Peters and NZ First consolidating

Vernon Small writes in Stuff that Winston Peters and NZ First are quietly consolidating their king-maker role. I think he’s right.

During past terms NZ First has muddled along in the polls and surged during election campaigns. Their vote would better their polling, sometimes significantly. This is because NZ First is seen by many as a protest vote so voters make late decisions to swing towards them.

Small writes:

You wouldn’t normally expect to say “Winston Peters” and “under the radar” in the same breath.

The wily old NZ First leader has been around too long, and is too attuned to popular opinion, to ever qualify as a shrinking violet.

But with the focus on John Key and National’s continued strength in the polls, and as Labour wonders if – or when – leader Andrew Little will lift the party’s fortunes, NZ First’s consolidation in the polls has largely gone unnoticed.

It does seem to have been relatively unnoticed, until Small brought it up.

What is unusual is the relative strength of Peters’ support heading into the middle year of a parliamentary term.

In the latest One News-Colmar Brunton poll the party registered 9 per cent – slightly stronger than its 8.66 per cent on election night 2014.

Since the September 20 poll his support has not dropped below 5.5 per cent and he has recorded mostly 6 and 7s with a smattering of 8s.

The 5.5% was in the September 2015 Roy Morgan poll – they tend to be more variable than other polls and had NZ First back up at 6.5% earlier this month between 3 News/Colmar at 7.9% and One News/Colmar Brunton at 9%.

Details at Opinion polling for the next New Zealand general election.

So this term their poll support has held up. Certainly this could be helped by Labour’s post election leadership upheaval and Andrew Little’s low key and uninspiring first year as leader.

But Peters was also gifted the Northland electorate by National early in the term and he made the most of it. That has helped maintain NZ First credibility and support.

NZ First has a history of struggling mid-term, in the polls at least.

In 1999 the party polled just 4.3 per cent and Peters was about to concede defeat before a late surge in Tauranga gave him the seat.

In 2005 it posted 5.7 per cent, but struggled to get near the threshold in most surveys.

In 2008 election it polled just 4.07 and between August and November 2009 its best was 2.5 and its worst 1 per cent.

That time they didn’t get enough of a surge to make the threshold and many thought NZ First was finished. But Peters proved them wrong.

In 2011 it scored 6.59 per cent and in late 2012 was on 7.5 in one poll but went as low as 1.8 in one Colmar Brunton survey and generally bounced around the threshold.

In 2014 NZ First got 8.66% of the vote, higher than any poll in the term leading up to the election. In the month prior to the election their polling varied between 4% and 8.4%.

See Opinion polling for the New Zealand general election, 2014.

There was one exception to these trends this century:

The closest parallel to the current situation was after the 2002 election – something of an anomaly as National slumped and centrist voters shopped around for a coalition partner for Labour.

At that election he scored 10.38 per cent and his polling stayed strong through 2003, started slipping in 2004, but held up at the 2005 election where he polled 5.7 per cent.

But there’s no sign of Bill English taking over leadership of National so things look quite different to that now.

Regardless, Peters and NZ First are in a relatively strong position for them at this stage of a term. Whether they can sustain that or build on that may be as dependant on other parties as them.

National support sometimes threatens to collapse into the low forties but keeps bouncing back. Their Government ball may or may not lose it’s elasticity.

Greens look like maintaining similar levels of support in the 10-12% range and don’t look likely to leap or collapse in the polls.

The wild card is Labour. If they continue to struggle through to 2017 their support could easily collapse again into the twenties, and NZ First may be the beneficiary.

If Labour manage to build their support that could be at the expense of NZ First, who have been getting ‘don’t like National but don’t want Labour’ votes.

It’s two years until the next election so anything could happen, but at this stage NZ First are looking in a healthy position. Rumours of Winston’s health being a ticking time bomb for his party have proven incorrect for many years.

Leave a comment


  1. Stan

     /  29th October 2015

    You seem to be infatuated with Labour. This blog has simply become an anti-Labour blog.

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  29th October 2015

      When did Labour last say something intelligent?

    • Gee “Stan”….. its probably because they are the biggest player in opposition and so their every movement is kind of important. National is looking a tad tired in power, but Labour can’t build any momentum as the government in waiting because they spend their whole time doing nothing particularly….

    • traveller

       /  29th October 2015

      There’s not a lot positive happening in the centre world of Labour where I’m picking this blog owner sits. The meme these days from activists is further to the left. If you want to discuss this issue and you’d like to do it in a non dog whistle fashion I’ll happily take you on. 😉

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  29th October 2015

        I’m still waiting for the answer to my question. I honestly can’t remember but surely one of them must have said something sensible sometime in recorded history – or at least since the Rogernomics reforms?

        • traveller

           /  29th October 2015

          Winston Peters, a man I despise for so many reasons, sits as the natural leader of the combined rabble of the centre and left. A man who can beat a sitting government opponent in a by-election has more of a mandate than the stool pigeon of the Unions – the man who cannot win a seat and is yet another desperate Labour try out.

          Peters would never announce who he’ll go with prior to an election. I say it’s only Labour. Unlike other pundits I’ve never thought for a minute Peters would go with Nats again. We’ve well seen that was always step too far for both parties. He hates the Nats for denying him what he saw as his right when they evolved and left him behind moaning and bleating. He’s a dinosaur surrounded by sycophants who deliver xenophobic policy.

          An old man who old people vote for he may well be, but there may be enough of them hanging on to dreams of carless days, price and wage freezes and interventionism to get him over the line. He represents the past as Labour appears to do. Progressives? Humbug. Good luck to them should they get in, but I think it’d be an unholy alliance and trust voters to see through it as they did last time.

  2. Loki

     /  29th October 2015

    Winston will go with national after the election. He will retire as a senior minister and head to a tier one ambassadors role. Shane Jones will inherit his seat and lock national in for another two terms at least.
    The deal is done.

    • Rob

       /  29th October 2015

      Unless another Lange joins labours ranks you could well be right. Nobody with any real charisma at the moment. Plus a seeming lack of any coherent policy.

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  29th October 2015

      Shane Jones would be an asset for Northland.

      • Loki

         /  29th October 2015

        Shane Jones is almost equal to Winston in his ability to turn a dollar for himself.
        He will spend ten years as no and then retire on a massive pot of gold.
        But don’t expect him or Winston to do anything for Northland No bent money to be made up there.

  3. traveller

     /  29th October 2015

    What’s happening on the far left? Where are the anti surveillance warriors – the government bad, Facebook and Google good crowd? Where are the Maori sovereignity crowd going to be hanging their hats? Surely they’ll be Labour tickers if no party emerges for them to hang their hats. They won’t be flocking to could be anything in a suit Shaw or in the absence of the Larper, Ms Sensible Clogs Genter. What is Martyn and his twin Martin plotting?


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