Polls, and pawns in a game of political chess and media mess

With just over a week to go until the election uncertainty rules. Polls are described as volatile – meaning media can’t neatly make predictions based on fast shifting and varying poll results.

Pundits and political journalists are perplexed by the polls. As soon as they say ‘if an election was held over the last few days that we polled on then we are announcing the election result now’ everything changes.

Those who didn’t have a budget to run polls have relied on ‘poll of polls’, but they are more out of date than individual polls, and it’s hard to settle on trends when the only things certain are uncertainty and fluctuation.

A headline right now on RNZ – ‘the election is a virtual dead heat’. The reality this week is two polls that are markedly different and suggest quite different coalition scenarios. Taking an average of them is simplistic and doesn’t address why they vary so much.

The polls reflect the uncertainty of many voters, in large part due to the way the campaign has been run by parties and covered by media. Or perhaps many people taking part in polls are taking the piss.

Whatever the reason, media have become too reliant on polls for writing headlines, trying to make their polls and their proclamations the story, when in reality there is far greater complexity and variability than suits their style of coverage.

There is some very good media coverage of the election, but there is also too much poor coverage. Too much trying to be the story, and too much trying to impact on the election, or willing to be used by people with agendas trying to influence the election.

Voters don’t want to be pawns in a game of political chess and media mess. Elections are rare opportunities for them to actually make the decisions and they seem to be rebelling against the party-punditry system.

Over the last weeks politicians and media have been in a state of uncertainty, and have reacted and over-reacted repeatedly.

Message to parties, candidates and media:

Don’t try to tell us what we think in advance. If you confuse us we will give you confusing signals.

Wait until the evening of Saturday 23 September when you will find out what our decision is.


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  1. robertguyton

     /  September 15, 2017


  2. High Flying Duck

     /  September 15, 2017

    I heard David Farrar being interviewed on the polls and he said internal polling has been similarly all over the place – much more so than in previous elections.
    I wonder if there are large geographic variations in support and this is affecting the polling.

  3. Patzcuaro

     /  September 15, 2017

    Averaging polls does take some of the clutter out, smoothing the line, possibly weighting the average to give more importance to the most recent polls might make them more accurate.

    • Longer term averaging is fine between elections, but the weighting should change significantly the closer to an election you get. I’m not aware of any poll-of-polls doing this.

    • PDB

       /  September 15, 2017

      It’s the don’t know/wont say that makes Colmar Brunton more suspect. 15% is a huge amount compared to only 3.7% in the Reid poll.

      • If ReidResearch push harder for a response that may mean that National support is softer at the moment than Labour support.

        • PDB

           /  September 15, 2017

          I think there is a floating portion of reasonably conservative/safety first voters that are still open as to who will get their vote but when pushed will take the current state of the economy over the unknown. Whether Labours backdown on tax yesterday is enough to reassure these people is unknown but I think that demographic is where this election is won or lost.

  4. George

     /  September 15, 2017

    The problem is the media. They seem to think they should be the deciding factor in polls and manipulate the age/sex audience to get the result they want.
    President Trump.
    And so on

    • Blazer

       /  September 15, 2017

      they have been since the days of Edward Bernays.The politicians do realise this.Murdoch’s media influences elections .

  5. Patzcuaro

     /  September 16, 2017

    I heard on radio that Reid is 25% internet based, Colmar Brunton landline based