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Polls and the art of confusion

Written By: - Date published: 10:24 am, September 21st, 2008 - 16 comments
Categories: polls - Tags:

Nats Golden Run – the headline accompanied by vivid graphic in the Dom Post yesterday would have had many on the left sighing into their morning long black. But upon looking at it more closely I discovered that the dramatic graph wasn’t the result of the Fairfax poll (which has the National/Labour gap closing one point from 19 to 18) but was, in fact, combined with Colmar Brunton. Similarly on the preferred PM poll Key has dropped two while Clark dropped one.

It seemed to me that the poll results were actually incidental to what the story was going to be. With seven weeks to go I suspect we will be “polled out” by the time we get to the one that really matters. And when you see stories take on such levels of creativity, and then add in the “who’s not talking” to pollsters in general  we’re going to have to wait until election day before we will find out what people really think.

16 comments on “Polls and the art of confusion ”

  1. Patrick 1

    I was quite surprised to see how selective that article was. Why did they not include, or even mention, the Roy Morgan poll? Has the Dom Post got someone on secondment from ole Granny Herald?

  2. randal 2

    the Dompost has always considered itself to be a national newspaper but has more and more become a throwaway rag. the owners do not live in New Zealand and it is actually becoming very hard to say who the actual owners are. It is managed by a gang of idiots selected for their hair and teeth like tv newsreaders and now that they dont have proofreaders anymore the upper echelon of the editorial staff spend most of their time in their offices looking for elementary spelling and grammar mistakes that the postmodern graduates from jschool are continually foisting on us as their truths. so I guess the dompost poll is their truth as well….hahahahahahahaha!

  3. ghostwhowalks 3

    Remember the term the media called the people who told the pollsters one thing and who did the opposite in the polling booth.
    The “shy” Tory ( or liberal) voter who meant John Major and John Howard won elections they were predicted to lose. Of course it didnt last forever.
    I personally would participate in a telephone poll since I cant be bothered with all the other questions they ask( which pay the bills for the polling company) and from previous experience they sell your phone number to telemarketing companies since they have demographic and importantly income numbers.

  4. The party and its supporters that are down in the polls will always try and say the polls don’t matter and the party that is up, will say the polls are a true reflection of whos going to win.

    My take is, online polls are BS, polls that are conducted by the parties themselves are BS, even major newspaper polls can be wrong.

    But when you have consistent polls over a year from all different sources, saying the same thing, then you should take notice.

    It doesn’t look good for labour and if you think otherwise, you really need to open the eye.

  5. jaymam 5

    It is dishonest to show such a graph without showing the zero point.

    Using the figures in the Dom Post, here is what it should look like:
    http://i34.tinypic.com/24fbvrb.jpg

    And if the Morgan poll result is added to the end, the impression would be entirely different.

  6. coge 6

    The chart itself in the article clearly demonstrates the opposing longterm established trends for Labour & National. They almost mirror one another. Of course with all charts with large sample groups peaks & troughs will continue, as the red & blue lines move further apart. Generally long term established trends take over 120 days to turn around. So as an part-time chartist, with years of insight, I would estimate Labour polling under 32% on election day, based on this data.

  7. Pat 7

    I think the general consensus on The Standard is that it doesn’t really matter whether Labour get 32% or even less. History says National will not get more than 50%, and John Key will not be able to put together a coalition that gets over 50%.

    Therefore, the Left coalition wins by default.

    Unless, by some strange occurance, the polls are correct – NZers want to be rid of this current government.

  8. John 8

    Yeah, I noticed they got Tracey Watkins to write the article that played cover for the dishonest graph. Vernon Small’s article placed inside on A2 had a lot more integrity. He seemed almost embarrassed by Tracey’s National Party spin. I don’t blame her, she just isn’t able to stand up to her editors who seem intent on turing the Dom Post into a backwater tabloid. But then what do you expect from Australians?

  9. lprent 9

    Brett: You are correct. The polls are bullshit for figuring out the eventual result. Historically they have gotten more accurate the closer to the election. I suspect that is not going to happen this time because the numbers with listed phone lines have diminished so far.

    It is only the trends that show in them that are of interest. Currently those trends are getting betetr for the left and greens as more undecided start deciding.

    But I think that activists (from all sides) should simply ignore the polls. They are largely irrelevant to the final outcome unless they prevent activists from running good campaigns.

    I think that the polls are only be there these days to provide a talking point or a headline for the MSM.

    coge: As a chartist you’d have said something similar in 2005 until just before the election. The problem is that charting in the traditional sense relies on the market information being visible. In this case it isn’t because of the undecided, unwilling to say, just not answering, and plain inaccessible. That is why charting is not a useful skill with opinion polls.

    From the canvassing we’ve been doing, my guess would be that the result will come out as 40% to 45% Labour to National. That is going to make coalition forming interesting especially with the overhang.

    Pat: Generally I’d say that the ‘consensus’ amongst the writers here (insofar as there is any) is probably that the polls are irrelevant. Compulsive poll watching is something that we’d wish the right and MSM would indulge in. We’d prefer that the ‘left’ doesn’t. Between their inaccuracy and the art of coalition forming the polls are irrelevant.

  10. G 10

    Never thought I’d see the day when the Left-Wing media would turn against their own. These figures could very well be biased, inaccurate, inflated, but they nevertheless give us one clear indication: everyone is sick of the Smashmouth & Noddy Show.

  11. G 11

    Okay, not everyone: just most of us. 🙂

  12. rave 12

    Come on you guys. That’s about three in a row on polls.
    Do you seriously think the election should be reduced to how the polling is going?

    It’s like saying the voters are so stupid that they will just follow the polls. The best that Labour can expect from that is the underdog effect.

    As a revolutionary I’m hijacking this thread because its threadbare.There are some good arguments being made out there on the ‘vision thing’ that Labour should be listening to. If it seriously believes it can humanise capitalism it should at least be trying harder.

    Like Gordon Campbell on how the credit crisis will effect NZ; this links directly into Findlay McDonald in today’s SST suggesting how Cullen might turn his remarks about Key and Merrill Lynch into a damning critique. Cullen’s comments were a cheap crack without any wider research backing and didnt follow through.

    Labour needs to be on the front foot on this because the Herald and BRT have launched a media campaign to get the billionaire rogernome Stephen Jennings who is plundering Russia and Africa to back up Key’s (and ACTS) electoral campaign to ‘finish the business’?

    Then there is the real scandal. Rod Oram in today’s SST takes Fonterra to task on the poisoned milk. It’s clear to me that Labour should take over the handling of this scandal since Fonterra couldnt be trusted to put the lives of its Chinese child consumers ahead of its quick profits.

  13. Bill 13

    Thanks for that Rave.

    And since it’s Sunday and the thread has been (deservedly) hi-jacked, here’s a wee bit of relevent trivia

    The $1 trillion bail out of the financial markets by the US tax payer is equivalent to giving the 1.2 billion people living in absolute poverty somewhere between $700 and $750 each if my quick sums are right.

    ie two years worth of income.

    Charming innit?

  14. DeeDub 14

    Never mind the graph! The article defies description as a piece of journalism!?! She spends half ot it talking blandly about who gets DPS escorts and ‘perks’ like cars and houses etc?! WTF??? Apparently that’s “What’s At Stake?” this election?!!!

    Journalism in this country, or what passes for it, is an embarrassment.

  15. Pascal's bookie 15

    Bill, the reading about that $trillion that I’ve been doing, which I admit is pretty superficial, it being sunday, and me being drinking, has not so much raised my eyebrows but made them do the crazy snakey dance all over my forehead.

    700 billions of dollars, that the treasury sec will get to play with however he sees fit. He will have to make 3 monthly reports to congress, which will no doubt look real hard and then write a sternly worded letter if they don’t like what they see. However the sec’s decisions are subject to the following oversight:

    Sec. 8. Review.

    Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency.

    Yeehaw cowboys. 700 billion dollars, no questions, no take backsies. Thanks working stiffs!

    Krugman can’t even see how it’s supposed to work, ie he can’t see that they have even attempted to address the problem they are trying to solve. It’s a real expensive bandaid to hide the bleeding on an busted aorta.

    What’s the bet the treas’ ‘sec burns through his first 700 billion before the election and then dares congress not to give him more?

  16. Dom 16

    DeeDub – you nailed it. This was the poorest piece of journalism I’ve seen for ages. Worrying about where the secret service will live in Parnell? This is something an apparently serious political journalist cares about? The online piece featured a picture of Key in front of his pool! Thank god he was dressed!

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