The reporting of this poll on stuff had an interesting detail:
“Pollster Duncan Stuart said a breakdown of undecided voters suggested many were “soft” National supporters, who had started looking around.”
So basically an increasing number of people over time are getting bored of the current government that we’ve had for over 4 years, their lives haven’t really changed that much for the better, but they don’t really see the opposition as a workable government in waiting, so they are just kind of uncertain…
This also seems to gel with the differences between the Fairfax poll and the Morgan poll a few days ago. They are both on reasonably large samples and conducted at the same time, but the Fairfax poll has National at 45% and the Colmar Brunton poll has them at 49%.The big difference here is that the Colmar Brunton Poll has only 10% undecided and the Fairfax poll has 17.2% undecided. That is a massive difference and will be down to interview approach.
I’ve worked in and managed teams calling out on political surveys in NZ and Australia. The reality is that a whole bunch of people you speak to say they don’t know who they would vote for – they don’t feel that they have enough information to make a decision or they don’t want to give a ‘wrong’ answer in case they change their mind later.
Most people will give a preference if prompted with something like “So which party of the ones I listed, if you had to choose, who do you think you might prefer to vote for, even if it’s only a very small preference?” It was many years ago that I last conducted the Colmar Brunton Poll – but I’m fairly sure they employ a technique similar to this. That allows for picking up in changes of mood amongst the 20% or so of floating voters who are undecided.
The undecideds are a difficult group to get to grips with – on the one hand you don’t want to be reporting the preferences of people who are disengaged from the political process and may not show up on the day, on the other hand theirs are the votes which swing elections.
The last comments on what people base their decisions on are particularly interesting.
They are often making their decision not on the basis of a good understanding of the policies of all parties and their implications but based on broad perceptions of the political brand or personalities involved rathern than anything substantive:
- “John Key seems friendly and down to earth”,
- “Those Labour people seem to be quite angry and negative”,
- “That Goff guy has been around for years”,
- “The Greens seem young and energetic and that Maori girl co-leader has such a warm smile”,
- “Winston is a bit of a character but he did achieve a lot for people like me with the supergold card and pension increases”.
I have suspected that many people base their preferences on overall perceptions of the personalities rather than on the policy detail that parties seem to obsess over. And over time most people see past the lipstick and make their own judgement pigs despite all the PR.