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Lost in translation

Written By: - Date published: 10:38 am, April 22nd, 2009 - 30 comments
Categories: polls - Tags: , ,

UMR has just released a poll [PDF link] measuring support for a supercity.

Stuff reports on it under the headline “Voters back Auckland supercity”:

Though the poll’s sample of just 483 is small, it is the first real indicator of support for the supercity concept, with 45 percent of Aucklanders in favour, and 43 percent against.

Yet the report itself indicates that the margin of error is +/- 4.7% and states very clearly that its key finding is that:

The level of support amongst Aucklanders for a super city is roughly the same as the level of opposition.

So, no, Stuff, Aucklanders do not back a supercity (and I bet they don’t back being denied a chance to have a say on whether or not one’s forced on them either).

30 comments on “Lost in translation”

  1. lprent 1

    I also bet that if you got them to vote on Rodney’s ideas there would be a big majority against….

    I support the super-city idea. I just think that the NACT ideas absolutely suck as getting one that will work. So I’d have voted yes in that poll..

    What were the question(s)

  2. all_your_base 2

    UMR: “As you may be aware, there is a proposal for the whole of the Auckland region to be governed by a new single super city council from 2010. This city would stretch from Wellsford in the north to Pukekohe in the south and will be headed by a single mayor. Do you support or oppose the proposed super city?”

  3. Tim Ellis 3

    I think Stuff also should have reported that UMR is Labour’s polling company, and that it is likely that Labour commissioned the poll. Some of the writers at the Standard have been critical of the way that the media accept polls published by Curia to advance a political cause. Labour are campaigning heavily against National’s supercity plans.

    It would be nice to see some scrutiny of just how independent some of these polls are.

    • Tane 3.1

      Labour are campaigning heavily against National’s supercity plans.

      Really? I know they probably think they are, but frankly they’re looking a bit weak and directionless on it if you ask me.

      • Tim Ellis 3.1.1

        Come, on Tane. How credible would you think it if a political organisation like, say, the National Party or the Sensible Sentencing Trust said: “We have a poll. It says X. It proves that the public want us to do Y.”?

        Would UMR really have published the poll if it didn’t happen to coincide with Labour’s political prospects? I don’t think so.

        I think it would be very interesting to know who commissioned the poll, whether any Labour Party questions were included, and just how independent it is. Otherwise it’s just self-serving propaganda.

        • Tane

          Tim, I have no idea if Labour commissioned the poll. All I’m saying is I haven’t seen any evidence they know what they’re doing on Auckland or that they’ve got a coherent position on it. Shane Jones has been all over the show.

          • Tim Ellis

            Tane I accept your point and I acknowledge that you are often critical of the Labour Party. It is hard to work out just what Labour are trying to achieve with their supercity position anyway. Labour set up the royal commission and gave them their terms of reference. Labour might be pushing for a referendum, but their record in government on allowing public policy issues going to referenda was pretty shoddy, and they weren’t really beacons of light on consulting with the public on major issues either.

            It’s a bit hard for Labour to argue that the Royal Commission was a right-wing plot to seize control of Auckland when they set it up. It’s also a bit hard for Labour to say that National is making community representation harder, when they are increasing the number of local boards five-fold.

            I don’t believe that the public’s interests are necessarily directly linked to the interests of a bunch of mayors who will lose their jobs, which seems to be where the squealing comes from. If Labour want to make an issue of it, good on them, but I don’t see them winning the argument.

            It would also be good if Labour actually said whether they are for or against the supercity.

          • lprent

            The point is that NACT essentially drew up a almost completely different proposal to that proposed by the Royal Commission. You cannot draw ANY authority from the RC for Rodney’s fiasco of a proposal.

            That means it is irrelevant who set up the Royal Commission. Why are you politicking that the Royal Commission has any relevance to Rodney’s proposal in the light of subsequent events?

            The second point is that the Local Government Act that the Royal Commission had as a guide that it does referenda for lareg scale boundary changes. Because Rodney has abrogated the Local Government Act in favour of a act specific for Auckland, he is able to avoid that democratic responsibility. For that both he and the Nats will probably pay the electoral consequences if they persist.

            The issue isn’t coming from the mayors (I haven’t listened to that side at all) or the current local body politicians (ditto). It is coming from people who are politically aware from most sides of the political spectrum. ie there is a *lot* of concern from the public. Labour as an opposition is responding to that, but as Tane says, not all that well.

            Hell I’m amazed at how annoyed I am. It isn’t particularly ‘political’. I just don’t want that moronic proposal put in place because you can just see the problems it will cause downstream. I also don’t want the current status quo. The Royal Commission proposal may have been barely acceptable with ward/at-large changes made.

  4. lprent 4

    The question was apparently

    As you may be aware, there is a proposal for the whole of the Auckland region to be governed by a new single super city council from 2010. This city would stretch from Wellsford in the north to Pukekohe in the south and will be headed by a single mayor. Do you support or oppose the proposed super city?

    Yes I’d have voted for that.. I’m surprised how low the support level was.

    If they’d asked about Rodney useless proposal, then I’d have expected a vast majority in opposition

    Darn – looks like a_y_b already put the question in

  5. all_your_base 5

    Tim, I’d be happy if a news agency could simply accurately reflect the findings of the poll whoever it was that commissioned it.

  6. Tim Ellis 6

    Fair point about accurately reflecting the findings allyourbase, but my point is that it is relevant that UMR is Labour’s polling company and it is likely that Labour commissioned the poll, which Stuff should have reported on as well. Readers have a right to know the facts of the findings, and also whether the polling company has any barrow to push to work out whether adverse findings might have been suppressed to advance the Labour Party’s political position.

    • ripp0 6.1


      be so kind, do, as to state National’s position.. either/both per party and government.. it would be helpful, too, to know their stated position prior the RC report release and, if possible, in Opposition..

  7. John Dalley 7

    I don’t have an issue with the Super City concept but i do have concerns about the local in local body representation.

  8. gingercrush 8

    I agree with Tane in regards to Labour being all over the place. I think they would actually get some traction if they just had a coherent argument. Something they just can’t seem to to.

  9. The polling question was outrageous, completely misleading, they must have hired the same guy who designed the smacking referendum question.

    National/Act will be hoping the media concentrate on this survey rather than the one carried out by Rethinking Crime and Punishment that shoots the three strikes bill down again! The study which I have blogged on today discusses the implications of the three strikes bill on family violence. There is also some stuff on OIA requests that discovered negative reports on the bill from Corrections and Treasury

    • Tim Ellis 9.1

      Loco, in case you didn’t know, the question was asked by UMR, Labour’s internal polling company. The poll was probably commissioned by the Labour Party. Hardly a right-wing plot.

      • Pascal's bookie 9.1.1

        Internal polls aren’t usually published though. That’s why they are called ‘internal’ yeah?

        What exactly are you suggesting is going on? That UMR off their own bat is publishing stuff Labour commissioned without mentioning Labour’s involvement? Seems unlikley to be honest, they’re a pretty damn respectable outfit with a large client base…


        Wouldn’t it normally be the case that if Labour commissioned a poll, UMR would do it and give them the results, which Labour could use as they see fit? I think you are being more than a little daft here Tim.

        In any case even if what you suggest is correct, so what? The results of the poll are what they are. They test the concept of supercity in a broad sense, and find luke warm support.

        • Tim Ellis

          Interesting client list, PB. Amusingly, UMR’s biggest client, the New Zealand Labour Party, isn’t included in its client list. My point exactly about disclosure. Which of the clients on the list might have commissioned the poll? None of them have an interest in the SuperCity. Except for the New Zealand Labour Party.

          Wouldn’t it normally be the case that if Labour commissioned a poll, UMR would do it and give them the results, which Labour could use as they see fit? I think you are being more than a little daft here Tim.

          My suspicion is that Labour doesn’t know what its view on the SuperCity is. So what they did is they got UMR to add in a few questions on the SuperCity as part of the normal polling that UMR does for the Labour Party to help the Labour Party define its position.

          Then when the results came back, Labour would have said: “Why don’t you publish these results, and not tell anybody that we asked you to do it.”

          Pretty dodgy behaviour if you ask me.

          • Pascal's bookie

            It would be. There is zero evidence for it however.

            How do you know that the LP is UMR’s biggest client BTW? You state that as fact. How do you know none of their other clients have an interest? How do you know UMR didn’t poll this on it’s own account as a PR job. ‘Omnibus survey’. Know what that is?

            It’s not really like curia and the Nat’s you know, even if that relationship is one you may be more familiar with. Which might account for the strange way you think these things work.

          • Maynard J

            This is a recent thing, so how many other polls do you think UMR could have run and supressed between, say, last week and now?

            The answer is none, and you know that. Nice disctraction, but your argument is crap Tim

          • Tim Ellis

            Sigh. I didn’t say that UMR suppressed polls, Maynard. I said that we don’t know what information that might be relevant has been suppressed by UMR.

            Google UMR, Stephen Mills, and the Labour Party. Better yet, visit

            “UMR has been the primary pollster to the Australian Labor Party both federally and in every state and territory, as well as the New Zealand Labour Party, for the last 10 years. Our political campaign work typically involves qualitative research to explore issues in the community, candidate attributes and reactions to policies and communications materials, including television advertisements. Quantitative work includes nightly tracking in the lead-up to elections and rapid reaction monitors in individual seats.”

            UMR don’t brag about it on their own website in New Zealand though.

          • Pascal's bookie

            What is that supposed to show Tim? That this poll was done for Labour? Seriously.

            What evidence is there for your smear, and what is the point of it anyway? That the poll is dodgy? How so?

            What do you make of this?


            And what is an omnibus poll anyway? Do big firms like UMR publish topical stuff under their own name for PR purposes? I seem to see quite a few things like that, why should this not be like that? Tim doesn’t say.

          • Tim Ellis

            PB, I’ve seen a lot of howling about the political connections of DPF and how biased published polls by curia might be, I think the same point can be made about UMR.

          • Pascal's bookie

            “I’ve seen a lot of howling about the political connections of DPF and how biased published polls by curia might be”

            Show me, ’cause that’s not the usual accusation as I recall it…

            That complaint is usually that curia is so dependent on the National party account that DPF shouldn’t be seen as independent from the National party in terms of media appearances and the like.

            I think UMR could survive if they lost the LP account.

            Anyway, what about some other questions re your smear, got answers?

    • Graeme 9.2

      If only it had any relevance to the New Zealand proposal at all…
      [fuller comment on your ‘blog]

  10. Tane 10

    It would also be good if Labour actually said whether they are for or against the supercity.

    Tim I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there. I just don’t know where they stand myself, and I’m not sure they do either. My hope is that they get their act together, and fast.

  11. It was more of a tongue in cheek joke Tim.
    Also Labour would not have written the question, it would have been written by UMR, claiming their “expertise”. No suggestion of a right-wing plot. Relax.

  12. gobsmacked 12

    I am in favour of the concept.

    I am not in favour of some of the details.

    I am most definitely not in favour of the process.

    Now, where are they going to stick me in the poll?

  13. Jasper 13


    Did Fran O’Sullivan just unwittingly speak the truth in regards to Keys’ FX history – which has previously been vehemently denied in the past???

    “This is exemplified by the fact that he booked a huge profit for his masters by betting large on the New Zealand dollar when Sir Roger Douglas was given the flick as Labour’s Finance Minister.”

    Third Paragraph… and then the NZ Herald hagiography last year said he didn’t bet on the NZ dollar.

    Something is amiss.


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