It ain't over 'til it's over.
A few thoughts on that poll.
For many last night’s Newshub poll will have made for grim reading. It suggested a result with National and ACT having sufficient support to form a coalition, without the need for a third party.
The nightmare scenario for Christopher Luxon which has been hanging over him, is that he’ll win but need the support of both David Seymour and Winston Peters. Such an outcome would be problematic as David and Winston give the impression that they really don’t like each other.
We’re given to believe that this is down to policy or personal differences, but mostly I think it’s the fact that both parties are seeking the disgruntled, and the redneck, vote and are in direct competition. If it’s not Seymour saying he wants to blow up Pacific people it’s Winston declaring that Māori are not indigenous to our land.
Even on last night’s numbers there still remains the very real possibility that Winston gets across the threshold. Then once you reapportion the seats, and National has to appoint a speaker, you’re back to the same situation where National and ACT do not have a clear majority.
David Seymour is well aware of that scenario and has increasingly been making noises that he may refuse to go into government with National if ACT don’t get what they want, only entering into a confidence agreement.
If I was Christopher Luxon I’d be coming out in the media today and ruling out Winston once and for all.
Bury him while he has the chance, because three years of Seymour and Peters fighting over the controls, issue by issue, is surely not what he wanted to be PM for.
Luxon should be reaching out to those people considering Peters and saying if you want a more moderate, kinder government than one where ACT has a lot of power, then vote National to limit Seymour’s influence.
Because if I was Winston I’d be all over the media on the back of that poll telling anyone who would listen that without New Zealand First the country will get the most right wing, neoliberal, government in its history. That only a vote for New Zealand First will stop ACT. A message he’d no doubt be wanting to get to more centrist Labour voters too who are feeling nervous of ACT and perhaps not confident that their party can win.
About now you might be saying well that’s all well and good Nick, all these machinations and shifting of deck chairs on the right. But surely the elephant in the room is the result last night for the left, and Labour in particular.
To which I’d say - meh. Not really.
It did show a slightly larger gap for National and ACT, but most recent polls have the two hovering around 50%, with Labour and the Greens together around 40%.
If we look at the difference between National/ACT compared to Labour/Greens, over the last ten polls, it hasn’t moved around that much. But a shift of only a few percentage points could result in a number of other outcomes.
The difference over the last ten polls has been approximately 10% if we exclude the Talbot Mills polls, which curiously have seen an average of just 3%. So while last night’s poll wasn’t great, it wasn’t that out of synch with other recent polls, and was in fact better than the recent Roy Morgan poll.
Newshub always present their polls as earth shattering changes. Firstly because that’s their brand - sensationalist clickbait whether it is Jenna, or before her Tova or Paddy. They’re all about the headline declaring that it’s a disaster for someone. The problem is that they aren’t comparing apples with apples.
When they talk about party X being up, or party Y being down, they aren’t comparing their result with current polls, they’re comparing it with the last time they did a poll. In this case for Newshub that was back in July, the week of Kiri Allan’s resignation, an awfully long time ago in politics.
Another issue with the poll, which we seem to see quite a bit, is that it comes out just after a major event. Possibly leaving many with the impression that the poll includes reaction to what has occurred.
So for example this weekend Christopher Luxon and National had a shocker.
On Sunday the Q&A programme will have made many viewers question Luxon’s ability as a leader, and subsequent interviews have created an increasing picture of a tax plan that is wildly optimistic, and one which National do not want subjected to scrutiny. None of this occurred within the polling period.
Will those events have an impact? It’s hard to know but they certainly weren’t good news for National and they’re yet to be reflected in the polls.
As more and more scrutiny comes on Christopher Luxon during the campaign, and in the debates, those on the left can surely have some confidence, that based on what we saw in the weekend, Luxon is unlikely to improve National’s polling. If anything it is likely to ease back, post the initial boost from the tax cut announcements they made during this polling period.
I’m not as cynical as some are about the polls. I think the polling method is by and large sound. The issues I have, as I previously covered here, are essentially the way that questions are worded, and especially the way results are presented.
It should be made very clear to viewers what the context of the poll was. When polling took place, what events were within the polling period and which were missed.
Most importantly that it is just a snapshot in time. While we can observe some trends, each poll, including the one on election day, is independent and all previous polls are irrelevant. Unless of course people that might benefit from doing so manage to convince others that it’s a done deal, the result is clear, and there’s no point in voting.
That is the real danger with polls.
That people either change their vote strategically based upon a poll which is just a snapshot, or stay at home and don’t vote because they think there is no point. As I’ve pointed out before in this newsletter this only really impacts the left, as the right always* get out and vote for their team.
*Obviously other than when the party is lead by Judith Collins.
We all know the classic examples of political results that went against the polls. The Brexit vote, and the election of Trump, were both races where every indication was for the other result. Some people even cast protest votes just to send a message, not actually believing Brexit would pass or Trump would win.
Closer to home in 2019 we saw Scott Morrison win an election over Labor’s Bill Shorten in Australia. A result that looked to be an impossibility throughout the campaign. Some would suggest the 2017 election in New Zealand was in that category. Few believing there was any possibility of Jacinda Ardern winning only a couple of months on from replacing Andrew Little.
Maybe it’s timely to check how these Newshub polls have held up on election day.
In 2017 Newshub ran a series of polls. At the end of July, seven weeks from the election, they reported that National were polling 21% ahead of Labour. Jacinda Ardern took over the leadership just days after that poll.
Only ten days later, in early August, the gap between the two parties had narrowed back to 11%. By the end of August, a month after Jacinda had taken over, and three weeks from the election, the lead was down to just 4%. By the middle of September it was back out to 9.5%. On the eve of the election the Newshub poll showed the difference to be 8.5%, the same difference that occurred on the day itself.
Look, there is no Jacinda factor in this election but with five weeks to go a move of a few percentage points, making things much closer than last night’s poll would suggest, is not hard to believe at all. In fact it would be more surprising if there wasn’t a shift of some kind. Let’s take a look at how Newshub went in 2020.
In July of that year, just after Judith Collins had become leader, Labour were 36% ahead of National in the Newshub poll. By mid September, a month before the election their poll showed the lead down to 20.5%. Again Newshub presented a poll on the eve of the election, this one showing Labour’s lead over National down to 14.7%. But then, just a day later, at the election the margin was 24.4%.
So you might look at last night, with National and ACT roughly ten percentage points ahead of Labour and the Greens, and think - could it really swing by that much between now and election day? Well at the last election the gap between the two parties closed by that much, not in five weeks like we have, but in just one day from the Newshub poll announced on the 16th of October to the election on the the 17th.
Last night was a bad result for the parties of the left, there is no getting away from that. But the worst thing people could do now is second guess things by moving votes to other parties to try and soften the next government, a wee bit of extra gruel, or become downhearted and not vote.
This is a low point, but this election is not over by a long shot. It has looked like being a close election for a long time, and despite last night’s poll result I think it will be a very close run thing.
Every single vote will count, do not lose heart, that is what they want you to do.
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Last night Jenna Lynch, in her victory dance of a presentation, showed a clip of a rally in Nelson and said that Chris Hipkins was “half heartedly waving his banner about, and didn’t even want to chant”, because of the polls.
That was a lie. Complete and utter bullshit. Chippy will be fully committed to every chant, every rally, and every debate, right up to election day. He won’t give up, and neither should you.
If it helps to motivate you imagine Jenna having the same look on her face on election night that Mike Hosking had on Seven Sharp following the news that Winston went with Labour. You know that face. Let’s make it happen.
This ain’t over by a long shot!