Honesty, competence, internal polling

Swordfish frequently posts on poll related matters at The Standard and elsewhere. They seem to have detailed knowledge of internal Labour polls and also imply knowledge of internal National polls.

First, comments on honesty and competence.

Certainly the detailed breakdowns of leadership polls over the last few years suggest that Key’s/National’s popularity has revolved not so much around public perceptions of honesty as around perceptions of basic competence.

The New Zealand Election Study of 2011 found that Valence issues – especially perceptions of Leadership Ability and Economic Competence – played the most important role in vote choice for those not already firmly aligned.

And furthermore, despite the assumptions of some on the Left that Key’s image had remained entirely untarnished up until the Dirty Politics scandal erupted, his Honesty ratings had, in fact, been slowly but steadily eroding for quite some time – at the time of the September 2014 General Election, they were down more than 20 percentage points on 2009.

And yet the Nats still managed to win in 2014 and they’ve remained relatively high in the polls.

Why ? Largely, because a crucial segment of swing-voters were holding their noses and pragmatically placing perceived competence above concerns about dishonesty. (I’m putting aside the fact that the collapse of Colin Craig’s Conservatives has also played a part in keeping the Nats ratings at a respectable level and partially disguised a broad Nat-to-Oppo swing over the last 12 months).


…it’s just possible that the Panama Papers affair may be hitting both Key and the Nats in the polls as we speak. As Pat (comment below) implies, we’ll need to see what happens over the next few polls – but arguably we already have some evidence.

First, I know of 3 Polls that have been carried out since the Panama Story broke: 1 Public Poll (Roy Morgan) and 2 Internal Party Polls (Curia for the Nats / UMR for Labour).

Both Roy Morgan and the UMR have National down on 42% – its lowest rating in any poll since the last Election (with the Govt Bloc also on its lowest rating and the Oppo Bloc on a 54% high in the Roy Morgan).

The Nats are down 5.5 points on the February Roy Morgan

Swordfish’s Roy Morgan numbers for National aren’t accurate. They are:

  • February 1-14, 2016: 48.5%
  • February 29 – March 13, 2016: 46%
  • April 4-17, 2016: 42.5%

This may foreshadow a slide for National, but their previous low of 43% in June 29 – July 12 2015 was followed by a bounce back to 50.5%.

… and down a very similar 5 points on the previous 2 Internal National Party Curia polls (conducted before the story broke).

Interesting knowledge of National’s internal polls. I don’t know how widely those results are circulated.

Second, a mid-April UMR found strong concern (even among erstwhile National voters) about New Zealand’s reputation as a tax haven, about the way the Government had handled the fallout, and about the inadequacy of the proposed Shewan review.

Time will tell whether tax and trust issues will persist or whether they will fizzle out due to a lack of substance.

And third, as I mentioned in earlier comments in April, the latest UMR puts Key on his lowest ever Favourability rating of just + 2 (compared to + 16 in the final quarter of 2015, + 27 in 2014, and + 58 during his first year in power).

That looks significant but it would be interesting to compare with Curia results on favourability ratings. I know Farrar rates favourability as an important factor.

Swordfish either doesn’t have those details from Curia or chooses to not mention them.

So, too early to tell for sure, but there are at least some initial hints of a slump in Tory support. Even if they have taken a hit, though, past experience does suggest that it could be temporary. We won’t know until we know.

Yes, too early to tell if National is suffering lasting poll damage.

Not too early to tell which side of politics Swordfish is inclined towards, and it’s not ‘Tory’ (which is not a very New Zealand term).

Leave a comment


  1. Gezza

     /  16th May 2016

    The next Roy Morgan must be due out this week.

    • Gezza

       /  16th May 2016

      Aw no, correction, the one to April 16 didn’t come out until the 26th April. I’m hanging out for the next one. That should give a good indication of whether National or Labour (or both) take a hit for Labour’s attacks on Key & the government.

      • Gezza

         /  16th May 2016

        A Roy Morgan poll summary page under “Findings” says:
        Next New Zealand Voting Intention – Friday May 20, 2016.

  2. Hall

     /  16th May 2016

    Polls are about as useful as tits on a Bull. They tell you all sorts of thing but what they can’t tell you is who will win an election. They can’t predict the future, they can’t even give an accurate picture of what’s happening today.

    • To an extent you’re right. Swordfish went to great length to explain that if certain events hadn’t happened (Dotcom’s moment of truth) his predictions would have been correct. Except that if Dotcom hadn’t tried to swing the election something else would probably have changed things, there’s often quite a bit of movement against the polls in the last couple of weeks of an election.

      But polls can be useful indicators of approximate levels of support and trends in support.

  3. The most interesting poll this year will be after the Budget. The rest is interesting only for trend – and the trend is Labour is stuff and Winston is having a lovely ride into the next election were he will almost certainly be King maker. We should start calling him Marshall or Warwick… the power behind the throne.

    • Gezza

       /  16th May 2016

      Cardinal Peters has a nice sound about it.

    • Hall

       /  16th May 2016

      lol it’s a bit early to be making predictions this early on, most people aren’t even thinking about elections right now. I think Trump will trigger a trend here in NZ so look for things to change and change fast, tis will not be an orthodox election no pun intended.

  4. swordfish

     /  20th May 2016

    “Swordfish’s Roy Morgan numbers for National aren’t accurate”

    Yep, I did the lazy thing and went to the Wikipedia page (“Opinion Polling for the Next New Zealand General Election”) rather than the official Roy Morgan press release. The former (erroneously) has National on 48% (Feb 1-14), – hence my “Nats are down 5.5 points” – whereas the latter shows that, in fact, the correct figure is 48.5%. (down 6 points).


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