Political divide on handling of Covid

A Massey University survey indicates that perception of how well Covid has been handled varies markedly depending on political party support.

Stuff: Survey shows powerful polarisation along party lines

Associate Professor Grant Duncan told Stuff’s election podcast, Tick.Tick, that party preference was influencing how people viewed things – even topics that are seemingly non-partisan.

Duncan and colleagues led the Stuff-Massey University survey of voter attitudes, which drew more than 70,000 responses.

Asked how good a job medical professions have done in controlling the spread of the disease:

  • Labour supporters 96%
  • National supporters 69%

Asked if the overall Government response was successful:

  • Labour supporters 98%
  • National supporters 40%

The other Government parties NZ First and Greens aren’t mentioned, but they have had little to do publicly with the Covid response. It has largely been the Ardern show, with of a couple of Labour ministers in supporting roles.

Curious that slightly more Labour supporters rated the Government ahead of medical professionals.

Public safety was another area where party affiliations seemed to be swaying opinion, even when people didn’t feel personally threatened.

ACT voters, for instance, while saying that they felt safe in their own neighbourhood, were more likely to say the police were not doing a good job at protecting communities.

“If you’re an ACT Party supporter, you’re very sort of sceptical about government generally and about the state generally. And so you’re more likely, I think, to give any agency of the state a negative rating.”

Duncan said coronavirus was already having a “profound” impact on the election.

“There’s no doubt that an unexpected event this year has had a huge effect on opinion polling, and that will no doubt also be manifested on September the 19th.

“What tends to happen in situations where people feel their security is directly under threat, it often endangers greater trust in the sitting Government.

Very high poll support of Labour suggests this is true.

But it is possibly significant that only the Labour Prime Minister and Labour Ministers have been getting a large amount of exposure in dealing with Covid.

Valid questions have been asked Labour using Covid media conferences as virtual campaigning opportunities. A lot of the information given to the public during the almost daily media events is quite mundane and of little interest to most people.

A lot of voters only have a very supereficial understanding of political issues.

The survey is a reader-initiated survey, as opposed to a poll, but Duncan said it was always interesting to see what issues were coming to the fore and what was influencing the way they would vote.

Sometimes people didn’t know what they were actually voting for.

“Some people see themselves as voting for a prime minister, which technically they’re not actually doing. We vote for our local candidate and for our preferred political party – the parties themselves choose who will lead them.”

But Jacinda Ardern is very adept at promoting herself while distancing herself from the less favourable government news and from the National Party disarray and self destruction. John Key also did this very successfully.

Media also put a lot of emphasis in personality politics, tending to pick and promote just a few politicians to give significant airtime to. But this probably feeds the general public appetite for personality over policy and competence..