The NZ First poll jump fallacy

Does NZ First always get substantially more votes in an election than they poll? No, there have been a number of variations over the last few elections.

This sort of claim at The Standard is common:

NZF always get 5% additional votes at the Election cf to the polls so they are probably tracking at 16-17% which would appear to be about right at this stage ?

I’ve often seen journalists claim that NZ First get more votes than they poll. Sometimes selective poll results are used to try to justify the claims.

But the fact is that NZ First polling results and trends compared to election results has varied markedly over the last few elections. And there have been varying factors involved.

In 2008 the trend remained quite flat for NZ First – election result 4.07%:,_2008

In the months leading up to the 2008 election NZ First were embroiled in controversy over donations to the party. While Serious Fraud Office and Police investigated. Peters stood down from his ministerial roles (he was found not guilty of illegal wrongdoing).

In 2011 NZ First were all over the place, election result 6.59%,_2011

Always the political opportunist Peters benefited from the controversy over the ‘tea tapes’ involving John Banks and John Key late in the campaign.

In 2014 there was a bit of a late upswing – election result 8.66%:,_2014

This wasn’t a huge rise. In March 2014 NZ First had poll results up to 7% and through the year they often got 6.0-6.5%.

In August to December 2012 NZ First had poll results from 1.8% to 7%, often getting 5-6.5% (8 times in that range).

Every election differs, especially for smaller parties who can hardly be seen during the term and then get some attention during the campaign.

Some pundits have suggested that this election has similarities to 2005, except with major party roles reversed. National under Don Brash’s leadership had recovered from an abysmal 2002 low and went very close to beating Labour under Helen Clark.

A lot of late campaign focus then was on the two largest parties, and while NZ First ended up calling the coalition shots and ending up in government (remember the ‘baubles of power’) they lost ground late in the campaign.

In 2005 there was a late drop – election result 5.7%:,_2005

In June and August NZ First had been getting up to 10-11%.

Peters may find an issue that resonates over the next five weeks and NZ First may get more votes than they have been polling. But they could just as easily stay flat, and a controversy could see them slide like the Greens just have.

Many different things could happen.

Labour are currently resurgent and could suck support away from NZ First.

Voters could fear a Labour+NZ First+Green coalition and rally behind National.

TOP may have a late surge of ‘stuff the others’ vote at the expense of NZ First.

Age and the rigours of having to campaign in an electorate and nationally may catch up on Peters – there are signs of strain showing. He could have a health scare.

Shane Jones may do or say something stupid (he’s been quiet lately) and scare voters off NZ First.

Nicky Hager could launch another book.

Cameron Slater may score a vital hit against National (he’s been trying hard enough, largely in vain).

Jacinda Ardern could be found wanting in election debates and voters may desert Labour, some to NZ First.

Election campaigns inevitably throw up surprises, and that can mean opportunities for smaller parties like NZ First – and can also deprive them of oxygen.

One thing is certain – a significant number of voters make late decisions about how they vote, and this means there can be significant shifts in support – as there have been over the last month.

Making presumptions based on selected past poll trends is futile.

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  1. Tipene

     /  August 19, 2017

    Great analysis Pete.

    The 2014 3.9% CPNZ vote needs somewhere to go as well – I wonder if it will mostly head to NZ First?

  2. PDB

     /  August 19, 2017

    This election is somewhat different in that Labour voters are unlikely to jump late to NZL First as they have in previous years.

    In the past few elections as Labour have looked no chance of being on the winning team some of their voters have changed late to NZL First in the hope National needs Winston to form govt and that in turn puts a handbrake on National party policy & direction.

  3. chrism56

     /  August 19, 2017

    Soon the trolls will be denouncing you for being a National stooge – your fault for actually using facts and data

    • Blazer

       /  August 20, 2017

      PDB makes no secret that he is indeed …a stooge as you put it.

  4. I think that Whale Oil has done his dash as a political commentator.
    It’s an echo chamber in there and rather Standardish

    • PDB

       /  August 19, 2017

      This post suggests Slater realises backing the Winston horse is the wrong one as Winston is really one of the many parties of the left:

      • PDB

         /  August 19, 2017

        From that Whaleoil post regarding NZL First:

        “Employers – Business tax package
        Accordingly, we will:
        – introduce a tax package for New Zealand Employers and Businesses to negate the increased cost to employers and businesses of paying fair wages.”

        If this means reducing the tax intake of companies/businesses to account for increasing the minimum wage then it is the taxpayer who is paying for this huge increase. Winston has to be upfront on how much this would cost the taxpayer, and how it will be paid for without borrowing more money and/or making cuts to govt services. The old chestnut of getting ‘corporates to pay their fair share’ is difficult to do (as countries around the world are finding), expensive to chase, and unlikely to provide the huge windfall NZL First is expecting.

  5. sorethumb

     /  August 19, 2017

    If Susan Devoy came out and endorsed NZ First they would only make 2%.

  6. Conspiratoor

     /  August 19, 2017

    I’m picking Shane Jones to take Whangarei. He’s campaigning like a man possessed ..while low energy Shane is nowhere to be seen