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What the polls actually show

Written By: - Date published: 9:10 am, July 23rd, 2012 - 21 comments
Categories: national, polls - Tags:

‘National’s made a complete cock-up of this and everyone’s pissed, but it doesn’t seem to be hurting them in the polls, where they’re still strong’. You can find that stereotype sentence in the media all the time, particularly in the coverage of the weekend’s National Party conference. But it might be time to do some fact-checking, because they are being hurt in the polls.

Here’s how National has polled in the past year, with the election result as a comparison to check the accuracy of the polls.

The polls appear to overrate National by a long way. Not one of the 30 polls conducted in the four months prior to the 2011 election had National as low as it got. They averaged 53% – 5.7% more than National got. Even if you allow for the noticeable decrease in the last two weeks thanks to the Tea Tapes, the polls were still far to generous – the last day polls averaged 50.3%, 3% too high, which is statistically significant – the chance that all four polls would be between 2.2% and 3.6% too generous to National if they were accurately registering National’s support in the population is minute.

Let’s turn to post-election. Only two of the 18 post-election polls show National at or above where the same poll showed it on the last day before the election. The 46.8% post-poll average is 3.5% down on what these polls were showing National at on election eve. Each of the polls shows a downward trend in the post-election polls too – they didn’t drop at the election and then stabilise.

The trend lines are interesting too. They show National losing 0.017% to 0.027% of the vote per day over the last year (0.5% to 0.8% per month, in more accessible terms). The Herald is the outlier here. The others all have basically the same angle of descent for National’s support, and it works out at about 9% per year.

So, this mantra that is being blindly repeated that events aren’t hurting National in the polls is wrong. All the polls that over-rated National’s support by a crucial 3% at the election are now showing it down too low to form a majority for most of its agenda – remember that ‘easy victory’ actually leaves the government with a one-seat majority on many issues (and the holder of that seat could be in jail this time next year). If they’re still overrating it, then things are even worse for National.

A bit of Maori-bashing isn’t going to fundamentally change the direction the tide is heading. And there’s plenty more bad, vote-sucking news for the government to come over the next to years (if the government lasts that long).

No wonder John Key is getting so grumpy and National is going so negative with its silly ‘Planet Labour/Planet Green’ line. I don’t know what planet the Nats are on, but it’s experiencing rapid climate change.

21 comments on “What the polls actually show”

  1. Lanthanide 1

    Yip, the media are really quite blithe.

    “Polling the same as they achieved in the last election”, but no conscience to actually check what the previous polls predicted about that election, and what that might mean for these current poll results.

    Even Roy Morgan spouts the same crap.

    • Kotahi Tane Huna 1.1

      …and yet even with a tame media that buys its own lubricant, the National Party still can’t stop losing votes. Imagine how badly they’d do if they weren’t the beneficiaries of this welfare.

      • Lanthanide 1.1.1

        I think ultimately it will just make things worse. At the moment, marginal National supporters are complacent because they feel safety amongst the herd. Once they start to drift lower, the media will become more alarmed, which will make them look like a sinking ship and accelerate the decline.

  2. Stephen Doyle 2

    When will the tipping point come? And the whispers about a new leader begin.

    • Carol 2.1

      Interesting, this final comment in Nat cheerleader, John Armstrong’s opinion piece on the Nat conference:


      Most of Armstrong’s article is upbeat about National’s alleged confidence in its approach in the face of relatively small protests at the weekend. However, the final couple of sentences indicate some insecurity on the Nats part, fearing a Labour-Green coalition as indicated by their combined strength in recent polls.

      National seems to have turned a corner after its buffeting of the first six months of the year, but one thing is different: backing for Labour and the Greens now makes such a two-party coalition government a distinct possibility.

      Not so long ago, the Greens and National were playing political footsie. In Key’s eyes, the Greens were “green Greens” back then. Now they are “red Greens” who would block every initiative to move the country forward in economic terms.

      It is an old tactic. National is trying to scare middle-ground voters away from Labour by portraying the latter as hostage to the Greens. The Greens may no longer fit the loony-tunes stereotype National is trying to recreate for them.

      But that won’t stop National trying.

    • aerobubble 2.2

      When Labour grow a backbone.

      Bemused. So someone has this rotary engine put on top
      of a old holden chassis, and it takes a huge burst of
      noise to get started up, and shakes the hell out of
      their residential driveway, especially since it takes so long
      for them to get out and in. I was wondering, has parliament
      just made stupid legal when it comes to vehicles. I know I’m
      not going to have to pay for the damage the individual
      is doing to their driveway, maybe their landlord will.
      Do landlords screen those renting from them for petrol
      headedness? Well I suppose we all pickup the bill of National
      relaxation of vehicle compliance rules, as roads wear out
      faster, rates go up, costs for the few who need to have their
      vehicle not only humming loudly but shaking hell out of the roads.
      Noise is energy, so its more costly to blast a 100m radius
      with car noise, and its certainly even more expensive on the
      budget to shake hell out of the roads, inefficient engines
      cost drivers money. But ratepayers, utility companies, don’t need
      the pothole, and broken pipes, water leaks, do we? Why councils
      don’t investigate noise/vibration nuisence any more is the most
      surprising thing, but then when council lost 35 million on the V8’s
      is it any wonder staff maybe pro-petrolheadedness.
      Let’s not even get started on ACC payments for hearing loss.
      For want of a horse, the battle was lost. For want of council
      noise control inspectors of motor vehicles on private property,
      rates go up, utility prices go up, vehicle ACC levies up and
      landlords costs up. National genius in allowing old vehicles to
      be upsized, how frigging brilliant.

      Why isn’t Labour defending the many who don’t live in gated
      communities, or live in rich streets, but who have to live with
      this new surge of petrol heads who merely increases costs
      for everyone, councils, landlords, utility companies?

  3. iPredict is forecasting that National will get 40.1% of the vote – see https://www.ipredict.co.nz/app.php?do=browse&cat=321

    • Te Reo Putake 3.1

      Here’s hoping! I would have thought low to mid forties was more likely because their core voters turn out no matter what, but I’d settle for 40.1% quite happily.
      What’s their internal polling saying, Matthew? Are you in the loop?

    • gobsmacked 3.2

      Matthew’s line about a change in the threshold to 4% (which he’s repeated across all media) is a lot more intriguing than many yet realize.

      Rigging the changes to MMP could be National’s Electoral Finance Act. They might be on safe ground if they simply implement the review recommendations in full – but they’ll be in trouble if they just pick and choose, to suit Key/National’s chances at the next election.

      What if there’s a recommendation to abolish the one-seat threshold? Will National throw Banks and Dunne under the bus? And what if Key overplays his hand (as Clark did) and tries to change the election rules without a consensus?

      Of course, all this would be moot if Labour get high-30’s plus, which they damn well should. All they need to do is go out and communicate a positive alternative, to people who are already pissed off at the government. Sadly, there’s not much sign of them doing that.

  4. Tracey 4

    At some point we have to accept that while we don’t like the Pm or find his words twisted and often untrue, the majority still believe in what he says. I don’t believe that will change until the Pm decides he doesn’t want to play anymore, takes his knighthood and joins the celebrity/cocktail circuit.

    Even English contradicted him over stopping migration to Australia and no one reported on it. Or challenged English or Key on it. Like it or not (and I am deeply offended by marketing/branding masquerading as politics ) it’s worked for them and I can’t see what will change it unless the media become bored and want a more challenging election next time. When power becomes about marketing the party with the most money will win. That’s not the greens or labour. Anyone notice that the media have stopped going to Banks or pasting his press releases the way they did Hydes?

  5. Afewknowthetruth 5

    Pissed means intoxicated.

    Pissed off means annoyed.

    Were they intoxicated or were they annoyed?

  6. captain hook 6

    ipredict that it wil become illegal to make a book on poltical outcomes.
    ipredict that the standard will stop ipredict shilling on the standard.

  7. Richard Down South 7

    Alot depends of course, who you ask, and where…

  8. Steve Withers 8

    Tracey: “The majority” didn’t vote for Key and National at any time. But I definitely agree the largest minority is whose who either don’t understand what’s he’s saying and trust him anyway…or those who do understand what he is saying and choose to believe any of it.

  9. Dr Terry 9

    Many have made an idol of Key which they do not want to see humiliatingly “fallen”.The fall will not come until he treads too much on the toes of the comfortable upper-middle-classes. This was the error of the proposed changes in education. When Key became aware of the backlash, he quickly withdrew – and, predictably, was applauded for his “humility”, with “all immediately forgiven”. How long will it take for his supporters of the middle to substitute anger for adoration? Who knows when this will occur (the time might be lengthy yet)? “O judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts, And men have lost their reason” (Shakespeare quoted out of context).

    • gobsmacked 9.1

      Essentially governments (and PMs) have been voted out for one of two reasons (or combination thereof) …

      (1) Old, tired, even imploding
      (2) New kid on the block.

      In 1984 and 2008 there was a New Kid – an Outsider, untainted by the past – for people to believe in. In 1990 and 1999 the leader of the Opposition was an Insider, but the gov’t was so discredited that voters just wanted to chuck it out, and so they were prepared to see Bolger/Clark as an acceptable alternative.

      Labour’s tragedy (or stupidity) is that they picked the Outsider and then reverted to their Insider mentality. So they’ve effectively negated Option (2), and are now relying on Option (1).

      If Shearer could lead and inspire (the swing voters and/or the base, or anyone at all) then he would add 5-10 % to Labour’s polling in no time. Instead, they’re hoping for natural attrition over the term, and successful post-election negotiations. As a tactic, it might work, but it’s painfully passive. And it will all come to naught if Winston takes a National bauble …

  10. gobsmacked 10

    For the underlying story of the polls, check out this breakdown of the issues …


    Scroll down to the bottom and you’ll see the detailed polling on which issues are of concern to the voters. Note that the economy ranks way ahead of race/Treaty/Maori issues.

    In the absence of good economic news, National resort to scratching itches – a new one very week. But that won’t work long-term. So Labour’s answer should be to focus on a positive alternative, and not get side-tracked. A Finance spokesman who can articulate this would be a good start.

  11. Mike Boon 11

    I don’t seem to see too many ‘undecideds’ in poll numbers these days. Surely those are also counting against National as well…

  12. Colonial Viper 12

    Could someone overlay Labour’s poll trends on the same chart please. Oh yeah, you can’t because Labour’s numbers are too low to make the scale.

  13. Tom 13

    It seems the National strategists are taking it seriously.

    Two weeks or so before the National party conference saw the replay of the Rabobank and Credit Union ad’s on free TV featuring carrying another person or a humanoid blimp on one’s back.

    In both cases the theme is that of supporting an unwanted burden – and reminiscent of soft power strategies utilised in colour revolutions of recent times.

    One has to seriously question the sources of National’s strategic advice.

    Who do they think we are, Albania ?

    The tragedy is that there is a serious need for a party promoting socially responsible indigenous new venture creation, rather than pandering to wanky think-tank fantasies from another place and time.

  14. Sir Cullen's Sidekick 14

    “if the government lasts that long” – best joke of the year.

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