The other war of the polls

Written By: - Date published: 9:00 am, September 16th, 2016 - 28 comments
Categories: local body elections - Tags: , , , , ,

The Dominion Post has been given access to two polls telling slightly different stories about the Wellington mayoral race:

Two polls conducted in the past week have revealed Wellington’s mayoral race to be a three-way dogfight between Justin Lester, Nick Leggett and Jo Coughlan – but both polls tell different tales of how the election may play out.

Methodology nerds, sharpen your pencils, I guess?

Lester’s poll targeted “likely voters” – people who voted in the past two elections and would likely do so again this year. The poll commissioned by Leggett’s team quizzed eligible voters.

Leggett’s poll was conducted by Curia, David Farrar’s outfit. I’d assume they deliberately left the net wide to deliver the result their client wanted – I’ve eyerolled at more than enough of the surveys they’ve done for Family First, with questions quite clearly worded to deliver the kinds of “sex is terrible, gay people are evil, bring back draconian morality laws” headlines Bob McCoskrie likes to put on his press releases.

Lester’s poll could be equally flawed. But the ultimate conclusion – that it’s all going to come down to second and third preferences – means things are running as intended. That’s what I like about a preferential voting system. You don’t always get your perfect choice for candidate, but the collective, together, get the choice that pleases the most people overall.

Phil Goff probably wouldn’t be looking so secure of the Auckland mayoralty if Aucklanders weren’t burdened with good old First Past the Post – and because I’m a democrat, I have to say I think that would be a good thing, even though with the current field it would probably mean the Right would triumph with their stable of terrible, incoherent candidates.

If there’s a weakness in the current lineup of Wellington likelies, it’s that the odds seem stacked against outsiders. Practically everyone running for mayor is either currently on council or has been. The front-runners are the current Deputy Mayor, who has a major party behind him; a sitting Councillor, who unofficially has an even bigger political party behind her; and the Mayor of a neighbouring city, with a war-chest big enough to have his face plastered onto every available surface in the CBD (though apparently not enough to get humble hoardings out to the northern suburbs?)

I long for a Chlöe Swarbrick kind of run – and in Wellington she’d have a much better shot. Maybe in 2019 …

Voting papers get delivered shortly. If you want to support some local campaigns that could make a real difference, might I suggest signing up to Our Democracy at

28 comments on “The other war of the polls”

  1. whateva next? 1

    refreshing to see polls being scrutinised more these days, I would have guessed Legget’s was done by Curia (thus skewed), so thanks for providing details, and lets keep up the spotlight on these very powerful and effective tactics of manipulation for the power hungry elite

    • Bob 1.1

      “I would have guessed Legget’s was done by Curia (thus skewed)”
      Why would you guess it is skewed if done by Curia? They don’t seem to put National wrong:
      “Kiwiblog blogger David Farrar: “the best pollster in New Zealand”, says John Key. “He got his numbers right!””

      You know you are doing something right when your numbers match election night results…

      • Whateva next? 1.1.1

        When they broadcast loudly from towers every week that National have a “commanding lead” it acts as a form of hypnosis to the undecideds, yearning for status quo and stability.

      • George Hendry 1.1.2

        ‘You know you are doing something right when your numbers match election night results…’

        Rigging the election, maybe ?

  2. Phil 2

    Polls commissioned by, or directly affiliated with, campaigns tend to skew in the direction of the candidate paying the bill. With that in mind, the two polls are pointing in pointing in a similar direction – Lester probably leads by a modest amount.

  3. b waghorn 3

    Polling needs to be banned it’s corrupting democracy and let’s face it in the right hands it can sway a large % of voters far more than policy will ever do.

    • nzsage 3.1

      …and the problem is they are in “the right’s hands”

    • George Hendry 3.2

      “Opinion polls, which gauge voter intentions and attitudes, are an important part of elections coverage in most countries. Publication of opinion poll findings is a subject that arouses strong passions. Established democracies take quite contrary positions on the issue. Sixteen of the twenty-seven European Union countries, for example, ban reporting of polls, although timeframes range from a full month to just 24 hours before election day. Only three countries – Italy, Slovakia and Luxembourg – have bans of more than seven days. In many of the EU countries, legal challenges in recent years have reduced the time period over which the ban applies.”


      “With opinion polls, more than most other issues, much hinges on how professionally the findings are reported (for more information, see section on Media Professionalism). The Montenegrin position of imposing a total ban on the public media’s reporting opinion polls might find some favour in a situation where distorted reporting could materially affect the outcome of the elections.”

      – ACE, The Electoral Knowledge Network

      I appreciate Stephanie’s clear implication that Curia were hired because they would know how to word a poll so as to deliver the result their client wanted, ie a result decided in advance, not for information but for manipulation through selective publicity.

      Perhaps we are now a step closer to realising that all published polls commissioned by or on behalf of known parties could be similarly cooked up.

      And this will go on happening as long as enough people continue to discuss polls as if those polls were valid or authentic. The onus should by now be on anyone who continues to believe in published poll results to show why a government known for distorting so much other truth would not distort this as well.

      National – where lying is legal, or if not the law will be changed under urgency and retrospectively.

      • And yet- and this is the thing that astounds me- Curia is signed up to the “NZ political polling code” that explicitly bans push polling. If any of you ever get pulled by Curia and their questions sound pushy, please complain, because they and they clients are running around saying “Curia is legitimate, it’s a member of the NZ Research Association and nobody has complained.”

        Because nobody ever complains about polling organisations. 🙁

  4. Sirenia 4

    Nick Leggett is not a candidate of the left. He appears to have big backing from business including the roads and property development lobby. Also some fluffy pieces from media including the DomPost and Listener.

  5. Ad 5

    What’s Leggett’s delivery record in Porirua?

    • Sirenia 5.1

      He says Transmission Gully is his biggest achievement. It is a monster road still a long way off completion. It will dump a whole lot more cars in Wellington city. As for delivering for Porirua, I don’t know. It is an area with huge wealth inequity – lots of very poor, lots of very rich and not that many in the middle,

    • D'Esterre' 5.2

      Ad: “What’s Leggett’s delivery record in Porirua?”

      Judging by what Hartham Court looks like, not much. It’s a wasteland of empty shops, interspersed with moneylenders, $2.00 shops, takeaway joints and the TAB. There’s scarcely anyone around that area nowadays: just tragic. I imagine the citizens of Porirua would be glad to see the back of him.

      We certainly don’t need him in Wellington: imagine if he were to do that to the golden mile?

  6. weizguy 6

    And once again, the “not right wing” candidate, employs the services of the right.
    Funding by ACT
    Campaign by Phil “I hate Labour” Quin
    Polling by the PM’s favourite pollster.

    I don’t think Andrew Little’s intervention played out so well (not as bad as Celia’s), but it did expose the trojan horse campaign that Leggett (Parkin) was planning to run.

    • A fair amount of “labour” people use Curia, not just Justin Lester.

      I would understand if the rationale was to commision an internal “hostile poll,” where you go to someone with known sympathies to the other guys and ask them to poll for you so you see how bad it could possibly be. But that doesn’t actually appear to be what’s going on.

  7. Peter 7

    The polls don’t make much difference – the top three are all rubbish. Anyway, the winner, as with the current Mayor and Council, will be owned by Infratil, a small coterie of property developers, the Chamber of Commerce that only represents a small proportion of the business sector, a sycophantic Jackson/Weta cheer squad and the top table of the hospitality industry. At least the American voters only have to decide between two bad choices.

  8. The Chairman 8

    Justin Lester, Nick Leggett and Jo Coughlan won’t be getting my vote.

    • I would strongly consider at least giving Justin Lester your last preference vote, (because that way you make it very clear how much you dislike him) even if you don’t like him much at all, so that he gets a leg up over Nick, who consorts with the Act Party, and Jo, who also looks even worse.

      He’s not inspiring, arguably he’s not even good, but he’s someone who could be argued around to reasonable positions.

      I got the email from the Greens recently on their endorsement for Wellington mayor, and as expected it’s Lester, making basically the same points I just did. *shrug*

      That said, I’m not gonna criticise you if you don’t think you can do it. Votes do have to be earned and I totally understand if Lester hasn’t cleared your threshold of enthusiasm. I hope you’ll at least vote for Labour or Green candidates for your ward.

      • The Chairman 8.1.1

        I can assure you I will vote for who I deem will best represent my left leaning views. Whether they get anywhere is up to the majority.

        If that allows the Right to win, then perhaps the so-called Left need to up their game instead of hoping voters will vote for the best of two evils.

        • I absolutely agree that we needed a mayoral candidate who could actually garner some enthusiasm rather than someone who thought they deserved to inherit the position as Deputy Mayor.

  9. Sirenia 9

    I have been to several meetings and read all the literature. I like Justin Lester and will make a positive vote for him. He’s far more left than the others. He remembers where he has come from (poor single mother in Invercargill). Most of the mayoral candidates don’t support the Living Wage for council workers or contractors and think their work as mayor would be worth about 10 times an hour more than the cleaners or rubbish collectors. Justin was one of those who led the battle for the Living Wage for council workers against the power of the Chamber of Commerce and many councillors. He pays his employees the living wage after they had worked for him for 6 months and was one of the first employers to take it on board (he employs about 50 staff in his Kapai salad bars across Wellington).

    • The Chairman 9.1

      I support the notion of council paying a living wage. However, how it is funded is also important.

      Simply passing on the cost to ratepayers impacts negatively on other low income earners.

      I prefer something similar to Minto’s notion (offsetting it with restraint at the top within council).

      • Sirenia 9.1.1

        There are a lot of people in the council paid huge salaries and they go up every year. It wouldn’t cost much to cut the top salaries a bit to redistribute a few dollars more to the lowest paid. It also saves money in that it helps with staff retention and productivity.

  10. The Chairman 10

    Which is exactly my point.

  11. Anthony 11

    It’s worth remembering that the Mayoralty is only one component of the direction of a city: another vital leg of the stool is the overall composition of the Council. Indeed, having a centre left mayor is worthless if we end up with right leaning Councils.

    So, as you read your ballot info, check the credentials of the council candidates. Some of them are definitely wolves in sheeps’ clothing

    (Disclaimer: I’m standing for Council in in Chch)

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