Fran O’Sullivan wrote about how she was called by David Farrar’s Curia, National’s polling company, recently. What she was asked is revealing.
She was asked to rate the National front bench plus Steven Joyce and Murray McCully. I’ve never heard of this been done before, asking for people’s views on individual ministers. It suggests an extreme level of personality politics – ministers will be promoted and demoted based on whether people like them, not the quality of the job they are doing.
Anne Tolley’s demotion would seem to confirm that. She lost her tertiary portfolio but it is her performance in the education portfolio that is the most disastrous. If she were being judged on performance it would have been the education portfolio she lost (ah, but then National would only have had one woman on the front bench).
The other interesting part was this:
This week’s poll asked respondents to say which party they associated with particular attributes such as “better at ensuring jobs”, “strong on crime”, “does best for New Zealand in international forums” – and so forth.
What was notable about the highly selective list of attributes is that they appeared designed to push public opinion towards National – not elicit responses which would steer punters towards Labour.
Some people have seen this as push polling but I doubt it. Push polling is an enormously expensive and ineffective method of changing opinions. Especially if directed at random voters. No, this isn’t push-polling.
But it is bad polling. Think about the results Farrar would have gotten from asking a series of questions about attributes that National is seen strong on. A list of answers that we already knew (‘60% of voters say National is strongest on crime’). Good market research, the kind that Crosby-Textor did for National in the past, delves beyond the obvious and the trite to reveal people’s nascent feelings that could grow to be useful or problematic for the party depending on how they are handled. Curia’s questions might be interesting for a newspaper poll but don’t deliver anything useful for a political party to act on.
Finally, I’m struck that O’Sullivan wasn’t asked about two things that a government that is actually focused on delivering for New Zealand, rather than maintaining personally popular, should want to know. She wasn’t asked what issues matter to her or what she thought of the Government’s policies.