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The strange story about the fake news poll results

Written By: - Date published: 8:21 am, August 17th, 2021 - 52 comments
Categories: act, greens, labour, national, political parties, polls - Tags:

Yesterday morning I woke up bright and early and checked my email.  One of the overnight emails was not good news.  Richard Harman’s Politik website announced the leaking of a new poll, one that had Labour on 38%, National on 31%, Act on 13% and the Greens on 8%.

This result, if it was true, would have presented a significant change in political support.  Labour and the Greens would have been ahead of National and Act, but only just.  The result would have represented a major switch from the last election which was less than a year ago.  Labour-Green would have shed 12 percentage points and National-Act would have picked up 11%.

The figures had been floated around for a while.  National’s former pollster tweeted them as random maths.

There was one problem dear readers, the figures were totally bogus.

Harman has confirmed (paywalled) that the figures are fake.  He explained that he had relied on two different sources for the leak.  This just goes to show how dangerous reliance on rumours can be.

Of course this is not the only rumour to have ever been circulated amongst the political chattering class.  During the Dirty Politics era the rumours were legendary and mostly completely untrue.

Our media ought to be more circumspect.  And be careful not to trust anything said by a Christchurch bricklayer who thinks the turn Ardern campaign is a very good idea.

52 comments on “The strange story about the fake news poll results ”

  1. lprent 1

    The thing that worries me was the second source. From Politik

    But the information had been spreading through the Wellington business community since Thursday and was being widely discussed in the capital.

    On Sunday, POLITIK was in discussion with a minor party leader about another matter when the question of the poll came up.

    The leader claimed to have more detail, some of which they provided. Ironically that information seems to have been based on the real UMR poll, which, like the fake poll, had ACT on 13; NZ First on 4.4 and the Greens on somewhere between seven and eight per cent.

    It’s on that basis — two usually reliable sources — the story was prepared.

    The circulation of this misinformation seems slightly ridiculous based on a primary source that just said this.

    The ‘mischief’ from Farrar is pretty typical. As a pollster himself and one who does political polling, he either

    1. knew that the polling was crap and wanted to indulge in pushing false facts, or
    2. is a shit pollster who doesn’t know much about his industry and wishes to bring into disrepute, or
    3. helped push out some rubbish data to a dimwit in the old dirty politics plausible deniability tradition.

    I’m leaning towards the latter. It does match with some of the rubbish that used to filter through Cameron Slater back before the 2008 election before he became toxic.

    • alwyn 1.1

      You list three options and then talk about the "latter" one.

      From my long ago school days I seem to remember that latter meant the second of two options. The Dictionaries I have just looked at seem to agree with me.

      So, please. Which of the three options you have listed is the one you think is correct?

      • Incognito 1.1.1

        The latter one.

      • Drowsy M. Kram 1.1.2

        Don't know which dictionaries you've been smoking Alwyn – perhaps you’re just pushing out "some [more] rubbish data" wink

        Definition of latter

        1 a : belonging to a subsequent time or period : more recent
        // the latter stages of growth

        b : of or relating to the end
        // in their latter days

        c : recent, present
        // affected by latter calamities

        2 : of, relating to, or being the second of two groups or things or the last of several groups or things referred to
        // of ham and beef the latter meat is cheaper today
        // of ham and beef the latter is cheaper today

        Well whaddaya know – seems it's OK to use 'latter' when referring to "the last of several groups or things". Any idea why the dictionaries that you just looked at were (apparently) lacking – confirmation bias maybe, or were they just very small?

        You're reliable alwyn, I'll give you that.

        • alwyn

          The only dictionaries I own are Oxford and Collins ones. Both limited it to 2 but time's change. As I said my school days were long ago. I'll bet youngsters like you use abominations like "youse" these days.

          I don't think "very small" is a relevant description of either dictionary though.

          • Incognito

            Could you please stop this, as you have very small credit left since your last stunt and IMO you’re just detracting and diverting from the OP and derailing this thread with your pedantries, without actually addressing anything or adding anything of substance, as usual. You’re heading for Moderation.

            • alwyn

              That was a perfectly serious question. The options 2 and 3, as stated, are quite different things and I wanted to know which he meant.

              I thought that if I didn't identify why I couldn't decide the one he meant I would probably get a comment like "The latter one", rather than a serious answer.

          • Drowsy M. Kram

            "youngsters like you"

            Such flattery! I can read, write and ‘Google search’. The latter skill is very useful.

          • Andre

            … "time's change" …

            I do so enjoy seeing an insufferable asshole trying to masquerade as a mere pedant tripping over their own prolapsed rectum.

            • In Vino

              I personally rather resent alwyn trying to steal my role as prime pedant. Mind youse, I find alwyn's pedantry in this case to be pitifully pettifogging, whereas I see my own pedantry as pertinent and penetrating.

      • I Feel Love 1.1.3

        You were the first to spread the bogus numbers (which added up to 100)here Alwyn

    • Sacha 1.2

      What's the bet we see more of this underhand laundering as the factional jockeying on the right increases? Continued cosy access journalism in the Thorndon bubble and media's failure to address their role in #dirtypolitics has left the door wide open. Wish Hager had named some names.

      • Gosman 1.2.1

        What do you mean by "media's failure to address their role in #dirtypolitics"? What would you expect to happen on this?

  2. Incognito 2

    Please see my note in the Moderation Post.

  3. Enough is Enough 3

    It really is the sympton of the times the biggest political news story in any given cycle is the result of a poll.

    We have now got to the point where rumours of a poll result are news.

    Intellectual critiques of government or opposition spin do not exist. But we get sensational headlines whenever a poll (two years out from an election) is releasesd shows sweet f all.

    To me it has shown that, for many, politics is just like sport. People gloat based on whether their team is ahead of the other. Its no longer (or may never have been) about whether a side is delivering on promises and making the country a better place. It is more about whether the team we hate is behind us in the polls.

  4. Gabby 4

    So were the two sources a liar and a gullible fool? Or two liars?

  5. Gosman 5

    To be fair it was a single mainstream news source and was swiftly corrected when the actual numbers became apparent. The mnedia has always been prone to rushing out stories which later turn out to be incorrect. I'm not sure this is anything out of the ordinary or sinister.

    • Stuart Munro 5.1

      Swiftly corrected?

      A supposedly professional journalism team put this out as fact and they still have jobs?


      What would Brian Priestly have said?

      • Gosman 5.1.1

        How inaccurate was the report really? It had Labour 5 points lower and the Nats about 3 points higher. The main issue is that the numbers around Labour were significantly out. The remainder of the report was broadly accurate. Again why is this a massive problem considering not many other MSM picked up on this?

        • Gabby

          The dishonesty doesn't bother you? Unexpected.

          • Gosman

            I have no idea if there was deliberate dishonesty. The information was certainly factually inaccurate. The fact it was so hasn't really changed anything substantial given the fact the actual poll results were reported shortly afterwards and the media outlet reporting the incorrect one issued a correction and an explanation.

        • Stuart Munro

          This is a major problem because the RWNJ author of this fiction sought to purvey a lie through the media – whose responsibility is to air the truth and to debunk malicious fictions of this kind.

          How inaccurate was it really?

          Enough to see anyone that printed it demoted – and the responsible editor carpeted and given a formal warning.

          We understand that dirty politics is the only hope of the Right, having neither policies that the public can support, nor respectable competencies in implementation, nor human qualities that rise above repellence. But our charity does not compel us to swallow their lies.

          As a sometime libertarian you too ought to be forcefully rejecting this venture, if that is you actually believe in the supposed ideological underpinnings of your party – or are you now so corrupt that any lie that might advantage you will do?

          • Gosman

            What in particular about this situation is any different to any other news organisation jumping the gun on a story when the facts are not fully known?

            • mpledger

              What is your point? That because some people do bad things with limited (or perhaps unobservable) consequences then everyone can?

            • Sacha

              It's a poll. The whole 'story' hangs on the numbers.

              • Gosman

                Not really. A proper story about polls hangs on trends. In that regard the trends in the original story aren't much different when the actual data is used.

                [Defending the indefensible that is DP practices makes you look like a disingenuous troll who’s sucking up too much oxygen here.

                Take the rest of the day off, again – Incognito]

            • Stuart Munro

              mens rea

              This was not a casual error but a deliberate attempt to deceive.

  6. weka 6

    wait, is Coltheman the primary source?

  7. Anne 7

    So, the Opposition, assisted by some in the media who should know better, have now stooped to generating fake poll results.

    Dirty politics it was… still is… and will continue to be.

    • GreenBus 7.1

      Desperate stuff. Maybe the fake poll was intended to lift spirits on the rude right but it's dirty politics yet again. Swing 'em from the yardarm.

  8. Gabby 8

    So Coltheman can expect some interview requests I guess. Lisa Owen will be gedding it sorded.

  9. Stephen D 9

    What will be interesting is if any of the msm who picked up this story publish a disclaimer.

    I’m not holding my breath.

    • Gosman 9.1

      What do you mean a disclaimer? Do you mean like this? https://www.politik.co.nz/2021/08/16/how-politik-was-duped-by-fake-news/

      • Incognito 9.1.1

        No, he meant “msm who picked up this story” and that’s what he said. Funny that, when people say what they mean and mean what they say …

        • Gosman

          I did not see any MSM reporting of this outside the Politik website. David Farrar is not MSM.

          • Incognito

            Neither is Politik.

            Stephen D did say “… if any …”, which doesn’t necessarily mean that any did actually pick it up, but he may clarify.

            • Gosman

              I was being generous with my definition of MSM with Politik I grant you but that highlights that this is very much a minor media matter. I did not see anything in Stuff about this.

              • lprent

                Sure, and if you remember back to the mid 2000s (with your ever convenient selective memory), this was how the dirty politics brigade on the right ramped up their echo chamber.

                Get someone making up some rubbish. Get it published around the comments blogs and the odd journo anywhere. Amplify it to a 'controversy', then get it published in the main stream media.

                If it gets challenged anywhere then do the exact tactic you are doing. Laugh it off as people overreacting to a joke or something innocuous.

                Hi Mr dirty politics 2. Are you deliberately being an offensive DP arsehole or are you just a nice naive simpleton patsy…

                I personally am not prepared to go through another round of DP.

          • Sacha

            Stuff's credulous gallery crew did a story.

            • Infused

              Stuff isn't news

              • Incognito

                Well, this is a new variant: DP is not DP if it is spread on and by Stuff because “Stuff isn't news”.

                I think that I have to stomp harder on DP enablers as Moderator here.

  10. coreyjhumm 10

    Agree but The next election is going to be much closer than anyone likes to believe on our side.

    The rise of act and 2020 labour voters going to act is fascinating, I really hope the answer to this from the left isnt to label act voters Nazis or bigots and give us our own basket of deplorables moment. The constant demonization of Seymour as some hard right bigoted looney tune when he comes to campus just makes him more popular, he's not a bigot he's pro gay, he called comics sexist for doing deep voices when they portray Helen, he's just a neoliberal whose anti big govt and pro free speech, on the neoliberal side we can destroy him in a debate but the demonization and shutting down when he doesn't say anything bigoted makes us look weak and turns him into a martyr. We can win voters back by showing that we too on the left aren't all pearl clutching censorship fanatics. which we are not so we ought to stop acting like we are

    As for nzf 3.% in newshub, 5% in umr and 4% in this umr , Winston is most likely going to be back in parliament and I wish him the best of luck in picking up as many right votes from going to nat/act as possible. There's also plenty of lefty's who are socially conservative who don't like the "woke" aspects of this govt and we need an nzf party to stop them from drifting right… Besides a vote for nzf means a lab/nzf govt or a nat/nzf govt that stops the nats from being psycho neolibs

    As for labour, I'm not renewing my membership. I'm really angry and a lot of people are, there is an arrogance in the party atm, maybe not in the mps but certainly I've experienced it from the membership who are becoming increasingly upper middle class and condescending towards anyone who cares about working class issues. The failure to seriously address housing and mental health is a disgrace and i personally had to wait four months after a suicide attempt to see a counselor… And I'm one of the lucky ones… I don't care about excuses… It's been four years sort it..

    National are a mess but the gave gone up 3% since the election on average , if they get a new leader they will immediately get mid 30s but where that vote comes from is the problem, if they were smart they'd allow act to go after the culture war stuff and go after the middle as much as possible, they should say they won't undo any welfare reforms and come up with some serious mental health and housing policies and only attack the govt on housing,health and economic policies. If they go after the center while act go after the right and libertarian votes and stay high the next election is going to be really really close .. luckily for the left nats are too dumb and would rather go after the right votes other than middle votes.

    The labour party needs to fix it's coms, it needs to rule out criminalizing political opinion in the hate speech (crazy how the pm can rule out a cgt but not criminalizing political opinion)

    They need to focus soley on the vax roll out, HOUSING, no more excuses pull all the levers available to you there's no point in getting unpopular by doing nothing get unpopular by doing something which I doubt would make labour too unpopular, mental health again no more excuses, working and middle class bread and butter issues

    And make Duncan Webb the minister of justice immediately… Faffoi is a mess everytime he speaks get freaks out the country and the pm has to come out and address what he's said and it makes her look bad.

    Lastly stop putting badly written laws that have five year jail terms in them and telling everyone they'll be perfected in select committee… Select committee is for ironing out laws not rewriting them.

    Stop scaring the crap out of middle nz they are starting to think we're not interested in putting crims in jail but that we want to put mean people in jail. Stop defending the gangs . . As a person who grew up in the hood who had a gang burn down an old ladies house cos she was selling dope on their terf stop defending them and just move on… That kind of stuff angers working class voters … All the defenders of the gang policies seem to live in lovely neighborhoods where gangs don't operate and people in neighborhoods like mine are too scared to say anything… But they don't like it… If it works it works but what I don't wanna see are rich liberals saying they trust the gangs more than the nats and defending gang activity… That's such a bad look

    Finally ditch the arrogance… Labour has this insanely cocky attitude at the moment because they have a full majority and think the nats can't win… The nats can always win and usually do win… The mocking and putting down of the nats, we're only a few interest rises, a slump or a covid outbreak from opposition. The nats can always win the next election… Inaction, excuses, arrogance can absolutely turn enough off and there may not look like there's any leaders in nationals caucus but if you asked people five years ago they'd say the same about labour and noone, noone thought Jacinda would be as popular as she became even though she was always a potential leader, you can't predict it. All national needs is a moderate who doesn't say stupid things and keeps on issue and they could take 5% min of the middle.

    Lol my ride is almost over thanks for keeping me company, but what I'm trying to say is… Labour is bleeding votes… National and act and nzf are rising nats slowly but still… It is time for a bit of a reset and to ditch the arrogance and idea we can't lose because we absolutely can, we're the left we're experts at losing.

    I want this govt to be reelected but if it doesn't sort housing and the excessive ammounts people are paying for rents and the rental shortage when people on decent wages in chch are turned down by fourty houses before they can get one if they are lucky and have to pay half their wages for it there's a massive massive problem.

    Housing not just ownership but rental (which is my entire generations issue us millennials have given up on ownership but all govt talks about is ownership) and mental health ..these are the things labour will be judged on in 2023 and if things don't get better we don't deserve to be reelected.

  11. McFlock 11

    Anyone who regards farrar as a source has a significant gullibility problem.

  12. Jackel 12

    Push polling is an underhanded tactic to sway voters and influence the political process, that's why it's particularly egregious.

    Both Clark and Key's poll numbers used to bounce around in the range we are seeing with Ardern's here and they still won elections. Of course the right wing media are beating it up into something more as they do.

    I suspect the real reason for the drop in support is that people are a little nervous about interest rates at the moment.

    • Graeme 12.1

      I suspect the real reason for the drop in support is that people are a little nervous about interest rates at the moment.

      There's also a grieving process going on for everything we've lost due to covid. People's attitudes, social patterns and spending are all over the show, and everyone is so grumpy and on edge. We've been seeing this over the counter in the Gallery where one week you can't put a foot wrong, people are happy and enjoying themselves, and we're making sales. The next week, just say hello to someone that walks in the door and you get your head bitten off.

      Also, when we're making sales the stock profile of what we're selling is quite different to pre-covid. We've got a diverse range of NZ artists / crafts people and sales would reflect that diversity, now we'll have runs on an artist or line, and just that artist / line, then interest will move to another artist / line. I'd expect the same patterns will apply politically as well.

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