Nats’ polling

Written By: - Date published: 12:55 pm, January 31st, 2010 - 9 comments
Categories: dpf, polls - Tags:

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.

9 comments on “Nats’ polling”

  1. Lew 1

    Definitely not push-polling, which is quite different.

    You could call this ‘yes-man polling’; questions scripted to paint a sunny picture. More likely, though, this is polling to get specific response data on language and positioning which is already known to be reasonably good, in other words: we know these positions are ok, but which is most effective (with whom, correlated with what other responses, etc). There’s no reason to waste resources testing questions like “National stands for the many, not the few”, because this strengthens the opposition line, and won’t yield any surprises anyway (it’s more valuable to know whether the proportion of a sample agreeing with a statement is closer to 45% or 55% than whether it’s 10% or 20%).


    • ghostwhowalksnz 1.1

      These sort of questions are very usefull over time as well. The responses of different demographics would also be very useful.
      Any talking point become stale over a period.
      Also remember Fran would glady taken the call once she heard the magic words Curia, thousands of other would have suddenly found some ironing or lawnmowing to do.

  2. Could it be that the dark Prince aka McCully is attempting to force his way onto the front bench and is behind this poll? The choice of candidates and the skew in the questions suggests that the poll may be for internal consumption only.

  3. Pascal's bookie 3

    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

    Say what now?

    “better at ensuring jobs’ and “does best for New Zealand in international forums’ don’t seem like knock out wins for the tories to me.

    I can see why Fran may think so for the jobs question, but whether most people would agree would be interesting.

    On foreign policy Lab and Nat are pretty bipartisan with regard to trade, with labour having some fairly big wins, and a much improved relationship with the US. National can maybe get points for finally stopping sending the signal to the US that we might maybe let their nukes back in. That helped in so much that it changed US attitudes about whether it was worth still being dickish about it. But I’m not sure that you can give people very many points for stopping being harmful.

  4. Bill 4

    I’m surprised to see the Nats still use DPF’s Curia considering how angry they were with him when his dodgy polling putting the Nats way ahead on election 05 eve turned out to be completely wrong.

    Though I guess they are paying for his blogging services by proxy by funding his polling company, which presumably gives them a far better return on investment considering most gallery journos are too lazy to interview much further than their favourites toolbar.

  5. ghostwhowalksnz 5

    More likely getting polynesian voters to talk politics over the phone would be very difficult. But getting them out to vote was a bit easier for Labour that year.
    The bad result for 2008 was partly due to labour supporters not actually voting.

  6. Santi 6

    Farrar appears to be making good money from this government, doesn’t he?

  7. handle 7

    “She wasn’t asked what issues matter to her or what she thought of the Government’s policies.” I would not completely trust Fran’s account of what was asked and what wasn’t, would you?

    Asking about crime, jobs and foreign affairs might help if you are assessing the performance of the minsters leading those portfolios. How Tolley or Wilkinson still have a job is beyond me.

  8. Arts 8

    Push Polling is not what this is about as you say.

    I call this Pull Polling. Forcing the analysis to tell you the conclusion you have already reached!!

    In either case, an expensive mission

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