reclaimed the issue from National and said he and Key would run the process to ensure the best result for the country. If Key had tried to stop him Key would have been the loser, not Little. He is also not naturally comfortable around large groups of people and is most definitely not comfortable in front of a camera. I saw him speak to what should have been his natural audience at a large gathering in Rotorua in 2014 and he did not connect. He continues to fail to do so. I think for Labour’s sake if the centre left does get enough votes to form a government in 2017 he should encourage Winston to be the PM. Little could be finance minister or economic development Minister. He would be better than the Labour incumbent and he did have to balance the books at the EPMU.

    Comment by Tinakori — April 11, 2016 @ 10:44 am

  13. Surely it’s the usual mixture of things here, none of which act in isolation. There is a) appearing more managerially competent than the other main party (Labour still give the impression that they’ve had to cancel the pissup in the brewery and aren’t sure how to organise another one), b) having a reasonably disciplined caucus (improvement on this score, but to a high degree the work of Annette King rather than Little, and somewhat undermined by the TPPA episode), and c) having at least to some extent a reasonably coherent and sincere vision of your policies. Little hints at this, sometimes, when he talks about the future of work, but there’s quite a long way to go before he’s got anything that sounds very convincing.

    I think the triangulation/base/centrist thing can be overanalysed – whether to the left or to the centre, you’re more likely to earn the respect of the electorate if you sound as if you mean what you say and you can clearly explain why you mean it, rather than tailoring excessively to polls – though this is a matter of judgement, clearly some level of tailoring to polls makes sense, it’s not a black and white thing. Being too defensive, allowing relatively moderate policies to be framed as radical, or producing little bits of policy which don’t make much sense on their own terms doesn’t really come across as an authentic vision – why should be believe and trust you if you don’t look as if you’re that committed to it yourself, or can’t be bothered thinking it through? Exhibit A:a tertiary education policy sold as for retraining the workforce in a changing labour market, but which excludes people who already have training? Eh?.

    Comment by Dr Foster — April 11, 2016 @ 11:06 am

  14. National are bumbling at the moment. They’ve lost their tight grip on public opinion. Labour should be forging ahead – sounding strong and confident, and leading the debate. Medical marijuana (70+% approve) sugar tax (65% approve) and this fiasco around foreign trusts, where Key just looks like a banker. Making absolutely sure people who can afford tax accountants and lawyers also pay their percentage of tax worldwide is a perfect Labour position, a massive issue, and going to remain one. All easy hits, keep hitting while they’re on the back foot, take the wins, move on to positive policy in other areas. It won’t last – Key is very good at fudging, shifting the debate, covering up, and even doing something eventually to get back on side with public opinion.

    Comment by Robinson Stowell — April 11, 2016 @ 11:17 am

  15. This may actually be a good outcome. A Labour / Greens / NZ First government might not be as good as a National government.


    Comment by Antoine — April 11, 2016 @ 11:44 am

  16. I think some of what is going on is done in the mistaken belief that only one person at any given time has the ability to lead the party to an election win. By keeping on rotating through leaders, like the dirty politics machine keeps agitating for, they are doing National’s work for them.

    Under Sheerer and probably Cunliffe they had the ability to win, and now under Little they probably do to. Working cooperatively and demonstrating some basic competence as an organisation (as has been said here many times) would go a long way towards this. Basic trade off, one leader might be more to your liking than the other, but cycling through them like they have you’re guaranteed to be sitting on the opposition bench.

    Comment by Mike — April 11, 2016 @ 12:40 pm

  17. In the pick on Labour vein: It’s the economy, one very specific part of the economy. The one part of the economy that the Left (ironically) controls.

    It’s the (Auckland led) housing market, which keeps on delivering wins for the average National Party voter and rent increases for the average Labour Party voter. The person who has done the most to ensure the continued popularity of John Key is John Key, but a close second are Len Brown and Penny Hulse.

    The price of property in Auckland is soaring on the basis of the dirt under every Auckland house soaring in cost. 100,000s of National Party voters made richer year after year and a housing shortage generated that has sent the rent on those properties upwards with another decade plus of rises forecast. Contentment with the government is strong.

    The Left’s response has swung from calls for greater taxation to name counting racism, none of which will solve the problem and some of which is awful.

    What is lacking is competence, the stuff that Danyl keeps on banging on about. The Left has been in charge of Auckland Council for 5.5 years and have demonstrated a staggering lack of competence. The competent thing that will lower the cost of building, allowing the housing shortage to be corrected, is to open up more land around Auckland.

    This is the one important lever of the NZ economy controlled by the Left. And they are using it to make National Party voters more contented with life.

    Comment by unaha-closp — April 11, 2016 @ 1:21 pm

  18. The Auckland Council bought a leaky building. Just ponder for a moment the ramifications of that.

    Such as – the council consented the building.

    The more thinks about it the more disturbing it becomes.

    Comment by NeilM — April 11, 2016 @ 2:25 pm

  19. I’m blogging on this later this week, but is relevant here.

    Th 2014 NZ Election Study asked voters to rate each party on a 0 (left) to 10 (right) basis. They were also asked to assess themselves on the same scale. The median voter was a 6, National was a 7 and Labour a 3. So Labour was three times as far from the median voter as National was. And since then they have gone further left.

    Also of interest is that Labour and Greens had the same median and almost the same mean score. Once upon a time Greens were seen to be to the left of Labour. Now they are seen as equally left.

    The most perceived left wing party was the Internet party with a median of 1.

    Comment by dpf — April 11, 2016 @ 2:33 pm

  20. Labour have this ability to pick issues only left wing activists care about.

    There’s quite a lot of concern in Auckkand about body corporate structures and issues in general with apartments.

    Twyford went to a briefing in this and fell asleep. Little and Parker have been briefed and gave fine nothing. The only MP who has taken this up is Nikki Kaye.

    Instead Lityke bangs on about his Key had to “come clean” on his taxes. No one cares apart a few activists. (And making the tax issue all about Key is just repeating the same mistake they’ve always made).

    Comment by NeilM — April 11, 2016 @ 2:48 pm

  21. I think this time last year a post such as yours would have attracted many more comments. But The ‘Strange death of the NZLP’ is now even failing to attract more than passing interest as a talking point. My lengthy submission was swallowed by wordPress earlier (I’m sure they have some kind of built in tedium-meter), so I’ll keep it brief. The country needs another centre-left alternative to the NZLP.

    Being in the NZLP must surely be like being an extra from ‘Walking Dead’ – a long-term job doing little other than rotting, groaning and getting spiked, chopped or hacked at as thinking people attempt to rescue you from an eternal hell as a re-animated corpse.

    Comment by leeharmanclark — April 11, 2016 @ 3:49 pm

  22. Sanders and Corbyn have both got into their current positions due to popular support over-riding their party hierarchies (and in both countries, there is a form of primary process that sets a low bar for ordinary voters to engage in choosing a candidate/leader). The Labour party doesn’t do this, which means that while it can keep out lefties, it becomes increasingly irrelevant as its traditional base disappears.

    Everyone assumes that the present economic situation will last forever and that eventually people will tire of voting for Coke and give Pepsi a chance.

    Comment by richdrich — April 11, 2016 @ 4:19 pm

  23. Neither Corbyn nor Sanders have actually won a general election though, and they look vanishingly unlikely to do so. So yeah. Not sure why people want to be like them, but who knows how folks’ minds work.

    Comment by Keir Leslie — April 11, 2016 @ 4:26 pm

  24. And Labour here did try an disliked-by-his-colleagues but Really Truly Leftwing leader and it was the most miserable, abysmal failure. So again, yeah.

    Comment by Keir Leslie — April 11, 2016 @ 4:33 pm

  25. “But there don’t seem to be many voters available to them there, and plenty of voters available in ‘the centre’.

    Could be, but when Labour tries to move toward the centre that always involves distancing themselves from the Greens, and that’s something you (Danyl) have always been against.

    “By keeping on rotating through leaders, like the dirty politics machine keeps agitating for, they are doing National’s work for them.”

    Ding ding ding!

    Comment by Ortvin Sarapuu — April 11, 2016 @ 4:53 pm

  26. It would seem that most voters have moved on to other concerns. If NZs left wingers want to impotently pontificate about why that’s bad, they are free to do so, but it will be to no effect. Just accept that electoral democracy has very little to offer you and move on. It’s just not rational to participate in a process that has nothing much to offer you.

    Comment by L — April 11, 2016 @ 7:59 pm

  27. @Keir L: “Neither Corbyn nor Sanders have actually won a general election though, and they look vanishingly unlikely to do so.”

    Corbyn currently is beating Cameron in the preferred PM stakes:

    The gap between the Tories and Labour also has closed to margin of error stuff:

    Not that this necessarily means anything for NZ, but.

    Comment by Andrew Geddis — April 11, 2016 @ 9:27 pm

  28. 27 – those are not very meaningful figures in reality, and if anything are pretty bleak for Labour. Traditionally oppositions do reasonably well at this point in the cycle. Miliband’s Labour held a solid majority over the Tories up until they lost that election. And of course Cameron isn’t going to contest the next election, so it’s not particularly helpful to look at the preferred PM figures now. (Mind you, what’s the odds Corbyn will make it to 2020? He’s old and his MPs want him gone yesterday.)

    This article in the New Statesman is pretty useful in terms of setting out the extent to which Corbyn is in trouble, although the figures are from early this year and prior to the referendum, Budget, and Panama Papers, which have all hurt Cameron, although I’m not sure to what extent they’ve hurt the Tories as a whole

    The devolved and local elections will give us more information, but really, Corbyn needs to be winning racking up wins at those levels if he has a hope of winning in ’20, given the nature of the Westminster system. I doubt he will; but we’ll see.

    Comment by Keir Leslie — April 11, 2016 @ 10:20 pm

  29. Partly Labour is the Mary Celeste – the competent crew disappeared some time ago – and is in competion not with National but with the Greens and NZF.

    Comment by NeilM — April 12, 2016 @ 12:55 am

  30. There’s definitely a sizeable and vocal anti-John Key vote out there, the problem is that it’s heavily divided, as the risk of Labour, Greens and NZF competing for each other’s votes goes to show. Apart from this analysis, I haven’t come across many detailed studies as to how many Clark voters in 1999 now support Key, or have opted out of voting altogether.

    And Helen Clark was, to put it mildly, a hard act for the NZLP to follow, and the same will likely go for John Key when he retires from politics (with or without the assistance of the Panama Papers or a sudden deflation of the housing bubble). In any case, with each passing day I’m increasingly of the view that Clintonite and Blairite Third Wayism are products of their time.

    Regarding overseas trends, there’s been a noticeable slump in mainstream party support and a corresponding rise in fringe parties such as UKIP and the FN on the right, and Podemos and SYRIZA on the left. In America it’s Trump and Sanders who have hijacked the limelight.

    unaha: it’s been said before, but Generation Rentier still wear the pants in Auckland, even when a supposedly Left mayor is in charge. Generation Rentier is the closest we have to an unelected House of Lords, and seemingly only a bubble burst will put them in their place now.

    Comment by Kumara Republic — April 12, 2016 @ 2:56 am

  31. I don’t think there’s anything too complicated about the NZ political scene. Basically, for the swing voters (the ones who decide elections, who voted for competent Clark) the system is working.

    The news cycle is now entirely predictable. It doesn’t matter if the issue is paid parental leave or Auckland rail or refugee numbers or workplace safety or property investment or Panama papers. In fact, we can play a game – predict the next ones, such as sugar/obesity, or immigration numbers.

    The cycle is:

    1) issue raised (sometimes by opposition parties, but could be media, pressure groups, events overseas, etc).
    2) first Key response: it’s all good
    3) later Key response: OK, now I’m doing something (after polling).

    He doesn’t do enough, it’s often more show than substance, and it is deeply depressing to have government by reaction, bereft of vision, but … while the commentators say “U-turn!”, the centrist voters say “That’ll do – for now.”

    I’d prefer more debate about underlying principles and purpose, but you know – it’s New Zealand. Intellectuals are dodgy as.

    Comment by sammy 3.0 — April 12, 2016 @ 6:34 am

  32. Yes sammy people are so stupid that they don’t know what they are voting for.

    Stupid, stupid people.

    Comment by leeharmanclark — April 12, 2016 @ 7:50 am

  33. “Regarding overseas trends, there’s been a noticeable slump in mainstream party support and a corresponding rise in fringe parties such as UKIP and the FN on the right, and Podemos and SYRIZA on the left.”

    I don’t know about the west as a whole, but the decline in support for Social Democratic parties in Europe in the post-2008 political environment has been staggering. This is particularly striking given how many commenters predicted the “return of Keynes” in the wake of the GFC. I won’t go so far as to declare social democracy dead as an ideology or even a movement – it’s been through tough times before – but there are definitely deep challenges for social democratic voters and politicians alike to grapple with.

    Comment by Ortvin Sarapuu — April 12, 2016 @ 7:57 am

  34. @lee

    I do think people know what they are voting for. I don’t think you understand what I said.

    Read again after first coffee.

    Comment by sammy 3.0 — April 12, 2016 @ 8:11 am

  35. As well as the policies, and as Danyl has maintained in many postings, that Labour is bad at basic politics, I think the make up of NZ is different. Not just because Key has changed it, I mean the actual voters that we here (almost certainly predominantly Pakeha NZers of a certain age band) implicitly speculate about as our fellow citizens, is wrong. I suspect that too much, we think about people like ourselves, when actually the extent of Asian immigration since the 1990s and its political economy impact has reached a tipping point. Just look at the way some of the polling booths vote (e.g. Howick), it’s National at one party state levels. This is a wealthy demographic and now a large and not a swing one. The issues for the poor or Maori in a regional small town are distant. Many of traditional Labour concerns are distant in fact. The election, the polls in between, are increasingly fought over (say) the smaller proportion of voters I suspect who actually still swing. In other words National’s bedrock has got bigger through this societal change, Labour’s smaller. Add housing wealth (not unrelated of course) etc on top of it, pragmatic (or cynical?!) Keynesian spending through the GFC by National, their very much better political abilities, dirty politics etc, an uninspiring and mediocre leader, and it’s almost a surprise Labour isn’t doing even worse. Maybe that’s still to come.

    Comment by Joe-90 — April 12, 2016 @ 8:44 am

  36. “Yes sammy people are so stupid that they don’t know what they are voting for.”

    That’s actually true in most cases. Most people have deeply incoherent or outright mistaken views on politics and economics. No doubt you too have met many people who think that taxation should be abolished and the government should pay for health and education, or the state employee who denounces the taxman as a thief.

    Comment by L — April 12, 2016 @ 2:46 pm

  37. L: Going by past elections, a sizeable number of voters remain undecided right up till polling day.

    Comment by Kumara Republic — April 12, 2016 @ 5:50 pm

  38. Sorry sammy I’m out of bed a damn sight earlier than that I was on my third coffee by that time. But my flippancy was a tilt at the intellectual grandiosity of certain people (not you, of course) whi actually believe they keep losing elections because they are failing to ‘get their message across’, when it is in fact that people are cleverer than that, and know exactly what they want. So I guess we are agreeing with each other, in our clumsy ways.

    Comment by leeharmanclark — April 12, 2016 @ 8:32 pm

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