So, what can we say about this data?
First, it’s nearly impossible for all those pre-election polls to have arisen from proper random samples of the population that gave National 47.3% of the vote – either the polls are (or at least were) systemically over-counting National, or the voting intentions of the population changed rather dramatically between when those polls were conducted and a few days later when the election occurred. The second option is certainly a big part of it – remember the teapot tapes, the police raids on media, and the rise of Winston – but, this is the last time that we had a real-world sanity check on the polls, and it wasn’t good news for the polls – most of them were out by more than the margin of error.
Second, with the exception of TV3’s weird nonsense result last night, all the polls show National down. In their wildly inconsistent way, the polls seem to be trying to say that fewer people are supporting National. The Right has a one-seat majority in this Parliament, reliant on its zombie parties in Ohariu and Epsom and less than 5,000 votes (0.2%) for its 59th seat.
Third, the spread of results and the spread of declines that the different polls are showing is too variable – we shouldn’t be seeing such a wide range if they’re all properly random samples. Coupled with how disastrously wrong they were at the last election, and the wild, inexplicable jumps that some of the polls show (5% and 4.4% jumps for National, from TV1 and TV3 respectively, really? In what world did 1 in 20 people go pro-National in the last 2 months?) it looks like some of the polls are broken.
Fourth, having just pointed out how thin National’s hold on power is, the polls are still concerning for the Left. NZF could well support National in 2014, Shearer could easily lose 5% in the debates. Labour-Greens need not only to be out polling National, as they are in 2 of the 4 recent polls, but to be comfortably outpolling them to the point where there’s a debates buffer and National+NZF+zombies clearly won’t make a majority. That means we want to see National hitting 40%-43% in polls consistently and Labour+Greens at 45%-48% again and again. We’re not there yet.
Fifth, turning out the vote will be vital. Can John Key convince voters to show up on the promise that the brighter future is still just around the corner? Can David Shearer inspire people to make him the next Prime Minister? Whose potential voters will stay home instead because they just don’t believe in them?