I sense a certain lethargy creeping into the continuing debates on opinion poll results. The polls bounce all around the place. One minute there is the euphoria of a likely change of Government this year to the forces of light and goodness and then there is the agony of the prospect of a Key led Government being able to rule in its own right. The never ending stream of results do not stop the bloggers (me included) from commenting every time a new one appears. We go through bouts of depression and exhilaration depending on the latest poll result.
The latest TVNZ Colmar Brunton poll has provided a feeling of depression to some on the left. The result, Labour steady on 34% is actually OK. If Labour gets to 37% and the Greens hold steady on their normal results then a change in Government is on the cards. The surprising result, that Greens lost 5% to go down to 8% indicates to me strongly that the result is something of a rogue. Two trips to Dotcom mansion by Russel Norman is not justification for such a precipitous drop. The theory offered very quickly by David Farrar after the results were released, that Labour had lost support to National but gained it from the Greens, does not make sense. There has been no event to justify such a change. There is also the interesting feature that undecided voters have increased from 11% to 13%. But polls go up and down. The feeling that I get on the ground is that the mood for change is much higher than the latest polls present although this is going to be a tough election.
Danyl McLaughlan’s tracking poll offers an interesting perspective. His latest results are above in graphical form. It adjusts various poll results for anticipated bias based on poll results from the last election and then averages the results. (lprent: It is also adjusted by the average poll deviation from actual results in the 2011 election. Polls over many elections consistently overstate National vote and understate NZ First for instance).
It suggests that National’s true level of support is currently at about 44%, Labour is at about 32%, the Greens are on 10% and NZ First is on 7.2%. With these figures anything can happen. The graph is very interesting and shows individual poll results plotted against the trend over time. It suggests there is a consistent over reporting of National’s support and a consistent under reporting of NZ First’s support although I suspect that the last result was because of lefties tactically voting to make sure that NZ First made it over the line.
It is clear however that the trend is in the wrong direction for the left. Right wing bloggers obviously think that the ferocity of their attack on Cunliffe, Norman and Turei is the reason. I think the trend has much more to do with the upbeat feeling that summer and the buoyant economic outlook has brought about.
The accuracy of land line based polling systems has attracted comment from a number of Standard readers in the past. News that the number of Telecom landline holders has reduced by 11% over the past two years will only add to concerns that the various polling systems are not properly sampling the population. Usage was estimated at 85% in 2013. If the Telecom figure is extrapolated then we are looking at a landline in households proportion of about 80% which would match the figure in Australia.
The depressingly negative reporting by the media is of continuing concern. For instance Labour’s stable polling in the Colmar Brunton poll was reported by the Dominion as “Labour Limping” and Key was then allowed to frame the debate and tell Labour what it is doing wrong. The article was then bolstered by a headline Labour targeting wrong issues – Key which reads like it came out of the Prime Minister’s office rather than the Dominion Post.
And the Herald continues its re elect John Key campaign. A recent article had a heading proclaiming that Labour was putting Auckland on the road to chaos by supporting Len Brown’s wish list of transport projects. The only problem is that Labour has not. The heading was especially naughty because Brian Rudman, the writer of the article was more nuanced in his comments. For the record Labour supports the inner city loop but does not support all of the roading projects.
IMHO what the left should do is not panic but keep talking about the issues and avoid all the distractions that the right are going to throw in its way today. And it needs a principled and competent approach to campaigning sufficient to persuade non voters to vote and swinging voters to vote left and to persuade activists to work harder on the ground to ground campaigns which will be the difference between winning and losing.
It is going to be an interesting year …