Polity polls and pondering

Rob Salmond, Labour Party consultant now an author at Public Address, has posted on recent polls – Poll Soup. He complains about poor analysis of recent polls by media, so I’m complaining about his poll analysis.

At the outset, let me say this is not a post that says the polls are wrong, nor that the left are where they want to be.

But the analysis of the polls this week has been poor.

Primarily, there’s been the claim that National’s high 40s ratings show the TPP protests and/or Labour’s tertiary policy launch have had no impact. That claim is wrong, both because an overall poll rating doesn’t say anything in particular about single events, and more importantly because the government has actually lost almost 2% support over the summer break. Here’s the evidence:

There were four public polls in November / December  2015 – two from Roy Morgan, and one each from TV3 and the New Zealand Herald. Across those four polls, National’s average was 49%.

There have been three polls so far this year – two from Roy Morgan and one from TVNZ. Across those three polls, National’s average was 47.5%, 1.5% below its average from November-December.

Over the same period, the government as a whole (National + Maori Party + ACT + UF) is down an average of 1.8%.

So the claim of “no movement” is a stretch.

TNZV made that claim by comparing their poll in February with one in October, some four months ago. There’s been a lot of events over those four months, not just the TPP and Labour’s policy launch, including a bunch of more recent polls to compare against.

Comparing 3 polls at the quietest time of the political year with 4 polls at the second quietest time of the political year is a fairly narrow analysis, especially when one of the polls in December could easily be a high outlier.

Looking at the trends of a single pollster, Roy Morgan…

…it shows National rising slightly. Salmond notes:

For completeness, the latest Roy Morgan poll does in fact show National up slightly from January to now. But I’d hardly be the first to note the jumpiness of that particular poll from one polling window to the next. I always prefer more evidence than that.

More evidence, the last five Roy Morgan results for National: 49, 49, 47, 48, 48.5

Not much jumpiness there, especially taking into account a margin of error of about 3.2%.

I deliberately left out the previous three Roy Morgan results: 43, 50.5, 44.5

That’s quite ‘jumpy’ – if you choose your range you can just about support whatever contention you like.

The ‘jumpiest’ result in the ranges Salmond used happens to be Herald-Digipoll in December of 51.3%, which in a four result sample (the others were 46.7, 49, 47) can make quite a difference.

Here’s another way of cherry picking poll results:

  • Last 5 results: 51.3, 47, 47, 47, 48.5 = 48.16 average
  • Previous 5 results: 50, 47, 49, 46.7, 49 = 48.34 average

Statistically there’s nothing in that comparison.

Then Salmond looks at future prospects of left (Labour+Greens) versus right (National).

National, of course, remains in the box seat. Along with its solid hangers-on (ACT, UF), it sits in the high 40s. Solid supporters of an alternative government (Labour + Greens) sit a little above 40%, and the swinging centre is climbing towards 10%.

If the election were held today, I’ve little doubt National would be returned even though – as noted on One News – Labour + Greens + NZF would be very nearly able to form a government if they wished. On today’s numbers, I think Winston would choose Key if offered the choice.

To be seriously in the game, the putative left coalition needs to at least tie National at election time. Obviously, having the combined left beat National is better again, and the higher the margin the better. But at a minimum, a tie’s required.

That means the left needs to shift around 4% of the population from supporting the status quo to supporting change.

National -4 and Labour/Green +4 is a shift of 8%. It’s certainly doable.

It’s interesting that Salmond is suggesting that “to be seriously in the game” Labour+Greens needs to at least tie with National, otherwise he thinks NZ First would go with National (that’s uncertain).

So their target is about 45%, which could be Labour 33 + Greens 12, or Labour 35 + Greens 10.

But that would still need NZ First to make up the numbers.

Would Winston think that National 45 versus Labour 35, or National 45 versus Labour Green 45? It’s hard to see Labour being level with National on their own.

NZ First are polling relatively high for them between elections, in the range 5.5-10 since the 2014 election. They normally better their polling in elections.

What if NZ First get 10% and Greens 8%?

There are many interesting possibilities. And don’t forget the final numbers, which could be ACT, Maori Party and Dunne if he doesn’t retire. They could still make the difference, as they have for the past two elections.

There’s some interesting discussion in Poll Soup, especially on the ‘missing million’ that some on the left still think is their holy grail.

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  1. Richard

     /  25th February 2016

    Salmond’s error is including the Herald Poll in November/December (Nats 51.3%). With no Herald Poll in Jan/Feb, the averaging is therefore skewed.
    Still, it probably keeps him in his consulting job with Labour. They won’t be questioning his numbers too hard if he tells them what they want to hear.

  2. SteveRemmington

     /  25th February 2016

    For someone who picked a labour victory last election, Salmond is hardly the go to guy for accuracy.

    • mrMan

       /  25th February 2016

      But everybody, in everything, backs their team to win. That’s why winners whoop with delight and losers sob into their sleeves.

      • Timoti

         /  25th February 2016

        Come again…metpohorically speaking !!

      • Timoti

         /  25th February 2016

        Rob told me I need to move on from polling surveys. I implied I’m not moving on from objective results. That also includes opinions basesd on objective facts and trends.
        If trends weren’t backing the Right, I would say so.

      • SteveRemmington

         /  25th February 2016

        And your comment mrMan, tells me you have never owned a business responsible for providing specific outcomes or meeting KPI’s.(the Kpi in that instance being accurate polling)

        Salmond isn’t contracted to “back his team” nor is he employed to “whoop with delight”. Salmond is employed to provide accurate data which his employer (not team) can act upon.

        You seem to be suggesting that Salmond is providing paid for critique from within the tent, if so then both Salmond and Labour are idiots.

        • mrMan

           /  25th February 2016

          Just questioning the veracity of your idea that everything he does has to be wrong because he backed his side to win an election. It’s poor logic.

          P.S, your gravatar is different. Mike C is going to have a paranoid fit.

          • SteveRemmington

             /  25th February 2016

            I’m sure that he eventually gets something right, after all a stopped clock is right twice a day.
            However If his data showed that Labour were in the mid to high 30’s last election, whereas other more reputable polling agencies had them much, much lower I don’t see a problem calling him out on accuracy and/or question his reasons for being so far off the pace.

            Gravatar = Home ipad and work pc.

  3. rayinnz

     /  25th February 2016

    I wonder if part of Labours problem is its experts, Matt McCarten (how many parties have I wrecked) Bomber Bradbury ( have I ever got a prediction right) and now Rob Salmond ( Chinese sounding names equals immigrants)
    A bit of a pattern there?

    • artcroft

       /  25th February 2016

      If only Chris trotter was put onto the team sheet as well. What a fantastic quartet of political wisemen that would be.

  4. So the polls are oscillating around a place that leaves Labour out of power.

    Salmond clearly identifies a 4% move from National to Labour is required, all other things being equal, for Labour to have a chance of forming a coalition Government with the Greens AND NZF…..

    So a couple of problems achieving a coalition with a 4% swing N to L….

    1 – Winnie hates the Greens. Most of his support base being elderly and conservative will probably have little time for the Greens as well – so the chance of NZF going with LabGreen is minimised.

    2 – Labour has been relentlessly pushing policies that are aimed at Left supporting voters i.e. cannabilising the vote on the Left. That does little to grow support. And those policies are not that attractive to centrist voters who currently support National… The FREE tertiary policy was an obvious bribe aimed at the centre voting bloc… but it seems pretty luke warmly received….

    The margins are reasonably fine but Labour is still not showing anything liable to sway the centre especially with their ossified line up of old time servers…

    • SteveRemmington

       /  25th February 2016

      Well said Dave.

      Labour has recognised that they will be required to do 2 things, which in itself raises more problems than it solves.

      1) Shore up their own vote first. Hence the shift left to cannibalise the Green vote. Swapping votes with leftward parties doesn’t win elections but it does keep the incumbent individuals noses in the trough

      2) Tack right to secure soft National support. Sadly for Labour the constant leftward/rightward swings, especially when it comes to policy leaves the voter confused who Labour really is anymore.

  5. Patzcuaro

     /  25th February 2016

    There are two constants in the polls at present. National is consistently polling in the high 40s and Labour plus the Grenens are polling in the low 40s. To win Labour/Greens have to take 4-5% off National or they have to wipe out NZ First or a combination of both.


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