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20 years of preferred PM

Written By: - Date published: 12:12 pm, July 27th, 2015 - 68 comments
Categories: polls - Tags: ,

From the wonks at Colmar Brunton:



Bonus graph from Danyl Mclauchlan:


68 comments on “20 years of preferred PM ”

  1. James 1

    Littles trend is sharp and heading in the wrong direction. (well, for a lot of readers here) – Personally I think he has a way to fall yet.

    How long is this going to be sustainable? Will be interesting to watch the gap between him and Peters – if it grows and Peters gets (say) 5% points on him it will be very interesting.

    Wonder how long Labour are willing to let this current experiment drag on.

    • You do realize that the preferred PM poll is meaningless, doncha? We don’t have a presidential election, so, meh. The really interesting result du jour is National losing their lead in last night’s poll. Time for a snap election, if Key has got the guts*

      *He doesn’t have the guts.

      • lprent 1.1.1

        That is my view as well. Preferred PM appears to have little relationship with voting for parties.

        The most extreme example of that was the really low preference for Helen Clark back in 1993 to 1997.

        I am aware that some of the more stupid or space constrained of our political commentators prefer to think/present otherwise.

        But that is more an artifact of the process of trying to fit a media message into a confined space. It has little to do with reality.

        • dukeofurl

          The ‘preferred PM’ was brought in to make Muldoon look good ( his negatives were very high).

          Most other countries do an approval rating for each politician as the major result- which is the best measure as normally each major politician is doing a different job)

        • rational thinker

          If all people that voted had a high degree of intellect iprent then I would agree but there are a lot of superficial people at the polling booths.

          I think to a lot of people the brand of the leader is very important to their perception of the party. Hence team key.

          Someone talk john Campbell into throwing his hat in the ring or someone else with the same credibility and I think labour would take a sharp rise in the polls.

          like I said last night if Ritchie Mcaw was to run for the chch electorate without any policies I bet he would still win

        • lurgee

          “That is my view as well. Preferred PM appears to have little relationship with voting for parties.”

          I’d say there is a bit of a correlation and if so we shouldn’t try to pretend there isn’t.

          To me it looks like the opposition leader has to be in touch – Clark was behind, but not far behind in 1999, Brash was closing the gap in 2005, Key-Clark was close before 2008. People are going to be reluctant to give party votes to a party led by someone they think is a doofus.

          Whereas the current and last three Labour leaders have been massively behind, and this has correlated with the party. Obviously, patience is needed. There’s plenty of time before the next election. Brash was massively behind for most of his tenure but finished strongly.

          What is Labour going to do to start people thinking they wouldn’t mind seeing Andrew Little as PM?

          • Kevin

            A bit of a correlation? Even if you couldn’t remember who won you could predict who won each election by looking at the preferred PM charts.

          • lprent

            Coming into the election, well there have only been two flips since 1996 so the number of useful data points is pretty damn low.

            But more two years out from an election? Because that is the obvious correlation to now.

            Look at 1997 – Helen was still way way behind.
            Or Brash in 2003 when he was in nowheresville
            Or Key in 2006 when he was in the same position

            Besides, that is always the two way race idea. Since 1993 there has not been a party that has gained over 50% of the parliamentary seats. They are coalitions, and the balance has been extraordinarily tight between ‘left’ and ‘right’ (complicated by the wannbe centrist parties – eg 2005).

            The coalitions that happened in 2005, 2008, 2011, and 2014 were literally perched on knife-edge of just a few seats for a majority. That was despite a massive variance between the leader preferences.

            That is why I take little notice of it and never had. It is too variable to provide any kind of useful correlation during the years leading to elections. It also provides little correlation to seats earned by parties.

      • Enough is Enough 1.1.2

        Yes and No

        I think the only reason the Nats have stayed popular is because of their leader. People (for some reason that I cannot comprehend) seem to like him and give their vote to the party even though the rest of their MPs are lightweights and crooks.

        You remove Key, you remove National.

        • mpledger

          I agree totally.

        • esoteric pineapples

          Likewise Winston Peters pulls up New Zealand First.

          • Reality

            Winston Peters has been in politics for years and years, and always manages to get a headline, so has much more name recognition than Andrew Little, who is still becoming known to people who don’t follow politics constantly. Andrew Little is not a show pony type of person and happily does not try to be one. Thank goodness.

        • Hanswurst

          People (for some reason that I cannot comprehend) seem to like him and give their vote to the party even though the rest of their MPs are lightweights and crooks.

          As opposed to Key, of course, who is a dickwad and a crook. Oh, and a lightweight.

        • Preferred PM is meaningful to the Government only. The opposition doing badly is meaningless, but them doing well is trouble.

          The left rallying and getting their act together is really all that’s needed to win. There is SO MUCH ammunition to use to make Key unpopular that once there’s a legitimate alternative government, it won’t be hard to bring him down anyway.

          • Lanthanide


            Fully agree with this. Labour could have had a chance in the 2014 election, but they blew it with stupid infighting and posturing.

      • alwyn 1.1.3

        ” Time for a snap election, if Key has got the guts*”
        You are right TRP.
        He should follow Helen’s example in 2006, when the wheels fell off the Labour Party support.
        She had the courage to call a snap election then didn’t she?

        • the pigman

          Your powers of spotting and illustrating analogies are woefully deficient, my elderly friend. Did you totally miss TRP’s point?

          Recently one leader of a major party was full of bravado in the House, screaming at the other major party leader hysterically to to “ge[t]sum gu[t]ss’!!!11!!1!”

          I’ll give you a clue: it wasn’t Helen Clark speaking to Don Brash.

    • Ovid 1.2

      I’m not prepared to support another leadership contest this side of the next general election. It would scupper any hopes at all of a change of government and I don’t see how it would take place without a groundswell of discontent from the wider party and its affiliates and while there’s the normal grumbling from activists who as always would like the party to be a little more left than it is, I don’t see the appetite for such a move.

      The right is, of course, trying to foster this as it would prevent Labour getting on an even keel before 2017.

      • Clemgeopin 1.2.1


        I say, keep calm and carry on.
        Ignore the distractions, the fools and the crooks.

        • Colonial Viper

          Its important we give Little 6 months to get the numbers up

          • Ben

            Isn’t that what people were saying in Nov 2014? The good people of New Plymouth have rejected him twice, so no surprises that the rest of the country follows suit.

            • Hanswurst

              Isn’t that what people were saying in Nov 2014?

              No. It might possibly be what *someone* was saying in Nov 2014, but that’s different.

              The good people of New Plymouth have rejected him twice, so no surprises that the rest of the country follows suit.

              The country hasn’t “rejected” Little. What has happened is that a large number of people have voted for John Key in a meaningless preferred PM poll.

        • Matthew Hooton

          Absolutely. Important to keep Little in the job or else Labour will look unstable.

          • Kevin

            Except Labour won’t win while Little is leader. Better to dump him and find someone else and keep repeating the process until they find someone who can lead them to victory.

      • KK 1.2.2

        Preferred PM is a stupid measure. Favourability is the measure that actually means something. I don’t know why anyone pays attention to it.

  2. Clean_power 2

    Is Mr Little on a slippery slope? His numbers do not support Labour’s cause.

    • Puckish Rogue 2.1

      Mr Andrew Little is merely biding his time and rallying his troops, like a finely tuned athelete he doesn’t want to peak too soon and will be in a position of strength come the election while Winston Peters will have done his dash by then

    • maui 2.2

      A 4th leader in 2 years is the answer…

  3. Sabine 3

    I actually find the drop in Keys numbers more important – isn’t he the superstar with the rockstar economy and the high house prices and such?

    Little has had the job of maybe PM for Labour for a few month, he is being rubbished any single time people on the left and right get a chance simply for being i guess the Labour Candidate etc etc etc.
    So no i don’t give much about this poll…..really, early days.

    As for Winston, he has been doing good work lately and i guess there are some National voters that actually would vote for him rather then someone else in the National Party should dear Leader decide it is time to retire.

    Labour should just stick with what they are doing at the moment. I can see how the press and certain parts of the so called Intelligentsia in NZ would hope for another leadership contest…but i hope they won’t fall for that.

    • lprent 3.1

      …superstar with the rockstar economy and the high house prices and such?

      With the levels of business confidence around at present? They have been heading for the toilet over the last year because there is nothing except storms on the horizon.

      • NZJester 3.1.1

        I wish it was storms on the horizon, but instead all I see coming this next summer is a long hot dry spell. Not only for our crops, but also for the cash-flow of our businesses.

  4. Clemgeopin 4

    I am not sure how the preferred PM question works. Something seems strange or meaningless here. I would like to see someone explain this.
    I am perplexed by the disconnect in the numbers.

    What I wonder about is how can Key have only 38% preference as PM when his own party support is 47%? Similarly for Little, 10% vs 31%, or for Peters 8% vs 11% ?

    One would expect, for example, most of a particular party supporters to be supporting their own leader as preferred PM. The numbers don’t show that.
    I also think that the preferred PM question itself is a silly one because, there can be only ONE PM who HAS to be from the party with the most party votes anyway.

    Instead, it would be more sensible to word the question something like this:
    “If the political party you support were to lead the government, who among that party would you prefer to be the PM?”

    • James 4.1

      “there can be only ONE PM who HAS to be from the party with the most party votes anyway.”

      No – Labour are well behind on party votes, and have little (no pun intended) chance of having the most party votes next election. But like in the last hiding (election) they hold to the dream that they can cobble enough votes along with the greens, mana, bob the builder, the bus drivers mother and with a wing and a prayer Winston first, then they get to have the ONE PM.

      • Clemgeopin 4.1.1

        James, you did not seem to have understood the questions in my comment at all.
        It wasn’t about Mr Little.

    • Might be comparing apples with oranges.

      Undecided voters are commonly left out of the reporting of party preferences, I guess it’s assumed they are non-voters (rather than Labour voters who are sick of Labour’s ongoing incompetence, or National voters who are sick of Nationals ongoing corruption and incompetence – or maybe they are just ditherers, who knows?).

      We might see no change at all in the polls as they are reported, even if a major change in the proportion of undecideds happened; (say that undecideds went from 20% to 30% of people polled over the course of a month).

      It doesn’t make this type of reporting of poll results less than useless, but care needs to be made when comparing different subsets pulled from the larger pool of information.

      So, are the preferred PM preferences taken only from the pool of decided voters?
      Or do those who are undecided partywise contribute toward the preferred PM?

    • You are incorrect.

      The PM does not come from the party with the most votes.

      It comes from the party able to form a government (even then, not sure that’s a requirement)

    • Karen 4.4

      According to their website Colmar Brunton ask about preferred Prime Minister this way:

      “Thinking about all current MPs of any party, which one would you personally prefer to be Prime Minister?”
      IF NONE
      “Is there anyone who is not a current MP who you would prefer to be Prime Minister?”

      In the last poll there were 12% don’t know or refused for the party vote question. They don’t say on the website but I suspect there are a lot more don’t knows or none for preferred PM. I also think any current PM has an advantage outside of election year.

      Little always said he’d spend a year going around the regions talking to people and didn’t expect a jump in the polls during that time. However, I personally don’t think he has been performing very well since just before the Budget, and a lot more needs to be done to boost his media presence (including improving his radio voice). I think he has done well with the caucus who seem to be more united.

    • Anne 4.5

      Some people name the first person who comes into their head. That is invariably the PM of the day.

  5. Colonial Viper 5

    The more Little sounds like template stage managed sanitised Labour, and the less he sounds like Cut the Crap authentic Little, the lower his numbers will sink.

    • Clemgeopin 5.1

      You are wrong. It would be stupid to be always angry. One may win a few activists and fellow travelers, but not the vast voting public. They need assurance, honesty and helpful policies.

      Confucius says chamomile might do you some good in seeing things through a little more clearly about Little and Labour than you have been hastily doing in the recent past.

      Anyway, (if you were replying to me), I wasn’t talking just about Little, but about the methodology/meaningfulness of the preferred PM numbers Vs party support. Any view on that?

      • Colonial Viper 5.1.1

        Didn’t say a thing about being angry all the time. But OK if you think that Little is better off with his vetted and prepared remarks let’s see how his numbers go over the next 6 months.

      • Colonial Viper 5.1.2

        Anyway, (if you were replying to me), I wasn’t talking just about Little, but about the methodology/meaningfulness of the preferred PM numbers Vs party support. Any view on that?

        More people are more motivated by what they believe a party stands for, rather than by any singular personality attached to that party.

        • McFlock

          I strongly believe that that depends on the party and the personality.

        • Clemgeopin

          There are still 2, (yes, TWO), years to go and policies that are good for the country and the people are being worked out. Remember the party policies and ethos are being reviewed and overhauled after the election defeat. Be patient. In the meantime, put your energy into the dodgy dealings of the present crooked government. And oh, stop putting down Labour like a heat seeking Gaboon Viper going after its quary.


  6. Ad 6

    Can someone layer “mood of the nation” over “preferred party”?

    Be useful to see if there’s a clear precursor effect – and when they shear away.

  7. Observer (Tokoroa) 7

    Skinny made a good point in another post today, when he invited Little to “..relax and smile, point and wave”.

    Key and Peters do that. Popular people smile.

    However, all of the New Zealand media is pro – National. That is a huge bias in base support for Key. Even when as an addicted weirdo, he is tugging the hair of targeted women and young girls.

    They still support him,Even when he is cooking the books in favour of his beloved Casino, the high rollers and the associated low brothels.

    Even when his closest friends include the grovelling and dark minded Cameron Slater.

    The media supports him Even when he is constantly crapping on, lying like the cheat he is.

    Labour, NZ First and the Greens need to combine now and put up together, hoardings saying ” the lying Key must go” or the like.

    Also they must form “NZ Honest Media Group” and build it up.

    • ropata 7.1

      Don’t worry, the Gnats are shooting themselves in the foot at the moment, all the opposition parties need to do is get out of the way and let the media finally grab hold of these stories.

      Labour is working on rehabilitating its image right now and positioning itself for Government. The Labour/Green parties have their own visions to communicate to NZ, rolling in the muck with the dirty Gnats gets counterproductive after a while.

  8. It a stupid question to ask ,because most of the people asked would only know one PM .Who ever is the presnt PM. A look at past polls will confirm this . anyway how often have the polls beeen correct?. An interesting question to ask people is “did they vote for Muldoon ? Not many will say they did yet that scary man kept on winning .

  9. James 9

    There are some (and a lot on this forum) – who will only vote Labour / Greens / Mana regardless of who is leading them.

    BUT – It is a good question when polling because – a lot of people actually think – who do I want to be PM when they are casting their vote.

    Thats why you get ACT in Epsom for example.

    If anyone thinks that being the 3rd most preferred PM and being almost 30% behind them ISNT a bad thing (assuming you wanted the guy to win), then, well, you deserve to be laughed at.

    • McFlock 9.1

      Thanks for confirming that ol’ tugger is the only reason national gets elected.

      • James 9.1.1

        Mc Flock – Adding to reasonable conversation since ages ago / sarc.

        Upshot – I believe the person who I want as PM matters to me and dictates my voting on the day.

        Same as many on the left. Its a simple concept – but in this crazy MMP world you have to think like this.

        Could be a problem for Winny tho’ Angry Andrew keeps dropping away – With Winston looked at as the best leader for the opposition for people – they might force him to show his cards his coalition partners before the election.

        • Colonial Viper

          Upshot – I believe the person who I want as PM matters to me and dictates my voting on the day.

          Always figured you as a personalities before principles kind of voter.

          • James

            Obviously – Their personality comes into it – but I choose on who I think will lead the country in the direction that I want to go.

            In the National leader was someone who I didnt like – But I thought that they would do the best job – I would still vote for them.

            • One Anonymous Bloke

              No-one cares what you say you’d do: your word isn’t worth shit.

        • Karen

          Governments are made up of MPs who are aligned to political parties and this was the case before ‘crazy’ MMP. PMs do not have the power to do anything without caucus support.

          Perhaps you think the PM is all important, but do not assume other people think this as I doubt it is true. Possibly some people are put off a party because they loathe the leader, but very few would see a particular leader as the main reason for voting for a party.

        • McFlock

          You do realise there’s more to a government than prime minister, right?

          And yet that is the factor that “dictates” your vote 🙄

          • James

            I do understand this. But if labour choose to ignore it – they will be trying to get elected a government who has a guy (who the way he is going) will be in single digit preferred Prime minister figures – against someone who is iro 40%.

            If you dont think that this will make it harder for labour …. well mate … your dreaming.

            • rational thinker


            • McFlock

              Chart sez Little going down a little since the 2014 election, but Labour going up.

              Doesn’t seem to be much of a relationship at all. Good luck with your hero-worship.

  10. North 10

    Preferred PM generally follows the incumbent, more or less, so there’s a measure of inevitability there. What’s interesting is that The Ponce Key, not that long ago pushing 60% as the incumbent (and didn’t we all hear and hear and hear about that ?) is now at 40%, as the incumbent. Mmmm……the manifestations of simpering vanity, interspersed with faux rugby boy “GehSarmGuss” shit, won’t have missed that.

    • dukeofurl 10.1

      More interesting is Keys rating peaked at just before 2011 election and was on a slow slide downhill, then something happened in 2013 where it plateaued and then moved back to a higher level.

      What was it in around 2013 that boosted Key ? Not the Christchurch quakes as they were earlier in 2011.
      Key is now back down to the trough he had at end of 2012 ( low 40%).

      Will he be doing some more of his special sauce to bump it up again ?

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