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.

Labour’s new billboards

It’s hard to believe that Labour could change so markedly. They have even come up with some quite reasonable billboards.

They look much better than their old ones. Simple and effective.

Hamish Walker selected for Clutha-Southland

The National Party in Clutha-Southland has gone for someone quite a bit older to replace Todd Barclay as their MP – 32 year old Hamish Walker has been selected to be their next MP. Walker appeared to be the front runner.

It has to be expected he will easily win what is a very safe National seat, so the hardest part has been done. Many MPs are selected more by parties than by electorates.

Walker stood for National in Dunedin South last election. He lost to Labour’s Clare Curran by 3,858 votes, not bad for what has historically been a Labour stronghold.

Better for his party, National got 15,003 party votes to Labour’s 12,518. National had also come out in front in the 2011 election but by less, so Walker and his campaign team must have been doing something well.

Walker was 65th on National’s list in 2014, a few places outside the cut. It doesn’t matter where he ends up on their list this year, he should romp in in Clutha Southland, Barclay won with 21,561 votes there in 2014, with the Labour candidate second on 6,675.

I think he moved to Dunedin from up north prior to the last election.



Recycled campaigning

Party campaign strategies seem to be trying to put as much out as often as possible. They risk driving people away from the election through overkill.

And to fill their sound bite targets parties are resorting to recycling old stuff.

Yesterday the Greens launched their new campaign without Metiria Turei – by ditching their new slogan and going back to their 2014 election slogan.

Today Labour announced a School Leavers’ Toolkit to equip young people for adult life – which was largely a rehash of policy announced in 2015 with a bit of detail added.

Also today National announced details of a $100m social investment mental health package – which had already been announced in the budget in May. They have just added some details.

David Seymour kept banging on about how different Act are to National – Forget boot camp, fix failing schools – and also attacked Labour – Labour’s civics classes: dodgy dodgy dodgy – and NZ First – Winston’s Racist Attack against Sikh’s Freedom of Religion.

The only original announcement was from peter Dunne, but this was not party news, it was as Minister of Internal Affairs –  NZ govt says Australia’s Joyce is NZ citizen.

So far this week the Aussies are beating us hands down for interesting political news.

Election policy tool

If you like to look at party policies in depth The Spinoff has a tool that may help.

Introducing Policy NZ: an incredible new tool to help you decide how to vote in Election 2017

Personality is central to politics. That much is a truism. And it’s not just inevitable but necessary that voters get a chance to examine the people seeking the highest seats of power. We want to get a sense of them, to weigh up trustworthiness and character, to understand better how they might behave under pressure, how they interact with others and what they look for in a biscuit.

But sometimes it gets a bit much. While the ability to communicate a party’s ideas and plans are critical to the modern politician, we don’t always get enough of the ideas and plans themselves.

In the last fortnight, for example, a couple of high-profile leader resignations have sucked most of the oxygen out of the campaign preamble, leaving some to say – and here I’m paraphrasing – What ho, Spinoff / other friendly media outlet! How about giving us more about the policies the parties are actually putting forward.

So here it is. The Spinoff is thrilled to bits to lift the curtain today on what we think is a very important and beautiful addition to media coverage of the election.

Conceived and assembled by Asher Emanuel, Ollie Neas, Racheal Reeves and their exceptional team of developers and researchers, Policy is, we think, a seriously big deal. Collecting the policy positions of the main parties and presenting them in a clear, accessible and digestible fashion, the tool allows readers to flick through policy areas, compare the parties’ positions and drill down for more detail

Election 2017 policies:

Labour has a new leader but…

When Labour looked like they could be heading for a disastrous election result under Andrew Little’s leadership he stepped down, and Jacinda Ardern stepped up.

Ardern immediately showed that she could at least manage the all important public media driven side of the job. She looked assured and confident, and she looked very different to Labour’s past failures, Little, David Cunliffe, David Shearer and Phil Goff. She also looked very different to her current competitors Bill English and Winston Peters.

Metiria Turei and the  Green Party did Labour a massive favour by precipitating Little’s abdication, and kept helping make Ardern look good by self imploding.

Both Labour and Ardern were quickly rewarded by big changes in opinion polls.

Labour suddenly looked fresh, and importantly now looked competitive on their own against National. The election had been transformed into a real head to head battle.


There are a number of things that haven’t changed substantially, or haven’t changed for the better for Labour.

Changing leader did nothing to change the current Labour caucus, and that has been under performing and has looked weak. The same MPs are still there, and many of them will be returned to Parliament. Trevor Mallard now looks to have a good chance of getting back in.

Grant Robertson is still finance spokesperson, and now looks to have more influence as a close Ardern ally. He is probably not a big attraction to voters.

While Labour has tried to distance themselves from the Greens the two parties still have a Memorandum of Understanding, and they still appear to need each other if they are going to change the government. Labour has benefited in the polls in part at the Greens’ expence.

I think that many voters are wary of having the Greens in government, especially after their very messy last couple of weeks that accentuated an emphasis on radical social policy changes.

Labour may also need NZ First to form a government. Polls have suggested this for years.

They share this problem with National, but Labour has an additional problem – they look like needing both NZ First and Greens. That could involve some tricky negotiations and compromises.

Ardern has got the Labour Party breathing again, and has genuinely breathed life into the election campaign.

But she can’t win the election on her own. She needs voters to get some confidence in her candidates and party.

And she somehow needs to convince voters that she can manage Winston Peters and a severely disrupted Green Party. Taking over her party was easy in comparison.

Labour has a much better chance of reversing the gradual party vote rot under Ardern, but they still have some major challenges.

National’s plan for young serious offenders

National is proposing ways of dealing with youth crime, during the election campaign:

National’s plan for young serious offenders

A re-elected National Government will continue its focus on keeping New Zealanders safe by cracking down on the most serious young offenders and holding negligent parents to account.

“Our youth justice system works well for the vast majority of young offenders and our relentless focus on reducing crime has seen the youth crime rate drop 31 per cent. However there remains a small group of around 150 young people who continue to commit large numbers of serious offences,” National’s Justice Spokesperson Amy Adams says.

“These are young people who have been in and out of Youth Court but have shown no willingness or ability to change their behaviour. We are not prepared to just sit back and allow their victims to keep racking up until they reach adulthood.

“We want New Zealanders to be safe in their homes, at work, and on the streets, so we will introduce a $60 million package over four years that will deal with the most violent and recidivist young offenders more seriously, to reduce reoffending.

Young Serious Offender

“We will introduce a Young Serious Offender (YSO) classification which will see this very small group of the most hardened young offenders dealt with in ways that better reflect the seriousness of their crimes and help ensure fewer people are victimised.

“As a part of this, we will establish a defence-led Junior Training Academy based at the Waiouru Training Camp. Judges will be able to order YSOs who commit serious subsequent offences to attend the Academy for one year. The Academy will support YSOs to address problems like addiction or a lack of literacy and numeracy skills, helping them lead better lives while keeping the public safe.

AKA Boot Camp.

“Those who fail to complete their time at the Academy will serve a commensurate adult sentence of imprisonment instead.”

It is estimated that approximately 50 YSOs per year will be sent to the Junior Training Academy. $30 million over four years has been allocated to fund the YSO scheme.

Other changes under the YSO classification will include tightening bail requirements, increasing the use of electronic monitoring, and removing the ability for these most serious young offenders to be released early from any youth justice custodial sentences.

A new National Government will also take further steps to help prevent less serious young offenders moving along the pathway to more serious crime.

“In many cases, young people who offend have few good role models or are given the freedom to commit crimes. We will make changes to hold their parents to account, including by allowing Police to issue instant infringement notices to parents of children under 14 walking the streets without supervision between 12am and 5am,” Ms Adams says.

“In addition, any breaches of court orders directed at a young person’s parent will be recorded on that parent’s criminal record. A loophole means this is not the case currently.

“We will also introduce a contestable fund of $30 million over four years for community groups to support programmes to reduce offending, because we know local solutions are often the best, and we want to give smaller or rural communities the opportunity to take further action.

“National is proud to be the law and order party, that is committed to keeping New Zealanders safe, supporting victims, and addressing the drivers of crime.”


This sounds like populist pandering type campaign palaver to me.

NZ First: Dog Whistling About Boot Camps Bit Late for National

Somewhat ironic for NZ First to be accusing others of dog whistling.

Serious youth offenders have been allowed to run amok under National, which is now panicking and pouring $60 million into a boot camp and community groups.

“It’s in a rush to herd them into the army and hide them, but dog whistling now about boot camps won’t save National,” says New Zealand First Leader and Northland MP Rt Hon Winston Peters.

“National created this problem by its lack of resourcing for the police and not recognising that many youth go off the rails at school.

“For many, school is not the best fit.

“New Zealand First would take these youth out of school, before they get into bashing and threatening dairy owners, and give them a chance.

“Our Youth Education Training and Employment scheme would put them into paid training in the Defence Force where they would improve their literacy and numeracy and learn a trade.

Labour Party: National should be tackling causes of poverty, not boot camp

National should be tackling causes of poverty, not boot camp gimmicks

Troubled young people need to know they’ve got a real chance in life, not thrown into pointless boot camps as the National Party is promising to do, says Labour Justice spokesperson Andrew Little.

“Fixing our chronic homelessness problem, sorting out our schools and giving young people meaningful work, like Labour’s Ready for Work policy will do, is the stuff that reduces youth offending.

“National’s policy is simply a desperate headline-grabbing response to a problem the Government has created through their underfunding of Police for nine years.

“Boot camps and infringement notices for parents are simply draconian and counterproductive. They won’t make a difference. They are punishing parents when what we need are new ways of intervening early on with families who have challenging situations.

“”These sorts of programmes don’t work. They just turn young criminals into fit young criminals.

“There are far better ways to tackle youth crime than boot camps, which National knows simply failed to stop youth reoffending. Going to Waiouru for a year doesn’t fix family poverty, poor education and other problems which lead to youth crime.

“We need to tackle the root causes. Under National, poverty and homelessness have risen dramatically. Real wages have fallen. Families are under increasing pressure.

“Labour has a plan to help vulnerable families through our expansion of Working for Families. We will tackle poverty because often that’s what turns young people to crime. Our mental health strategy, which includes placing a nurse in every secondary school, will also help at risk youth.

“Labour will also properly fund Police by recruiting 1000 more officers to keep our communities safe,” says Andrew Little.

Andrew Little? He is now Labour’s spokesperson for Justice.

Green Party relaunch – ‘Love New Zealand’

The Green Party are ‘resetting’ their campaign and relaunching it this afternoon.

James Shaw acknowledges that things have been messy. He said he entered politics to campaign on climate change, against poverty, and for a better standard of politics. He says that over the past two weeks Greens have acted as poorly as other parties.

Their ‘new’ slogan is ‘Love New Zealand’ – recycled from 2014.

He also announces a new caucus leadership team.

  • Marama Davidson – ending poverty
  • Julie Anne Genter – climate change
  • Eugenie Sage – cleaning up rivers

They are the next ranked MPs, and now Shaw is sole leader this is s sensible campaign strategy.


Q+A: Steven Joyce and National’s campaign

Q+A this morning: “Our political editor Corin Dann talks to the National Party campaign manager Steven Joyce about how National will respond to Labour’s rise in the polls.”

On Ohariu – Joyce says they have been doing numbers there too and it’s closer but he said Dunne has it all ahead of him. he gives a big plug for Dunne due to his contribution to stability in government.

He makes the point that voting choices tend to be made quite late in key electorates involving large amounts of tactical voting.

Joyce downplays the strength of Winston peters and New Zealand First.

He concedes that National are about 3% shy of where they want to be, confirming recent public polls that have National in the mid forties.

On the Jacinda effect? No more worried than in any election. Elections are won and lost on small margins, ‘it’s slightly different’, he says similar to 2005 (in which NZ First called the coalition shots).

Who will I vote for?

Early voting opens in just under a month. Election day is in six weeks, on 23 September. A lot has happened in politics over the last two weeks, and some of those changes have affected my thinking on who I might vote for.

Here is my current thinking:

National: still possible, if I decide that I want the least change from current policies, and if I think the risk of a Labour led alternative is too great. I’m ok with English as Prime Minister and generally ok with the current Cabinet (albeit with some concerns).

Labour: possible now, if I decide that National is too stale and a change will be good for the country, and I don’t see too many problems with a coalition also involving NZ First and Greens (a big concern). Jacinda Ardern has stepped up to the leadership role well, but the Labour caucus still looks weak and the influence of Grant Robertson a concern.

Greens: from unlikely to less likely, unless they look at risk of missing the threshold and I want to help keep them in Parliament – I’ve always supported a Green voice in Parliament on environmental issues in particular but also on pushing for better social policies (without wanting to go to the socialist extremes they favour).

NZ First: still no. Peters is too undependable, can’t be trusted to keep his word, won’t commit prior to the election, too many dirty attacks on opponents. The NZ First caucus is weak, I don’t like Ron Mark and I don’t think Shane Jones adds anything positive.

Maori Party: still possible if I think it’s worth helping them retain a second seat via the list, I don’t agree with a lot of Marama Fox’s policy preferences but I think she contributes a strong alternative voice in Parliament (and she’s prepared to listen and change her stance if the facts justify it).

ACT Party: possible if it could get them a second MP to help David Seymour, who I think has achieved a lot this term starting with a party in disarray.

United Future: looks to be a wasted vote so still very unlikely.

The Opportunities Party: quite possible if it looks like they could get close to or over  the threshold. They are the best chance of adding fresh input into Parliament, and would probably be less risk than NZ First or greens holding the balance of power.

Spoiled vote: I see no need to deliberately spoil my vote.

No show: possible but unlikely. I have voted in every election this century (for four different parties) and am likely to front up at the local booth on election day (I will leave my decision until the last day I can vote).

I’m aware that some staunch party voters my be puzzled by my approach to deciding who to vote for.

Going by past comments about my way of voting and about floating voters some may be appalled.

But I think many people have a range of reasons why they might vote one way or another, and this group generally decides the outcome of an election.

One of the strengths of democracy in New Zealand is the relative lack of highly charged partisanship.There are a lot of softly committed or uncommitted voters who vote based on how they see the merits of the options put before them in an election.