Conflicting polls

Written By: - Date published: 11:59 am, April 21st, 2008 - 9 comments
Categories: polls - Tags:

The two political polls on TV last night say far more about the limitations of political polling than they do about the likely makeup of the next Parliament.

Last night’s TVNZ poll, conducted by New Zealand’s least reliable polling company, showed National gaining ground, Labour down in the dumps and the Greens dropping out of Parliament. The poll had Key leading Clark as preferred PM by 35-29, and the narrative focused on Labour’s failure to gain any traction from its recent attacks on John Key.

cb 450

TV3 tells a different story. Labour is up, National is down, and Key has slipped six points in the preferred PM stakes to trail Clark 32-29. The Greens are safe and Parliament is split right down the middle between Left and Right.

TV3’s narrative has Labour’s attacks doing real damage to National and Key, with the public beginning to question Key’s “muddling leadership”.

tns 450

So, two very different polls and two very different narratives to explain them. How embarrassing.

I guess the lesson here is to not put too much stock in individual polls. The media outlets that commission these polls have a commercial interest in presenting them as meaningful, but there’s no need for the rest of us to join in their charade. Instead, we should see polls for what they really are: a bit of fun for political junkies and a useful indicator of trends over a period of time.

And, of course, a handy gimmick for a news media more interested in low-grade scandal and superficial puffery than any meaningful political analysis of how each party’s policies will affect the lives of ordinary New Zealanders.

9 comments on “Conflicting polls”

  1. A good post. I half expected you guys to be jumping all over the TV3 poll.

  2. Matthew Pilott 2

    Infused – that would be a difficult line to tow, what with the other poll out at the same time 🙂

    Does anyone know if polls are usually better scheduled than this?

    This incident illustrated the inaccuracy of polls (or at least the influence certain non-random factors have upon polling) and I would imagine it damages the credibility of the political market research industry. Maybe next time they should compare notes and delay the release of one poll to avoid something like this.

  3. Last night’s TVNZ poll, conducted by New Zealand’s least reliable polling company…

    On what basis are you making that outrageous assertion, Tane? Colmar-Brunton is one of the county’s leading telemarketing companies. Admit it, the only reason you seek to undermine it’s credibility is because it put a Key-led National way ahead, and that doesn’t sit right with you.

    Instead, we should see polls for what they really are: a bit of fun for political junkies and a useful indicator of trends over a period of time.

    Yes, well, if you take that viewpoint of polls as trends, then you must also admit that Labour is not actually doing all that well. They have polled consistantly behind National. A pity really.

  4. Tane 4

    Colmar Brunton tends to have National out at least four to five points higher than the other polls. It was also the furtherest out in its prediction for the 2005 general election.

    And yeah, I know Labour haven’t been doing well, and the Greens have been all over the place. The trends seem to be going in the right direction though, Colmar Brunton notwithstanding.

  5. Steve Pierson 5

    Hoolian. I think he makes that statement on the basis of being better informed than yourself. have a look at the polling agencies’ performance in 2005. http://www.roymorgan.com/news/polls/2005/3898/

    I haven’t seen figures but I hear that in the last two decades you had a better change of predicting the election outcome correctly by flipping a coin than by using colmar brunton.

  6. Absolute Power 6

    Fraudulent pledgecards do influence the moronic public at times Mr Pierson.

  7. Um AP, do you realise how dumb you’re making yourself look using that moniker?

    [play nice, ‘sod. SP]

  8. Phil 8

    “It was also the furtherest out in its prediction for the 2005 general election” – Tane

    “Hoolian. I think he makes that statement on the basis of being better informed than yourself. have a look at the polling agencies’ performance in 2005. http://www.roymorgan.com/news/polls/2005/3898/ ” – Steve

    I’m loath to let the facts get in he way of your good story, but CB was third out of five in that link – ahead of Fairfax ACN and Morgan in terms of average error across all parties… so much for “worst performer”

  9. Steve Pierson 9

    Phil, yes but CB was worst on the Lab v Nat contest, and had the greatest error in left v right split. I would argue its more important getting that wrong than errors in how votes are shared within the left and the right.

    I think Absolute Power may actually be Wishart – in his ‘interview’ with whaleoil, Wishart made a typical tory comment about the downside of democracy being that people with sub-100 IQs (that’s 50% of people) can vote, and here’s AP calling the new zealand people morons.

    Oh and AP. Labour has outpolled National in 8 of the last 12 elections. If you include the Alliance with Labour, that figure goes to 10 out of 12.

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