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That ‘ol margin of error

Written By: - Date published: 8:52 am, February 20th, 2013 - 32 comments
Categories: election 2014, polls - Tags: , ,

I posted recently on the noise in polls, and why is is important to take a long term view rather than get excited about any individual poll. Cases in point, what are we to make of the two most recent results? One News on the 17th:

National bounces up in poll

National has bounced up five points in the poll to 49%, its highest approval rating in almost a year. …

Labour and the Greens are both down two points to 33% and 11% respectively.

And the Farifax today:

National no longer a sure winner – poll

Today’s poll puts National on 44.9 per cent – 1.3 percentage points down on our last poll in December, and back to where it was last August.

But the big story is Labour’s slow rise under Mr Shearer. The party is up 1.9 percentage points to 36.3 per cent, 3.7 per cent higher than in August.

There is no sensible “political narrative” that makes sense of these results, it’s just noise – the margin of error. I wish the whole “commentariat” would get this message and stop getting so wound up about individual results! In the second piece linked above the authors (Watkins and Vance) do, thankfully, comment on the longer trend:

Labour has now closed the gap with National to just 8.6 percentage points, compared with 20 points on election night in 2011. With Labour allies the Greens making up the shortfall on 10.7 per cent, the poll points to a much tighter race in 2014.

(Those who are hyper-critical of the current Labour leadership please take note!) In a related piece today Watkins does (hurrah!) set out the important facts:

Trend good for Labour but there’s a way to go

In politics, they say, the trend is your friend. That would make the next election Labour’s to lose on today’s Fairfax Media-Ipsos political poll. It confirms a trend of Labour slowly positioning itself to lead the next government.

But that tells only half the story. Because National’s vote, if you use the 2008 election as your yardstick, appears largely undented. …

If there is a story behind the poll numbers it is that many of the undecided vote appear to be soft National voters who have started peeling away, perhaps disillusioned that after four years they are feeling no better off. But when pushed, many still lean toward National. So Labour still has a long way to go.

Come on Labour – give those undecided voters a reason to tick the red box…


32 comments on “That ‘ol margin of error”

  1. Pete 1

    The other factor is the motivation to vote in 2014. Turnout should increase if people believe the election isn’t a foregone conclusion like 2011. If the narrative continues to build that this is a genuine horserace, then it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    The opposition needs to build on this and demonstrate that they are a government-in-waiting. It needs to find a way to seize the political discourse for itself rather than just naysaying or non-committal me-tooism. Shearer seems to communicate far more effectively when there’s solid policy to build his arguments around. I think his main flaw is a failure to anticipate the points raised in an interview or by the government. Proper preparation prevents piss poor performance.

  2. Polish Pride 2

    Yes it is good for the left and although many on here won’t like it if you get behind Shearer and provide support rather than division the trend will not only continue it might even increase. Then when a difference can be made you can start to reshape things. For those wanting to do this there are two key things that you must do for someone you want to enact change.
    The first – identify the pain point for the people you are wanting to enact change. This is as simple as highlighting the pr9oblem and how it affects them.
    Second provide the solution – especially in an environment where those needing to change, don’t have the time or the inclination to think about it. Show how your solution will be better for all.

    Q: if Shearer and Robertson start listening to the party members are those of you that want to get rid of them still going to want them gone.
    Q2: Are you also prepared to listen to them (or is there no need because you already have have all the answers…..)

    Everything happens for a reason and there are lessons to be learned from everything including David Cunliffes demotion. The question is what are the lessons? What was the greater purpose?

  3. Colonial Viper 3

    Labour has now closed the gap with National to just 8.6 percentage points, compared with 20 points on election night in 2011. With Labour allies the Greens making up the shortfall on 10.7 per cent, the poll points to a much tighter race in 2014.

    The average of the 4 Roy Morgans before the Nov 2011 election gave an answer very close to the final e-day result for Labour. IIRC that same formula for the Roy Morgan overestimated National by a couple of percentage points, points which finally went to the Greens and NZF on e-day.

  4. bad12 4

    Any left leaning voters reading this post who voted for NZFirst at the last election should know that ‘now’ is the time to leave your support for that Party in history’s dustbin as they have fulfilled their purpose and begin to think about supporting one of the party’s further left…

  5. aerobubble 5

    The colour of Key’s gib.

    Conference center paid for by pokies; so global
    association of ethical companies isn’t going to
    have their conference there! I mean good
    people worked hard all over the world, for
    example to get rid of pokies, and they are going
    to balk at the idea that the conference buildings
    is paid for by harvesting the good works of
    good people like them, in reducing pokies,
    in reduction in pokies being reversed to pay
    for the buildings they are conferencing in.

    Globally, Unionists don’t have kids who are of an
    age to see the movie the Hobbit. So Key attacking
    basic union rights unnecessarily to keep the Hobbit
    movie here had no downside, even unionists will love
    the movie despite it harming their interests.

    50%, off the top of Key’s head, that’s how
    much chch land holders will get back. But we know
    businesses who held land, who brought land,
    who got business insurance for loss of business,
    who lost money would get 100% of their loses
    without one peg, one spade of work on the land.
    So no businesses held ChCh empty lots? Paid for them?
    Was paid out 100%?
    Its all very well councils writing off the losses
    of their empty unsold lots, the government can live with
    100% loses, its so large its self-insured against
    the loses, but the little guy who gets caught
    between having brought a lot and having a building
    put up, who can’t get insurance arbitrarily hands over
    50%. There’s no argument about being paid out, the
    argument is why the unfair arbitrariness of the outcome,
    how government is insured, and denies citizens full
    insurance cover arbitrarily. Now everyone in NZ
    has to Keyify their lots, and put up a mail box
    the moment they buy a lot, Key’s legacy to NZ culture.

    Sorry, but Key isn’t all that smart, he’s reactive,
    demanding, and must get his way and spin victory.
    Well when he was reaping huge salaries and bonuses
    and articulating (as he clearing has had much
    experience while working as a currency trader banker).
    The lack of an political echo in the pub after work
    has led to a little money thug who would not know a good
    business argument against his policies, as he is imbued with
    an ideological of relentless revolutionary conservatism
    take no prisoners.
    We are the collection of our past experience, we
    can’t change just because need requires it, when its
    so core for Key to spout neo-liberalism to keep his
    former career path its passes him by when his ideology
    finally has to bear scrutiny.

    Campbell live does a better job of opposing the govt, and
    still manages to look balanced and serving the nation.

  6. dancerwaitakere 6

    “Those who are hyper-critical of the current Labour leadership please take note!”

    See here is where it all starts falling apart. Much of the criticism of the Leadership is not actually about poll results, the heart of it is in the failure of the caucus to live up to their values.

    Lets say Labour gets into Government, I find myself in a position where I don’t believe that it would be an extremely competent Government. In fact Shearer, Robertson and Ardern all have no actual cabinet experience. There are lots of professionals who are able to say the right things (well, sometimes…) but they have been schooled to be politicians, not representatives of workers.

    Labour needs to show us with their List in 2014 that their government is going to be progressive and more radical than the Governments of the last 25 years, in a lefty sort of way.

    What good is a Labour Government if it is not.

    • Colonial Viper 6.1

      Indeed, even at 31% or 32% Labour have a very good chance of forming the Government. But as you pointed out, what kind of Government will it be when the pressure of a growing deficit and stagnant growth starts biting harder.

  7. gobsmacked 7

    Interesting tweet from David Shearer:

    “Tune in to #nzqt today to see me set out why John Key is donkey deep in the Sky City deal. Key isn’t vindicated, he’s implicated.”

    OK, I’ll tune in to Question Time. I hope he can deliver.

    • gobsmacked 7.1

      Shearer did fine on the questions (as did Turei, Norman and Peters) but the new Speaker is blatantly biased and inept. There will be a lot more aggro in Parliament now.

      Unfortunately Shearer later blotted his copybook by outing his previously unknown addiction … he declared – “We, the problem gamblers of New Zealand …”. Oops.

    • David H 7.2

      And Shearer always asks such interesting questions. NOT.

  8. Richard29 8

    “Those who are hyper-critical of the current Labour leadership please take note!”

    To be fair – I don’t think any of those people are concerned that the electorate doesn’t like Labour – I think they have legitimate concerns that Shearer is not a great communicator and that come the election campaign when the heat is on he might crash and burn in front of the cameras and hand victoy to National.

    What do I mean by crash and burn? Giving responses like this to straightforward questions:

    “Zac: Is there room for MPs with homophobic views in the Labour Party?
    Shearer: Oh look yes, absolutely, there are some, when I say homophobic I don’t think we’ve got any homophobes there, but, there are some people who don’t agree with, ah, um, unsection (?) marriage, you mean you know,a marriage between two, two people of the same sex, um, that’s ah, that’s not ah a a majority but um look you know at the same time as we, you know we’ve been at the forefront of these things, we’ve also had people who didn’t agree with it, there’s plenty of room for them as well.”

    Something very similar happened in 2011 – the theory the whole way through was that people should ignore the low level of support because come the election campaign people would warm to Goff and the election would be different. But people didn’t warm to him and support dropped in the lead up to the election.

    Shearer is not a bad guy, but he isn’t half the communicator that Goff was, and Goff had his ass handed to him on election night 2011. I think what concerns people is the leadership and strategy people from the 2011 defeat remain largely unchanged.

  9. Olwyn 9

    On the day that David Shearer was chosen as Labour Party leader, and right wing journalists joyously popped champagne corks while many Labour supporters cried into their beers, I became disheartened. Nothing has happened since to reverse that feeling. There have been occasional glimmers of hope, which have duly been dashed. I suspect the upcoming reshuffle will fall into that category, but (perhaps foolishly) still hope that I am wrong. This is not because “I just prefer Cunliffe.” It is because I prefer the NZ Labour Party principles over unspecified principles. I prefer a party that galvanises its natural supporters over a party that alienates them, while allowing its natural opponents to sigh with relief. And I prefer a party whose authority rests on widespread consent rather than the vicious kneecapping of talented colleagues. Given that these concerns have not been dispelled, I am not moved by a few percentage points in the polls.

  10. Addison 10

    So relieved to hear the next government will be Labour lead. We can all relax now in the knowledge that the Nats will be out next year?

  11. Anne 11

    And I prefer a party whose authority rests on widespread consent rather than the vicious kneecapping of talented colleagues.


    The elephant in the room Anthony.

    Until David Shearer faces up to this problem, Labour is going to be seriously hamstrung in getting its message across to those undecided voters. I put it to you there are a significant number of member activists who are waiting to see if he will reinstate David Cunliffe to the front bench. I can’t predict exactly what will happen if he doesn’t, but the anger and bitterness created late last year is likely to re-surface and be a millstone around his neck. The concerns about the way Cunliffe – and others – were treated are genuine, and based on the underlying Labour principles of fairness and justice. If Shearer delivers some justice, then he will reap due reward. It’s up to him now.

    • Murray Olsen 11.1

      If he can’t even treat talented members of caucus with fairness and justice, what hope does he have of forming a stable coalition government? On present form, I’d have to say he’d work more naturally with Winston First than either Mana or the Greens. In that case, the only real difference to a NACT repeat would be less fightback from the unions.

  12. 4wardthinking 12

    I agree with Anne. I would hope Shearer was showing a good deal more strategic nous and looking to unite the party rather than engage in ongoing tribal warfare. There’s obviously 10 people in that caucus who don’t have confidence in him. There’s absolutely no sign that he’s doing anything to bring the factions together – surely that is what any “good” leader would do. Also, with Cunliffe, he is still one of the best minds and speakers on the Labour side and goodness knows we could do with some spark right now. That speech he did on the IMF was fantastic. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_C7er64lx9A. Surely, it’s about time Shearer started working to his party’s strengths, rather than playing the same old politics?

    • mac1 12.1

      “There’s obviously 10 people in that caucus who don’t have confidence in him.” I’ve seen that figure thrown around in what was supposedly a secret ballot. What source have we for this figure? Or is it some sort of urban myth?

      • Colonial Viper 12.1.1

        I’ve heard the 10 figure around the traps. From sources at both 1 and 2 degrees of separation from caucus.

        However, the only person who would really know is whoever counted the votes out of the secret ballot, I presume the President or Gen Sec.

        • the pigman

          [blockquote]I’ve heard the 10 figure around the traps. From sources at both 1 and 2 degrees of separation from caucus.[/blockquote]


          • Colonial Viper

            If you think he’s 1 or 2 degrees of separation from the Labour Caucus, sure, why not.

        • mac1

          Caucus- separation 1- separation2- me. In other words, I know a bloke who knows a bloke who knows a bloke in caucus?

          • mac1

            Tried to edit- got redefined as undefined.
            @ Colonial Viper:
            Caucus- separation 1 – separation 2- you

            In other words, you know a bloke who knows a bloke who knows a bloke in caucus, and now you’re telling me?

      • Jbug 12.1.2

        Well someone has put it out there. My guess is Grant Robertson’s supporters. He’s the only one who has anything to gain from it. Doesn’t help Cunliffe’s cause at all having that public and certainly doesn’t help Shearer.

  13. 4wardthinking 13

    What’s telling is that the party hierarchy hasn’t denied the reporting of that figure – certainly no-one is saying it was unanimous or that it was less. Very telling.

    • the pigman 13.1

      Correct me if I’m wrong (and please link), but I don’t think it’s been published as fact anywhere reputable.

      • Colonial Viper 13.1.1

        Yes because seeing it on a bit of paper makes it true

        • 4wardthinking

          Sure, it’s only been in the newspaper and on blogs – but then if you think about it – that is not the kind of rumour that Shearer would surely want out there if it were incorrect. His trust lieutenants would surely be spinning an alternative truth if there was one? However, there has only been deathly silence.

        • the pigman

          No, but actually being published by a news organization with shareholders/some form of responsibility, as opposed to coming via Whalespew’s “tipline”, would make it something that Labour might feel compelled to respond to.

          I am not devaluing the legitimacy of blogs, but do you honestly think Labour should have to officially respond to every bit of black rumour that gets smeared on blogs?

  14. 4wardthinking 14

    No, but it has been reported by Fairfax too. Does that count as an organisation with shareholders? And not just once either. So I’m guessing they feel pretty confident about their information.

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