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“The greatest polling error in primary history”

Written By: - Date published: 7:44 pm, March 9th, 2016 - 114 comments
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Bernie Sanders has just won the Michigan Democratic primary. Polling guru Nate Silver of 38degrees said that given that Sanders was behind by an average of 21.3% in all polls leading  up to the vote, if Sanders won Michigan it would count among “the greatest polling errors in primary history.”

And it’s not just the pollsters who got it wrong. It’s a massive setback for Hillary Clinton’s predicted progress towards coronation, sedulously and and boringly promoted by the mainstream media. Silver’s methodology relies on aggregating all polls and adding some other variables, so he can’t be blamed. But the Washington Post should know better as the Young Turks point out here. Stuff has also been taking the Post feed.

It’s worth thinking about why the pundits and the pollsters got it so wrong. They will now have to recalibrate and backtrack, although some will now no doubt turn to attack  Sanders in order to prove they were right all along.

I think they miss one very obvious and very important indicator foreshadowed in an earlier post. Google “Sanders rallies” and the headlines speak of overflow numbers in the thousands and an air of excitement. Google “Clinton Rallies” and likely as not you find a picture of Hillary with a mike to her mouth and a few people in the background, or a sermon from Bill to their volunteers. The feel is summarised here.

It’s worse in Britain. Don’t expect the Guardian or the Independent to follow where Jeremy Corbyn is actually meeting voters – for that you have to go to the local papers such as this description of a recent meeting in Wales.

I think the problem with the pundits, the media, and the SpAds is that they don’t know or recognise good political organising. Sanders’ approach is superb, as shown by the way he has been able to out-fundraise Hillary with small donations and use social media to activate and energise supporters so they become proselytisers. In no small part that is because Sanders is himself a superb communicator, and a much more effective campaigner than the Clinton campaign was expecting. It certainly helps that like Corbyn he doesn’t have to ask himself – or a pollster – what he thinks.

This American election campaign gets more fascinating by the day, and there is lots more to come. The old playbook is being thrown out, and the new one constantly being written and rewritten. A frmer colleague would say “watch this space” – to which I would add “look and learn.”

114 comments on ““The greatest polling error in primary history” ”

  1. Colonial Viper 1

    Pointing directly to the failure of the status quo and having answers worth listening to is what Sanders and Corbyn are doing. That’s the teachable moment.

    • Magisterium 1.1

      Bear in mind that on almost every issue Sanders, in New Zealand terms, is a far-right extremist.

      • happynz 1.1.1

        Sanders supports free tertiary study at public institutions. He is for single-payer (health care for all without the crushing insurance premiums). Sanders wants a financial transaction tax. Yeah right. He’s a rightie alright. :eyeroll:

        • weka

          I wasn’t sure what Magisterium’s comment even meant. Just a wind up? Typo and he meant far-left extremist?

      • ropata 1.1.3

        New Zealanders are falling over themselves to vote for a bankster and his white collar cronies in crime. We love ponzi housing bubbles and laundered money, no questions asked, and we don’t seem to give 2 shits about polluted rivers or AGW. We still have a bunch of Rogernomes and assorted neoliberals at all levels of government, and sabotaging once proud left wing parties. Workplace deaths are worse than the road toll and we are dismantling the tattered remnants of social welfare. We have record homeless and inequality. We have a massive artificial housing crisis, caused by a tiny elite who enjoy crapping on the lower classes.

        NZ is lurching to the Right faster than you can say “reagan-blair-rogernomics”.

        I wish we had Bernie leading NZ, but Kiwis would never vote for him. We love Key’s bullshit and tomfoolery (and selling our heritage for a few beans) too much.

        • weka

          Only 30% ish of eligible voters voted National last time.

        • UncookedSelachimorpha

          Ropata – I also wish for a New Zeland Bernie.

          “Kiwis would never vote for him” – but Bernie is showing that a candidate that doesn’t fit with the established neolib nonsense and not liked by the commercial media…can be popular. Maybe in NZ such a person could pull out the big pool of non-voters?

          • weka

            I think they would. A Sanders, or even better for NZ, a Mhairi Black.

            Mike Smith nailed it with this, “It certainly helps that like Corbyn he doesn’t have to ask himself – or a pollster – what he thinks.”

            1. good, strong speaker.
            2. know your values and be able to speak them from the heart.
            3. have good policy.

            All the other stuff too, but those 3 things are essential.

            • Bob

              Interesting, based on these 3 points (IMO):
              1. Yes
              2. Nope
              3. Nope

              1. Nope
              2. Nope
              3. Nope

              1. Nope
              2. Yes
              3. Yes

              NZ First:
              1. Yes
              2. Yes
              3. Yes

              NZ First and the Greens should be leading the polls! Too many people in New Zealand just vote for who their parents voted for, or who they have ‘always voted for’.
              The issue you are missing with both Corbyn and Sanders is that so far both of them have only won the vote of those that are already on their side of the political spectrum, I am really interested to see what happens when Corbyn hits the General Election (maybe Sanders too…)

              • weka

                NZF don’t get the liberal vote because of their anti-immigrant positions and use of the race card. Lots of people don’t trust Peters. Don’t know why they don’t get more of the conservative vote, probably fear of Labour govt.

                The Greens say their internal polling tells them that 25%+ of voters want to vote Green. So why the discrepancy? In the past I think some of it was misunderstanding about MMP and so they voted Labour out of fear that National would get in if they didn’t. The GP still have that hangover of them being Morris dancers and tofu eaters who can’t run a country, although I think Russel Norman brought them a lot of mainstream credibility (hence the vote increase) and that should continue with Shaw. There is still a big gap between what the MSM present about the GP and GP actual policy.

                As for the political spectrum, isn’t Sanders picking up some of the non-vote? And wouldn’t you expect left wing campaigners to not get right wing votes? The left in NZ is only going to win again when it gets people wanting to vote left actuall voting for them again. Hence the need for good policy.

                • Bob

                  That is all fair analysis apart from “The left in NZ is only going to win again when it gets people wanting to vote left actuall voting for them again”, the most votes Labour has ever received under MMP was the 838,219 they got in the 2002 election (38.74% of the total vote). National received 1,131,501 (47.31% of the total vote) in the 2014 election.
                  Based on this, even if Labour won back the votes they had lost (which looks like they have mainly gone to the Greens), they likely still wouldn’t be able to win without pulling votes back off National.

                  Due to the political landscape in NZ the left would either need a Corbyn and a Sanders (Labour AND Greens), or they need to win votes directly from/have the public turn on the current Government.
                  At the moment the latter looks the most likely.

                  • ropata

                    Totally agree, and the only way the electorate will turn on the Nats is if the economy goes south like the USA in 2008. unlikely as housing is propped up by foreign buyers (kiwis don’t have that sort of cash). The Aussie banks seem unlikely to keel over, the AU economy is a lot more stable than our dairy/tourism low skill service economy

                  • weka

                    Bob, I think we might be talking about different things. Yes, Labour need the swing voters. I wasn’t counting them as right wingers (the ‘other’ side of the spectrum).

                    Scotland is probably a better example than the US or England.

              • Tautuhi

                New Zealanders don’t have the ability to think for themselves, they follow what the media and their friends tell them.

        • saveNZ


          “I wish we had Bernie leading NZ, but Kiwis would never vote for him.”

          Yes they would.

      • UncookedSelachimorpha 1.1.4

        Magisterium – Sigh…what garbage. See response to identical wrong assertion here:

        Roy Morgan: NAT 48.5% (up 1.5%), LAB/GR 41.5% (unch)

          • Crashcart

            Yes Bernie voted against one gun bill that would have allowed any one who sold a gun that was then used in a crime to be charged. He has consistently been for back ground checks and sensible gun laws. Hence his D rating by the NRA. But yea keep using the same stick Hilary has to try and beat the dead horse.

            • joe90

              Bern and the NRA are mates from way back.

              BURLINGTON, Vt. — A few days before Election Day in 1990, the National Rifle Association sent a letter to its 12,000 members in Vermont, with an urgent message about the race for the state’s single House seat.

              Vote for the socialist, the gun rights group said. It’s important.

              “Bernie Sanders is a more honorable choice for Vermont sportsmen than ­Peter Smith,” wrote Wayne LaPierre, who was — and still is — a top official at the national NRA, backing Sanders over the Republican incumbent.


              As a candidate in 1990, Sanders won over gun rights groups by promising to oppose one bill they hated — a measure that would establish a waiting period for handgun sales. In Congress, he kept that promise. The dynamic served as an early demonstration that, despite his pure-leftist persona, Sanders was at his core a pragmatic politician, calculating that he couldn’t win in rural Vermont without doing something for gun owners.


    • Jones 1.2

      Agreed… the question is: will it be learned?

  2. Esoteric Pineapples 2

    The trouble is the Democrat super delegates who make up around a third of the delegates and answer to no one but themselves and support Hilary Clinton.

    • Jones 2.1

      Don’t be so sure that all the super delegates will still be supporting Hillary come the end of the primaries. They can change their votes right until the end.

    • Andre 2.2

      It’s not quite that bad, superdelegates are about 15% of the total (717 of 4765). But Hillary now has about 460 to Sanders’ 23. Fortunately, they are allowed to change their minds whenever they want.

    • weka 2.3

      Here’s the consolation, however. Unlike elected delegates, superdelegates are unbound to any candidate even on the first ballot. They can switch whenever they like, and some of them probably will switch to Sanders if he extends his winning streak into more diverse states and eventually appears to have more of a mandate than Clinton among Democratic voters.

      Clinton knows this all too well; it’s exactly what happened to her in 2008 during her loss to Barack Obama. According to the website Democratic Convention Watch,1 Clinton began with a substantial advantage in superdelegates, leading Obama 154 to 50 when New Hampshire voted on Jan. 8, 2008. Obama narrowed his deficit in February and March, however, and overtook Clinton in superdelegates in mid-May. By the time Clinton ended her campaign on June 7, 2008, Obama had nearly a 2-to-1 superdelegate advantage over her.


  3. ropata 3

    Deliberate disinformation campaign by corporate media shills — where have we seen that before? The MSM is exposed as a tool of the 1%. The “Salient” debacle was a prime example of what happens when publications step out of line.

    Wealthy and powerful elites have no qualms about bullying the less privileged and lying to the public.

  4. swordfish 4

    Clinton’s lead in the Michigan polls has ranged from 10 – 37 points over recent weeks. Four polls put her more than 30 points ahead.

    Sanders seems to have done unusually well among both African-Americans and more affluent Democrats (ie not losing to Clinton by as great a margin among these demographics as in other states), while continuing to blitz the white working-class. And there’s some suggestion that the inability of some polls to call cell phones resulted in under-sampling of one of Sanders’ key demographics – the under 30s.

    Amused to see NZ Blairite, Phil Quin’s, latest tweet (about 6 hours ago): “Clinton will win Michigan, albeit not with the thumping margin she enjoyed in Mississippi.” Like many a good Blairite, Phil’s been relentlessly taking the piss out of both Sanders and Corbyn and (even more so) their supporters over the last 8 or so months. Amusing, too, that just as Sanders was making unprecedented inroads into the Black vote in Michigan, Quin (again, just 6 hours ago) tweeted: “I think it’s time to point out that Sanders’ performance among African Americans is a disgrace.”

    Clinton, of course, is still very much odds-on favourite.

    • weka 4.1

      Why can’t polls in the US phone cell phones?

      • swordfish 4.1.1

        Automated Phone Polls can’t call cell phones (I don’t think it’s a technical issue, I think Federal Law only permits them to call land lines). Quite a few of the polls are automated and they tend to be unreliable, some would say notoriously so.

        There’s also the question of whether pollsters included enough Independent voters in their samples, given that Michigan is an open primary state and Sanders is much stronger than Clinton among Independents.

        Amusing that a few days ago Nate Silver predicted Clinton had more than a 99% chance of winning Michigan.

        • swordfish

          There’s also some suggestion that Michigan State Law requires all polls to be restricted to landlines.

          It’s possible that Independents weren’t polled at all, which, if true, could be the major factor, followed by the land line understating of Younger voters.

          According to Exit Polls, Sanders overwhelmingly dominated among the Independents (as in previous Primaries). This all suggests that he may end up out-performing his poll numbers in all those states scheduled to hold open primaries.

          But, as I say (and as Lanth has pointed out), Clinton still very much odds-on favourite.

      • Paul Campbell 4.1.2

        Unlike NZ it doesn’t cost more to call a cell phone, instead the owner pays for all of the call, even from unwanted telemarketers – so unsolicited calls like these were banned by federal law.

        Many home phones are also on the federal “do not call” list (why do we not have one of these?). Just about anyone with a little bit of technical understanding can do this in 30 secs.

      • Paul Campbell 4.1.3

        Unlike NZ it doesn’t cost more to call a cell phone, instead the owner pays for all of the call, even from unwanted telemarketers – so unsolicited calls like these were banned by federal law.

        Many home phones are also on the federal “do not call” list (why do we not have one of these?). Just about anyone with a little bit of technical understanding can do this in 30 secs.

  5. AmaKiwi 5

    At the Flint, Michigan, Clinton-Sanders debate.

    Moderator to Sanders: Donald Trump has called you a communist.

    Sanders: That’s one of the nicer things he’s called me.

    – – – – – –

    Sanders on mental health: If we are elected we will be spending a lot more on mental health. If you’ve been watching the Republican debates you understand why.

    – – – – – –

    Winning an election requires many things: organization, money, media coverage, etc. Being an entertaining speaker is very important. Hillary doesn’t do it for me. Tom Cruz is a speaking disaster. Who is winning the “best entertainer” awards? Trump and Sanders.

    • Macro 5.1

      Sanders on mental health: If we are elected we will be spending a lot more on mental health. If you’ve been watching the Republican debates you understand why.

    • esoteric pineapples 5.2

      Nothing like humour to humiliate your adversary and get under their skin

  6. Lanthanide 6

    “And it’s not just the pollsters who got it wrong. It’s a massive setback for Hillary Clinton’s predicted progress towards coronation”

    No it wasn’t. 538 has a “Who’s on track for the nomination” chart. http://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/election-2016/delegate-targets/democrats/

    Hillary needed to win 86 delegates tonight – she won 94.
    Sanders needed to win 80 – he won 69.

    He’s still missing all of his targets whereas Clinton has exceeded all of hers.

    All this boosterism of talking up Sanders like he’s just about to breakout and beat Clinton are fanciful and aren’t related to the actual facts on the ground – Clinton has the lead, and it is GROWING as each state votes.

    • weka 6.1

      The Democratic National Committee includes 712 “superdelegates,” usually elected officials and party leaders, whose votes at the convention are not bound to a candidate based on primary and caucus results. Because superdelegates can change their preferences before the convention, we are not including them in our delegate targets.

      • Lanthanide 6.1.1

        Yes, I know that. To suggest that the superdelegates would change to Sanders, when Clinton has won the majority of pledged delegates, is fanciful.

        The only thing that’ll derail her is the email server blowing up, or another very serious scandal coming out of nowhere.

        • weka

          So when this http://thestandard.org.nz/the-greatest-polling-error-in-primary-history/#comment-1144090 happened last time, it was within the norm of voting patterns?

          • Lanthanide

            Not sure what you’re trying to say.

            Obama won the lead in pledged delegates in 2008, and the superdelegates saw the writing on the wall and so switched to support him.

            Clinton already has the lead in pledged delegates. Unless Bernie somehow takes it off her, based solely on 2008 results we should expect the superdelegates to stick with Clinton.

            • weka

              I was asking if that situation in 2008 had happened before or if it was a new dynamic.

              • Lanthanide

                I’m not a historian on US primary history. I suggest you google, or go on Twitter and ask one of the 538 experts.

                • weka

                  Sure, I don’t know either. My point is that if what happened in 2008 was an anomaly, why can’t that happen again with a different dynamic?

                  • Lanthanide

                    1. No one said it was an anomly
                    2. If you’re repeating what happened in 2008, then Clinton is going to keep her superdelegates this time because she’s beating Sanders in the pledged delegates

                    • weka

                      Can you please listen to what I am saying?

                      1. the super delegate issue means the primaries aren’t as straight forward as present, eg 2008

                      2. if 2008 was unusual/hadn’t happened before, then it tells us it was an upset.

                      3. if an upset happened then, it can happen again, even now.

                      4. it might be a different kind of upset than 2008 (so your point 2 is redundant to what I am saying).

                    • Lanthanide

                      I was listening to the best of my ability; what you were saying was unclear to me.

                      I think referring to 2008 is kind of irrelevant. The super delegates are free to make up their mind – that literally allows them to do anything for any reason at all. They don’t need “precedent” in order to take any particular action; they can take any action they desire based on the situation they’re presented with.

                      Clearly the reasoning from 2008 will not help Sanders now. I don’t think any particular historical happenstance is ‘predictive’ of the current situation, it would only show that something might have once happened in the past. The take-home message would just be “in that particular situation, the superdelegates exercised their prerogative to vote for the nominee they preferred” – but that’s not telling us anything we didn’t already know.

                  • Andre

                    weka, it looks like a simple question. But the answers are not simple. Not least because of ever changing primary rules. Trust me, you’re much more likely to get answers useful to you out of google than here. Even considering how well-informed Lanthanide and others here actually are.

                    And I completely agree with Lanth, either Bernie has to win a majority of the pledged (elected) delegates, or something really smelly to come out of current investigations, before Hillary’s superdelegates will consider switching.

                    • weka

                      Thanks Andre. I’m not actually asking for answers, I’m making a specific point because I think election predictions (as opposed to guesses) are problematic if they lead voters in certain directions.

                      I’m also not saying that I think Sanders will win. I’m saying that it’s possible, and looking at that possibility tells us more than assuming Clinton will win.

                    • Lanthanide

                      @weka: I’m not saying that Sanders can’t win, either. But I’d only give him a 5% chance of winning.

                      And while his win in Michigan might be the first step in his path to victory, there are still plenty of other indicators that he’s doomed. His win in Michigan might have raised his chances to 6% instead of 5%, but the incessant cheerleading going on around these parts that results in any good news for Sanders being blown out of proportion needs to be called out for what it is – which is what I’ve done.

                      I personally would prefer Sanders win, but I know that he’s exceptionally unlikely too.

    • Pasupial 6.2

      If you examine that chart, you’ll see that Sanders exceeded the 538 postulated targets in; Colorado, Oklahoma, Vermont, Kansas & Maine (plus meeting expectation in New Hampshire and Nebraska). The problem is that Clinton has been doing it more often so far, though not every time.

      Less than 30% of pledged delegates have been allocated thus far. March the 15th (our next Wednesday) will have the next big slew of results and get the contest up to nearly halfway done. Even if Sanders does better from now on he certainly has a lot of ground to make up. With Superdelegates, I assume that a tie would gift the candidacy to Clinton. His team really needs to be aiming at 55% which will be tough unless Clinton spectacularly implodes.

      The nailbiting part of today’s vote for me was actually in Mississippi, where it looked iffy whether Sanders would get over 15% (16.5% now with 99.9% in). If he hadn’t reached that threshold, then all of that state’s pledged delegates would have gone to Clinton (as happened to her in Vermont).

      • Lanthanide 6.2.1

        He beat his target in:
        Colorado, by 2 delegates
        Oklahoma, by 1 delegate
        Vermont, by 2 deleagtes,
        Kansas, by 4 delegates,
        Maine, by 1 delegate

        Clinton beat her targets by:
        Iowa, 4
        Nevada, 3
        South Carolina, 7
        Alabama, 9
        America Samoa, 1
        Georgia, 9
        Massachusetts, 5,
        Minnesota, 1
        Tennessee, 11
        Texas, 22
        Virginia, 10
        Louisiana, 4

        Hardly a compelling story in Sanders’ favour.

        • Pasupial

          But these results do in fact contradict your assertion that Sanders was; “missing all of his targets whereas Clinton has exceeded all of hers”.

          Importantly, these are not his targets, they were conjured up through some obscure demographic projections by the 538 analysts. Personally, I think that Sanders has to win by more than 50%, so the delegate targets for Sanders are really too low if anything.

          • AmaKiwi

            Bernie Sanders was the most unlikely of people. He did what only the craziest left wingers fantasized might be possible.

            A aging outsider from the back woods unleashed youth and blue collar workers’ outrage against big business and obscene wealth. He is scaring the piss out of a lot of entrenched power.

            Whether or not he becomes president, Bernie Sanders has re-set the direction of the American political agenda.

            NZ, what are we waiting for?

            • weka

              All our lefty politicians think they have something to lose.

              • AmaKiwi

                They do!

                If the election was held today, I would vote Peters rather than Little.

                Little plays his cards so close to his vest I have NO idea what he stands for on anything.

                These are time for passion, not aloofness. Wake up, Andy, or lose it.

                • weka

                  Peters is not left wing though.

                  • Colonial Viper

                    labels may matter to activists and pundits; and I dare say NZF has far more socialist policies than Labour on some accounts.

                    • weka

                      I vote Green so my perspective on what constitutes a left wing policy is likely to be different than someone such as yourself that’s been a Labour party member ;-p

                      Of course NZF has left wing policies. They also have right wing ones and centrist ones. Labour is centre left (by today’s standards). These are not difficult concepts and are useful shorthand when having political conversations. It’s not that hard to shift language when talking to people who use different words.

                      Irrespective of all that, I wasn’t talking about NZF and I wasn’t talking about policy. I was talking about Peters (because Ama said they would vote for him). Pretty sure he doesn’t consider himself left wing. And know for an absolute fact that he has supported right wing govts in the past. Most commentary I see saying that won’t happen in 2017 is based on his antipathy towards Key, not National’s politics barring a few obvious policies.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      But who really cares about labels? Lots of former Labour Party members support Winston and support NZF at the ballot box, regardless of whether or not Winston might call himself “left.”

                      Yes Winston has supported right wing governments before, and if he goes with Labour next time around he might very well be supporting another one again. (tongue in cheek there…but not really).

                      As for the Greens being Left, I agree that their policies are well and truly Left of anything else in the NZ political spectrum at the moment.

                      But it’s not really a Left wing party if it has minimal support from and traction with the working class and the under class.

                    • weka

                      “But who really cares about labels?”

                      It’s not labels, it’s language that we use to communicate. If we want to communicate effectively then we need to pay attention to that.

                      “Lots of former Labour Party members support Winston and support NZF at the ballot box, regardless of whether or not Winston might call himself “left.””

                      Former Labourites can vote for whomever they want. If they vote for Peters they can’t say it’s a vote for a left wing govt. That’s all I was pointing out above. Just be honest about.

                      “Yes Winston has supported right wing governments before, and if he goes with Labour next time around he might very well be supporting another one again. (tongue in cheek there…but not really).”

                      Except there are very real differences. You think labels are irrelevant and yet here you use them to position Labour as x when it’s not actually true.

                      “As for the Greens being Left, I agree that their policies are well and truly Left of anything else in the NZ political spectrum at the moment.

                      But it’s not really a Left wing party if it has minimal support from and traction with the working class and the under class.”

                      That’s a nonsense lol. I come from a sold upper middle class family who all vote on the left (or occassionally in the centre), including for the GP. Pre the Greens they would have voted Labour.

                      As I’ve pointed out ad nauseum, it’s Labour that’s abandoned the working class and under class. The GP have some pretty good policies for them but it’s not their responsibility to take over where Labour are failing.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      Well, weka, I don’t know where to go with the discussion from here.

                      If the establishment Left have it together and have a vision for the future which will bring on board more than a small minority of Kiwis, then I haven’t seen it yet.

                    • Liberal Realist


                      NZF are far more socialist that Labour on most accounts!

                      Labour sold their collective souls when they let Douglas roger NZ’s economy and social fabric. Labour are neoliberal national lite, there’s actually very little policy difference between them from the macro point of view.

                      Labour may not be as overt as National with their nasty social policy but they’re similar. Let’s not forget that Labour kicked off the gutting of the welfare state and continued the programme during Clark’s tenure.

                      NZF on the other hand (IMO) formulate their policy on the basis of public interest. Eg. slow down immigration, stop selling dwellings and farms to foreign interests, due diligence on ‘trade’ deals and so on. Labour flipflop and are full of seat warming dino’s such as King & Goff.

                • Colonial Viper

                  And look out for Grant Robertson. He’s always pulling strings from backstage. As an example, (IMO) Robertson’s fingerprints are all over the Auckland Rich Chinese House Buyer media strategy that Labour pulled off last year.

                  • b waghorn

                    It worked though didn’t it, national had to act and forcing people from over seas to get a ird number means nz government has data on how many foreign investors are in the game.

                    • chris73

                      If you believe that annoying a large percentage of chinese voters in Auckland, laying open Labour to charges of racism and cutting off a decent amount of donations is a positive outcome then I sincerely hope that Labour has plenty more wins just like this one

                    • Colonial Viper

                      chris73 –

                      And because the Labour caucus doesn’t have a single Asian MP in it they utterly neglected that the ethnic blow back from Asians might encompass more than just the Chinese.

                      I reckon Indonesians, Filipinos, even Indians and Pakistanis will have noticed Labour pointing the finger and taken note accordingly.

                      Especially at Labour’s hypocrisy – the last Labour Govt was more than happy to ride the economic wave of Auckland house price rises when it suited them.

                      Even though it made Auckland housing thoroughly unaffordable for most workers in most suburbs.

                  • Lanthanide

                    The silly thing about that is Labour apparently lead the charge (or at least didn’t deflect the media) with the phrase “Chinese-sounding names”, which only made them sound simplistic and racist.

                    They should instead have said “names that are statistically of Chinese descent” and stuck with that phrase and rejected any framing by the media otherwise.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      It was amateur hour from select parts of the Labour caucus, Lanth.

                      Shame, if they’d only had NZ based party members of Chinese decent that they could have consulted with on the strategy first, they might have done it right.

                  • swordfish


                    I’d be interested in tapping your knowledge of Asian (Chinese through to Indian) voting patterns in NZ over, say, the last 3 decades.

                    Very little polling or survey information on Party support among the various Asian communities, but my feeling (mainly from anecdotal evidence and little bits and pieces of polling info here and there) is that the long-term Chinese and Indian communities (those whose forebears arrived, say, pre-1960) have disproportionately favoured Labour in the past. And given the marked tendency toward self-employment, that would make them something of an exception (the self-employed have, like farmers, long constituted the bedrock of Tory support).

                    New Zealand Election Study data suggests the Greens in recent years have done unusually well among those voters who profess a non-Christian religion (and I suspect that includes ethnic minority migrants, not just, say, New Age Hippy types and Pakeha Born-Again Buddhists).

                    My assumption is that Asian voters began moving to the Nats – along with the rest of NZ – in 2008 and that, hence, there’s now much greater diversity of political affiliation (no doubt amplified by Labour’s Chinese House-Buyer strategy).

                    Presumably, the more affluent, recently-arrived Asian voters are more likely to move in the Tory direction (eg Deep Blue Botany).

                    But, then again, recently-arrived Asians eligible to vote are also, of course, among those most likely to stay at home on Election Day.

                    • Anne

                      My own past experience campaign-phoning people of Asian origin is that most of them don’t vote. The main reason as far as I can tell is lack of English and no knowledge of our political system. Many of those who do vote appear to be vulnerable to manipulation by the National and Act parties – the line being that National is the party of hard workers and if you want to work hard and get ahead you need to vote National. A young Chinese member in my electorate confirmed this is a problem and he was doing his best to counter them but he didn’t have enough back-up support.

                      This was at the time of the last election since when the young man has not been seen at meetings etc. It doesn’t mean he is no longer trying but he is not doing it through the local Labour Party.

                    • swordfish

                      Cheers, Anne (no reply button on your comment, so I’ll reply to myself and hope you see it).

                      Yeah, that certainly confirms the data on non-voters which suggests the more recently-arrived members of the Asian community tend to feel divorced or alienated from the NZ political system and are more likely than any other demographic (even including young Maori and Pasifikas) to stay home on Election Day.

                      My assumption is that there’s a bit of a divide between long-established Chinese families (more pro-Labour) and the more affluent section of newly-arrived Chinese and other Asian migrants (trending Tory).

                      At the same time, I have a feeling that recently-arrived (post-coup) Fijians of Indian ethnicity may – like older Indian families – still prefer Labour (albeit a little less so since 2008).

                      But, like I say, much (though not all) of these hunches are based on anecdotal evidence. Polling data = fairly meagre.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      Hi swordfish

                      I would be pleased to be as helpful as I know how, which will definitely be limited in some ways as I am just a sample size of one from a specific background.

                      As an opening comment I will say that the diversity of political opinion, outlook and awareness amongst “Asians” is utterly massive.

                      Further, for a lot of “Asians”, politics is not some benign harmless thing you turn off when the news comes on. Without putting too fine a point on it, leaders get deposed, shit gets blown up, billion dollar nepotism is common, family members are placed incommunicado under Internal Security Acts, helicopters crash in mysterious circumstances, journalists end up floating in the gutter, and you’re lucky if your so-called body guards aren’t the ones to pull the trigger on you one day.

                      In a NZ context however you have to then apply the self selection filter. Speaking about the Chinese immigrants – which is a ridiculously broad group to generalise about, sort of like saying “this is what you need to know about people from the continent of Europe” this analysis would go something like:

                      – Are they here in NZ making a long term commitment.
                      – Are they here in NZ because their first second and third choices turned them down.
                      – Are they here in NZ as an extended holiday/getaway/bug out pad
                      – etc.

                      And given the marked tendency toward self-employment, that would make them something of an exception (the self-employed have, like farmers, long constituted the bedrock of Tory support).

                      Speaking more of small business owners rather than simply the self employed: the Chinese have never required a Tory government to pass laws to help sort out unruly workers and unionised labour.

                      The Chinese traditionally handle this need socially by employing family members and other people that they already know well through their own networks.

                      On the other hand these same Chinese employers often have bitter memories of themselves having been economically exploited and treated like shit by other Chinese and/or by European colonials.

                      Further if you run a market garden or a takeaway shop, business is better when ordinary people can afford your goods. And you tend to live in the same street as your customers do.

                      So you vote Labour.

                      Presumably, the more affluent, recently-arrived Asian voters are more likely to move in the Tory direction (eg Deep Blue Botany).

                      One reason the Chinese diaspora tends to do well over time no matter what country it ends up in is that they tend to pick up on what is required to get ahead socially and economically in a society.

                      At the moment at least, overtly supporting Labour in NZ is not a way to increase your standing amongst the Chinese community, nor with wider NZ society in general.

                      Quite the reverse, in fact.

                      And some have taken to heart the idea that you don’t get involved in politics, instead spend your energy studying or getting ahead in your career, or building your business – because politics is more trouble than it is worth.

                      New Zealand Election Study data suggests the Greens in recent years have done unusually well among those voters who profess a non-Christian religion

                      Some left/pro-Labour activists seem vehemently secular, espousing the point of view that religion is some kind of insanity only for the gullible and naive.

                      For people from societies which have thrived for millenia via successful religious, spiritual and superstitious beliefs, almost all of which exalt the non-material, the Greens are going to be a better choice.

                    • swordfish

                      Cheers, CV. I really appreciate it.

                    • ropata

                      Thanks for the perspective CV, telling peoples stories breaks down a lot of misconceptions

                • saveNZ

                  +1 “Little plays his cards so close to his vest I have NO idea what he stands for on anything.

                  These are time for passion, not aloofness. Wake up, Andy, or lose it.”

                  Even if others in Labour who are traditionally left stand up with passion it would help, Labour as a whole gather some sort of identity.

          • Lanthanide

            “But these results do in fact contradict your assertion that Sanders was; “missing all of his targets whereas Clinton has exceeded all of hers”.”

            Yes, when I made that statement I was looking at the graph, which reports under/over on a daily basis, rather than a per-competition basis.

            On each day that a primary/caucus has occurred, Sanders has failed to meet his targets, even if on some of those days he beat a target by a tiny margin in 1 state, he lost it in the others by a greater margin.

  7. pat 7

    ” aging outsider from the back woods unleashed youth and blue collar workers’ outrage against big business and obscene wealth. He is scaring the piss out of a lot of entrenched power.”

    Golden Dawn
    Le Pen
    the SNP

    would suggest its more a case of a growing demand for change rather than the man (or woman)

    • Colonial Viper 7.1

      The situation in NZ is not (yet) as extreme as in many areas of these countries…so I wonder if Kiwis are looking for a substantial shake up to the status quo yet.

      • pat 7.1.1

        or they haven’t been presented a radical option…yet.
        you may have noted that list is not entirely what would be considered Left Wing

        • Colonial Viper

          IMO traditional right and left wing political positions belong where they belong: in the 19th and 20th centuries.

          And the electorate is getting this too. Not only are they voting for more radical candidates – they are changing the talking head political pundits’ assumptions about what they are capable of.

          Look at Trump as an example – someone whom the Bible Belt evangelical voters understand is not that good or sincere a Christian (especially compared to Cruz or Rubio) – yet they are voting for him in droves.

          • pat

            can’t disagree with any of that

          • weka

            And yet Corbyn and Sanders are both positioned clearly on the left. Your analysis doesn’t make that much sense I’m afraid. Sure there are groups of people now who don’t think in traditional left/right ways. That doesn’t mean nobody does.

            • pat

              “Sure there are groups of people now who don’t think in traditional left/right ways. That doesn’t mean nobody does.”

              Don’t believe that was ever asserted….there are numerous examples of muddled and non traditional position even within that short list I posted…and you may also note that not one of those mentioned have yet succeeded in implementing their manifesto, with Tsipras being the only with the opportunity to date…
              The main thing to take from it as I see it, is not to assume that the change, when it comes, will not necessarily be the socialist nirvana many appear to expect.

              • Colonial Viper

                Don’t believe that was ever asserted….there are numerous examples of muddled and non traditional position even within that short list I posted

                Yep. And it goes to fundamentals as well. Socialism and the traditional left developed at a time of increasing resource exploitation, increasing industrialisation, increasing fossil fuel use, the rivalry between labour and industrial capital.

                Another country to exploit, another oil rig to drill, ever more consumption.

                That was the strategic environment from the 1800s to the 1970s.

                Our strategic environment is totally different now and the Left has not kept up.

                (The Right has also screwed itself since the 1970s).

      • AmaKiwi 7.1.2

        “The situation in NZ is not (yet) as extreme as in many areas of these countries.”

        Absolutely. But we could be getting there very soon with the collapse of milk prices. I sense disappointment bordering on anger amongst the 25 to 35 age group. The impossibility of ever owning a house plus overhanging debt and a tax system which subsidizes their elderly landlords.

    • AmaKiwi 7.2

      “would suggest its more a case of a growing demand for change rather than the man”

      Absolutely. But a movement needs spokespeople.

      Honi Harawira has fire in his belly.

      • pat 7.2.1

        ‘Absolutely. But a movement needs spokespeople.”

        it does but until it happens I don’t think anyone knows what it looks like

      • Wayne 7.2.2

        Hone Harawira might be able to lead a protest party. He could never seriously challenge to be the leader of the country. Sanders and Corbyn were always part of, or connected to a major political party. That is why they can get to the positions they have.

        Harawira was the leader of a party that could barely get 1% in the last election.

        While people on this site might be passionate about Mana, it is a delusion to think it could become a major political force.

        The latest diary prices won’t change that fact. Or indeed have anything like the level of economic impact that some people imagine. Our economy is more diverse than is generally realized.

        You have to look to Labour, or the Greens , or even NZF for a Corbyn/Sanders type leader. Who is the closest that New Zealand has to the Corbyn/Sanders phenomena? It would have once been Jim Anderton, but he is no longer a political force. Is there anyone in those parties now?

        Winston Peters is too populist and too dismissive of the academic and intellectual world to fulfill the role that they do. I cannot imagine a large number of tertiary students suddenly being swayed by Winston. Arguably he is more of a Trump analogy.

        Perhaps Jacinda Ardern will have her day yet. She is in the right party. She can easily sell a left message in a way that will appeal to many New Zealanders. But she will need more iron, and fewer puff pieces in women’s mags.

        • Andre

          Interestingly, neither Trump nor Sanders became members of the party whose nomination they are seeking until 2015.

        • Stuart Munro

          It rather depends how humiliating National’s economic collapse is. On present performance Hone is definately in with a chance. There is also a fair chance of prison for Key and English – long overdue imho.

        • saveNZ

          @Wayne – not true.

          “Harawira was the leader of a party that could barely get 1% in the last election.”

          Internet Mana got over 30% MORE party votes than BOTH ACT and UF combined and MORE votes than the Maori party and look what power those party collaborators with National are wielding for the good of the people. (sarc).

          ACT New Zealand 16,689 0.69
          United Future 5,286 0.22
          Māori Party 31,849 1.32
          Internet MANA 34,094 1.42

          (source http://www.electionresults.govt.nz/electionresults_2014/partystatus.html

          InternetMana was the 6th biggest political party by party votes. It was the left that collaborated with National to nail them out of parliament.

          If there was an election tomorrow InternetMana would be in parliament in my view.

        • Kiwiri

          You almost had a chance to be taken just a tad seriously for once until you wrote your final paragraph

  8. saveNZ 8

    +1 especially…

    It certainly helps that like Corbyn he doesn’t have to ask himself – or a pollster – what he thinks.

  9. shorts 9

    Paddy Gower would call this a game changer

  10. Ad 10

    Hillary better sweep Florida, California, Illonois, new York and New Jersey or I’ll be preparing to eat my words.

    • Phil 10.1

      On March 15th, Democrats vote in Florida, Illinois, N. Carolina and Ohio. NY and NJ are still a long way out.

      In each of the March 15th races Clinton’s polling lead is as much, if not more, than she had in Michigan. I’m confident that those numbers will hold up and Clinton will win all four. Keep in mind that polling of the Republican race in Michigan was pretty accurate, and on both sides the polls have been pretty good right through the campaign.

      I read the Michigan result as a reminder that polling is hard, and sometimes the industry gets it wrong. Nate Silver wrote today about a ‘perfect storm’ of factors that contributed to the error. Things like:
      – Polling companies didn’t poll after the Flint debate, which Sanders apparently “won” quite convincingly
      – Sanders’ support among minority voters was much stronger than has been seen anywhere else in the primary campaign
      – Youth turnout was stronger than expected
      – Clinton supporters voted in the Republican primary, thinking Clinton had the race sewn up.
      – Michigan hasn’t held a primary ballot like this is a long time. ’08 was a scheduling/legal fiasco, while in ’00 and ’04 it held a caucus, not ballot, primary.


    • arkie 10.2

      Hope you’ve worked up an appetite for adjectives.

  11. Adrian 11

    I was on a stand at the Newtown Festival last Sunday , 70,000 people and a large number of American tourists, mostly young and all backing Sanders. There was also a Democrats stand with voting booth and very pro Bernie. Cool to see.

  12. aerobubble 12

    I think a lot of analysis is missing re US election. Trump should he get kicked from the ticket could run as a third party candidate. Ditto Sanders. So come the conventions the parties are mindful they have to placate Trump, Sanders, etc if they aren’t selected. Clinton may pick Sanders as VP. Its why the minions are wanting to win their state to get into the hustings, its all to play for.

    • Andre 12.1

      Anyone planning a serious run as an independent (such as Bloomberg, but he’s decided not to) needs to decide that now in order to get on the ballot in all states. Enough states have deadlines before or just after the conventions that anyone going independent that late could only be a spoiler. Which Trump might do, but Bernie would be very unlikely to.

  13. Michael 13

    Don’t bother following Nate Silver and 538, and other wonky numbers-focused types like him.

    They don’t understand that Bernie is not just leading a conventional, data-driven campaign, but a social movement. Social movements don’t conform to conventional expectations of polling and the effect endorsements from establishment figures have.

    • Phil 13.1

      Social movements don’t conform to conventional expectations of polling and the effect endorsements from establishment figures have.


      Howard Dean led a social movement in ’04 that looked and felt a lot like Sanders’ support does now. He had little support from the establishment, and performed exactly in line with what polls suggested.

      Internet/Mana was supposed to be the Great Left Hope, but fell way short of the hype and expectations of the social movement its most devout followers championed. However, its polling numbers in the lead up to the election were reasonably accurate.

      Corbyn’s polling showed he was well ahead of the competition and, sure enough, he won by about the margin that was expected.

      Bottom line is: if you have to choose between (a) polls and data and (b) pundits talking about ‘movement’, to decide how a candidate is doing…. be aware that only one of those two options has a long history of making people look like fools.

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