The polls and petrol prices

Written By: - Date published: 1:43 am, September 8th, 2008 - 19 comments
Categories: economy, labour, polls - Tags:

Updating a post from a few months ago, here’s how Labour’s Roy Morgan poll numbers are going compared to the price of petrol since the last election (the price of petrol axis is inverted, lower line = higher price). The trend continues, when petrol prices go up support for Labour goes down and vice versa. Labour hit a nadir at the end of June/start of July when the price of petrol touched $2.17 and has recovered since the price started dropping. 

But it also looks like the relationship between petrol price and support for the Government is weakening as we head into the election campaign proper. Now, people are starting to pay more attention to the choices on offer; the general malaise inflected by petrol prices isn’t reflexively taken out on Labour as much as it was earlier this year. Despite petrol still being at near-record prices, Labour’s support is ticking up sharply.

It really has gone all wrong for National in the last month and a half. Their policies – both those announced intentionally and those that have come out via leaks and recordings – have been rejected by the public, the infighting is becoming more and more public, the launch of the campaign has been a insipid disaster, and economic conditions have turned against them too. Meanwhile, Labour’s buyback of KiwiRail has been popular, its tax cuts start in three and a half weeks, and it is clearly keeping powder dry for the campaign proper. 

Can John Key really steal defeat from the jaws of victory?

19 comments on “The polls and petrol prices”

  1. T-rex 1

    This relationship occurred to me afresh yesterday.

    And I wasn’t looking at petrol prices – I was looking at exchange rates. Looking, and thinking “ohhhh cock”.

    You’d think this might finally make people go “hey, that train set was actually a pretty sharp idea, lets electrify the whole thing and get electric locomotives while we’re at it”.

    You’d think.

    But then you’d remember that lots of people are dumb, so you’d go buy some tequila.

    Go team smart people! (which, despite my negativity, seems to be growing day by day. Good stuff!).

  2. Iva Pinion 2

    Careful. Correlation does not necessarily equal causation.

  3. Phil 3


    That’s an interesting alternative – certainly more so that the “weakening relationship” between petrol prices and Labour’s prospects (Steve; that graph shows absolutely nothing…)

    Given that the exhcange rate, at its core, is a measure of relative inflation rates between two economies, I’d expect a negative correlation (higher exchange rate = lower approval for Labour) was that what you saw?

  4. Stat 4

    Steve, all this does is illustrate that sampling, (polling), is only a sample, therefore there will be variances. If the variance of a sample of voters over some period of time were to also be similar to the price of fish would you publish a post on that?

  5. outofbed 5


  6. burt 6

    A man enters a bar and orders a drink. The bar has a robot barman.
    The robot serves him a perfectly prepared cocktail, and then asks him, ‘What’s your IQ?’
    The man replies ‘150.’
    And the robot proceeds to make conversation about global warming factors, Quantum physics and spirituality,
    bio-mimicry, environmental interconnectedness, string theory, nanotechnology, and sexual proclivities.
    The customer is very impressed and thinks, ‘This is really cool.’
    He walks out of the bar, turns around, and comes back in for another drink. Again, the robot serves him the perfectly prepared drink and asks him, ‘What’s your IQ?’
    The man responds, ‘About 100.’
    Immediately the robot starts talking, but this time about league, Holdens, racing, the new BIG Mac, tattoos, Nicky Watson and women in general.
    Really impressed, the man leaves the bar and decides to give the robot one more test. He heads out and returns, the robot serves him and asks, ‘What’s your IQ?’
    The man replies, ‘Err, 50, I think.’
    And the robot says…real slowly. ‘So……………ya gonna vote for Helen again?’

  7. Anita 7

    That graph boggles my mind 🙂

    Partly it’s the lack of time labelling, partly it’s that it doesn’t actually look like a correlation to me. That kink at the end is the only thing that looks like a correlation, and I suspect that would make more sense if the dates were on there.

    Even if there is a correlation (and I really can’t see one in the graph) I doubt there’s a direct causal link. Some kind of economic health indicate might show a correlation with either or both.

  8. Iva Pinon. You’re quite right that correlation doesn’t necessarily equal causation. But take a look at the first post – it has both Labour’s support vs petrol price and Bush’s support vs petrol price – both track very closely. And I’m sure that if we were to do the numbers for other governments around the world, the same pattern would be seen – I know that in Australia Labor’s numbers fell in April-July as petrol prices can up and now that they are dropping Labor’s support is recovering…

    …and it makes sense to believe the price of petrol matters to people, it affects how wealthy they feel, and blame tends to be reflexively laid on the Government when people feel worse off. It also makes sense that the relationship would weaken as an election approaches. So, we have a hypothesis and the evidence matches what we would expect to see.

  9. Anita. I would argue that the price of petrol is a good approximation for household economic health, in the short term at least.

  10. outofbed 10

    Steve you have to agree that post from Stat
    “What’s that got to do with the price of fish” was very funny

  11. yeah, that was a good cal.

  12. Anita 12


    I think that the price of petrol is one that affects it, yes. It’s not the only one, arguably interest rates should be more direct (but also more lagged_.

    I can still only see a correlation in the last um… 10th? of the graph. Earlier on the lines seem unrelated to me, plus a number of times petrol gets dearer and the labour polling gets higher and vice versa.

  13. yl 13

    this graph does not surprise me,

    i think that it has more to do with the government of the time rather then the labour party.

    When prices for petrol go up the blame tends to be passed onto the government.

    So based on the graph i hope that petrol drops back to $1 a litre.

    Ahh the good old days when a big mac combo was $5

  14. Muldoon Magic 14

    [lprent: goodbye Rob.]

  15. Where did you get the idea to overlay those two SP?

  16. There does appear to me to be a weak correlation. It would be interesting to overlay the two with interest rates, if someone has the time 😉

    Funnily enough, it does have a bit to do with the price of fish, as those trawlers burn a lot of oil, and they’re really feeling the pain at the moment, and passing the cost on to consumers (of course overfishing is a cause too).

    Oil price rises increase inflation, and increase interest rates as the Reserve Bank’s mandate is to reduce inflation with the blunt instrument of the OCR. Reducing our dependence on imported oil with; less roading, high levels of public transport investment, and higher fuel efficiency standards, would have helped the average New Zealander. But that will mostly have to wait it seems.

  17. illuminatedtiger. i saw a similar graph of bush’s support, it’s in the first post.

    That middle period, where the price is running up and Labour is running down is where I see the strongest correlation (note, the two axises have the same % range). And, course, the rapid drop Labour underwent when oil spiked and that turned around at the same point that petrol prices started to fall.

  18. mike 18

    As I already have a fuel card SP you’ve just me the second reason why I’m not concerned if petrol goes through the roof.

  19. Jared 19

    Thats an absolute crock of shit if ever ive heard such an assertion. National’s policies have been rejected??? Yeah Right.
    Labour’s buy back of the white elephant that is kiwirail popular? What exactly have you been smoking? The buy back has been far from popular, with the public learning the actual cost, conveniently far more than Labour is willing to admit.

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