Political polling in New Zealand

Last week Andrew at Grumpollie posted his thoughts on The future of polling in New Zealand.

His latest post suggests that the future is not looking bright: Are we down to three polls in NZ?

So, DigiPoll has shut up shop, and I haven’t seen a poll out of Fairfax in a long time.

Digipoll’s website is still up but I can’t find them in the news since early January. The last Herald-Digipoll was  4-14 December 2015.

The last Fairfax-IPSOS poll that I can find is just prior to the last election, 13-17 September 2014. IPSOS is still operating in Australia but seem to have given up with New Zealand polling.

Are we down to just three polls now? (Newshub, ONE News, and Roy Morgan.)

That’s how it looks – see Opinion polling for the next New Zealand general election.

This is not good at all, if true. With less data, it’s harder to develop new methodological and analytical approaches to polling.

It’s not good for pollsters and for political junkies but I’m not sure if most people would care.

There are two other polling companies I’m aware of, Curia and UMR. The problem with them is they do ‘internal polling’ for National and Labour respectively so their polls aren’t made public.

That leads to an issue that is worth a separate post – see Polling and better democracy.

Race Relations Commissioner popular?

A NZ Herald poll shows that Race relations Commissioner Susan Devoy is more popular than unpopular, but I wonder how many of the public know much about what she does.

A Herald-DigiPoll survey asked people to rate Dame Susan’s performance:

  • Had done a satisfactory job – 58%
  • Her performance was “good” – 17%
  • She had done a “poor job 0- 16%

Devoy’s appointment was controversial but I wouldn’t be surprised if only a small percentage of the poll pool have much knowledge to judge her performance on.

Dame Susan’s popularity defies critics

Responding to the poll, Dame Susan said the result was interesting but her job was not a popularity contest.

“No matter what I do or say, some people will remain opposed to me and the work I am doing with our team at the Human Rights Commission. I just hope that they will take on the broader messages and think about the issues.

“New Zealanders don’t like being told what to do so that’s why we try to focus on highlighting real-life incidents and encouraging Kiwis to think about the issue and to do the right thing.”

She said she truly believed New Zealanders were fair-minded people, but race relations was a work in progress and Kiwis had to keep challenging themselves to be better people.

“It’s not something we can rest back on our laurels over.”

I was aware of Devoy’s appointment in 2013 and saw public criticism of it. I’ve seen her criticised on blogs. I’ve seen the role and the Race Relations Commission criticised.

But the poll suggests that those vocal about and critical of Devoy’s appointment may be a smallish minority.

How many people really know what the Race relations Commissioner does and how effective she is?

I don’t think it’s possible to judge from a few controversial media stories and a bit of blog bitching..


National high in Herald Digipoll

The Herald has National remaining over 50% in an end of year Digipoll, with Labour+Greens+NZ First strugggling to make progress on a collective 45%.

  • National 51.3% (up 0.5)
  • Labour 31.1% (up 0.1)
  • Greens 8.2% (down 1)
  • NZ First 5.7% (down 1.2)
  • Maori Party 2.1% (up 1.1)
  • ACT Party 0.8% (up 0.6)
  • United Future 0.3% (up 0.3)

While movements are small both Labour’s essential support partners have lost  support while all National’s current support parties gained.

Preferred Prime Minister:

  • John Key 65.2% (up 1.5)
  • Andrew Little 16.2% (up 2.9)
  • Winston Peters 7.9% (down 3.7)
  • Jacinda Ardern 2.8% (down 1.1)
  • Helen Clark 2.5% (down 0.1)

Little won’t be happy with the lack of gain for Labouir but his own rise will give him a little cause for hope.

I think the decline in support for NZ First and Winston Peters is of note. Peters was ranked by some as politician of the year.

He was certainly politician of the first couple of months with a huge win in the Northland by election. But since then he has hardly fired. Add to that the negatives of one of the least liked and worst behaved MPs in Parliament , Ron Mark, and NZ First could be heading for some problems.

Source: NZ Herald National steady at year-end



70% + 13% support medical cannabis

NZ Herald reports on a Herald-DigiPoll on cannabis that found 70% want medical pot legal.

An overwhelming number of New Zealanders support the legalisation of cannabis for medicinal use, the latest Herald-DigiPoll survey shows.

Poll voters were asked which statement best fitted their view on the legalisation of cannabis.

  • Wanted the drug legalised only for medicinal use under strict conditions – 70%
  • Wanted it kept illegal for all uses – 15%
  • Wanted it legalised for all uses – 13%

The poll of 750 eligible voters was taken on August 14-24 and has a margin of error of 3.6 per cent.

That’s a total of 83% who would support medical cannabis. That doesn’t surprise me, but the low number wanting it legalised does. The medical cannabis option may have distorted that.

Mr Dunne said the results were not surprising. “The reason I’ve been interested in exploring the medicinal cannabis aspect is reflective of that type of feeling.”

In March, Mr Dunne told the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs meeting in Vienna that evidence of the benefits of medicinal cannabis was underwhelming, and he stuck by that statement.

“There’s not a great deal of evidence around, there are trials being undertaken … but hard evidence as to beneficial impact is difficult to come by.

“But if it is beneficial and passes muster, then there’s no reason why [certain products] shouldn’t be made available.”

There’s support from Labour and the Greens.

Labour MP Damien O’Connor, who began drafting a private member’s bill to allow better access to medicinal cannabis after Mr Renton’s case, said he still hoped to put a bill forward, but was encouraged by Mr Dunne’s approach. “Ensuring we get the legislation right, that it does just open the door for medicinal purposes, is absolutely crucial.”

Green Party health spokesman Kevin Hague said the party supported the use of medicinal cannabis.

Getting National to agree to any changes will be more difficult, but if sufficient favourable research is done the availability of medical cannabis products could be done under current law.

Despite signing off Mr Renton’s medication, Mr Dunne said it did not create a precedent – rather, a long-available procedure to get approval for a restricted product had been used for the first time.

Any impression the floodgates have been opened were “wrong and naive”, Mr Dunne said, but he has asked officials to watch medicinal cannabis product trials overseas, including in Australia and the United States.

If new medicinal cannabis products – likely to be sprays or oils – were introduced to the market they would go through the same assessment process led by Medsafe.

Some will be disappointed that relaxing the law on recreational use of cannabis isn’t on the agenda but that reality is that under a National Government that is unlikely to change, especially when Labour and the Greens don’t put any pressure on.

Poll on Trans Pacific Partership

A Herald Digipoll shows that while there’s hard core opposition to the Trans Pacific Partnership most people (67.9%) either support the principle of a TPP or don’t know enough about it yet to decide.


NZ is one of the 12 countries negotiating a free trade deal called the Trans Pacific Partnership. Without yet knowing it’s details, which of the following best fits your general impression?

  • I support it on the basis that NZ’s economic well-being depends on increased trade in the world:  22.9%
  • I oppose it on the basis of what I’ve heard about disputes between companies and Government being settled by private tribunals: 33.1%
  • I don’t know enough to form any view: 45.0%
  • Don’t know/refuse: 0.8%

Herald-Digipoll August 14 to 24. Sample size 750. Margin of error 3.6%

It looks like outside ideologiogical support/opposition public opinion is prepared to wait to see agreement might be reached  before taking a stance.

Source: Herald-Digipoll

Herald/Digipoll August 2015

Audrey Young reports on the latest Herald/Digipol – Labour’s support recovers to 30s

Labour are up to 31%, not as bad as being in the 20s but still struggling. Other polls recent polls have had Labour in the high 20s and low thirties.

  • National 50.8% (down 0.2)
  • Labour 31.0% (up 2.3)
  • Greens 9.3% (down 1.6)
  • NZ First 6.9% (up 0.8)
  • Maori Party 1.0% (up 0.2)
  • Conservative Party 0.6% (down 0.5)
  • ACT Party 0.2% (down 0.6)
  • Legalise Cannabis 0.2 (up 0.2)
  • Mana 0.2 (up 0.2)

The latest polling took place during a particularly bad period for the Government, between August 14-24.

It doesn’t look bad for the Government. National have a majority on their own (just) and Labour are about 20% behind, but that’s what Young talks up.

Labour’s support has climbed back to the 30s for the first time in a Herald-DigiPoll survey since Andrew Little became leader nine months ago.

The result, 31 per cent, will be a major psychological boost for Labour because 30 per cent represents a credibility threshold for parties that might expect to lead a government.

It is the first time the Labour Party has polled over 30 per cent since June last year.

Back then, it polled 30.5 per cent before a steady decline under David Cunliffe’s leadership to a humiliating 25.13 per cent in September’s general election.

But on past performance, it still has a way to go before it will be satisfied with polling under Mr Little.

Quite a way to go. A long way to go if Labour is going to avoid having to deal with both NZ First and Greens in coalition.

Recent polls:

  • Roy Morgan (August) National 50.5%, Labour 27%
  • One News/Colmar Brunton (July) National 47%, Labour 32%
  • 3 News/Reid research (July) National 47%, Labour 31.1%

Bizarrely the Herald continue their promoting of Jacinda Ardern with this at the head of the article:

The rising popularity of Labour front bench MP Jacinda Ardern is evident in the latest Herald DigiPoll survey.

I wonder if Ardern selected those two photos. She appears to be ranked 9 in Labour’s pecking order, and I don’t recall her being prominent in politics lately.

Majority support anti-ISIS troop deployment

The Government is backed by majority sentiment with the deployment of a small number of troops in Iraq, according to a Herald-Digipoll survey.

On the decision to deploy troops in Iraq:

  • Agree 57%
  • Disagree 34%

(the poll wording was not given)

More men (two thirds) agreed than women (47%).

The poll of 750 eligible voters was taken in the lead-up to Anzac Day when there were arrests in Australia of a group suspected of planning terror attacks for Anzac Day. There was also coverage in New Zealand of Kiwi jihadist Mark Taylor’s YouTube clip urging Islamic State sympathisers here to target Anzac Day celebrations.

Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee said those were possible factors in the poll. He believed it showed people were increasingly realising New Zealand was not isolated from the threat posed by Isis.

The deployment was opposed by Labour and Labour’s foreign affairs spokesman David Shearer said he believed New Zealanders were more evenly split than the poll suggested.

How would Shearer believe he knows better than the poll?

The Herald-DigiPoll survey of 750 eligible voters was taken from April 17-26 and has a margin of error of +/- 3.6 per cent.

Source: Kiwis back NZ troops’ Iraq role

Slater should be as embarrassed as the Herald

There were some shallow claims made by Audrey Young and the Herald editorial today about their latest poll result. National was virtually unchanged (since the last Herald-Digipoll result) and they tried to explain this in relation to John Key’s hair embarrassment.

They are ridiiculed on Cameron Slater at Whale Oil in WHO’S EMBARRASSED NOW AUDREY?

Audrey Young said this:

I have not felt that in the past six-and-a-bit years he had led the country.

But to learn today that he pulled a waitress’s pony-tail on several occasions at his local cafe makes me cringe.

It is one of those stories that denigrates him and his office.

The public don’t agree Audrey

But the poll didn’t ask anything about that.

Slater went on to claim that John Armstrong, John Drinnan, Barry Soper, Duncan Garner and Matt Nippert should be embarrassed. For example on Garner:

Duncan Garner should be embarrassed too:

I know you accept that now but you should have worked it out much earlier. It screams power imbalance, Prime Minister.

You say it was fun and games that went too far and many people will side with you on that – but her side of the story reads differently.

No, Duncan you were wrong…many people, about 51% do side with the PM.

That’s a nonsense claim. There’s been no poll on how many people side with Key on the hair issue.

And in any case a significant amount of the polling was done before the news even broke, let alone got widespread coverage.

Slater should be embarrassed making such silly claims.

There’s no way of knowing how much the hair issue will impact on Key’s chances of re-election.

Timing meant that it would never have had a big impact on the Herald poll. It’s not surprising to see poll support for National hold up.

Winston Peters has improved his support but only appeals to a minority.

Russel Norman and the Greens have had a low profile and are currently selecting a new co-leader, so it’s hard to know where Green support may go.

Andrew Little and Labour chose to be missing in action in the Northland by-election, they remained virtually MIA over the school and Easter break, and remain MIA as Little travels to Gallipoli and Europe.

There’s no way of knowing what impact the hair embarrassment would have had on National in a poll if there was strong opposition, but the Opposition has never looked weaker in my memory.

If this weakness of any alternative continues Key may be unscathed in polls and possibly the 2017 election despite his falling from grace.

But he has increased his risks.

Now swing voters like me who see no better alternative might more readily drop our support for Key if a credible alternative materialises.

There’s no doubt that Key has been an unusually popular politician, and still is. But some of his support will have become more tenuous. And will continue to weaken, even if he maintains current poll levels.

But there’s now a greater change that enough swing voters will decide to swing away from National to swing an election.

No poll measures or tells us anything like this, no matter how hard journalists and (some) bloggers try to fit a poll result to their stories.

National, Labour up in Herald Digipoll

NZ Herald reports on a Digipoll, probably the last political poll of the year. While it’s indicative of support it’s an odd time of year to run a poll, many people will have their minds on things other than politics.

They incorrectly claim:

…in the first political poll since Andrew Little took over the leadership and the first major poll since the September 20 election.

Roy Morgan have published three polls since the election, one of them since Andrew Little became leader.

You have to read through the article to find the key numbers:

  • National 50.4% (up 2.2 on last Digipoll, election result 47.04%)
  • Labour 28.9% (up 3.0, election 25.13%)
  • Greens 9.5% (down 1.6, election 10.7%)
  • NZ First 5.6% (down 2.8, election 8.66%)
  • Maori Party 1.5% (“up a little”, election 1.32%)
  • Mana Party 0.2% (Internet-Mana election 1.42%)
  • United Future and ACT were not given poll results

It’s not surprising to see the two largest parties increasing at the expense of the smaller parties when most people’s minds won’t be very politically inclined.

National will be happy with their result considering they haven’t had a great start to their third term.

Labour and Andrew Little will be encouraged to see their support recovering slightly.

Preferred Prime Minister:

  • John Key 65% (up 0.7%)
  • Andrew Little 13.6% (Goff, Shearer and Cunliffe peaked at 18-19%)

This result means little at this stage.

Rating Andrew Little’s performance:

  • Excellent 5.3%
  • Very good 19.4%
  • Good 24.7%
  • Adequate 23%
  • Poor 7%

That’s very encouraging for Little. I’d rate his performance so far as leader as very encouraging/very good. It will be important for him to start strongly in the New Year and not take too long. David Cunliffe had a poor and belated start to this year and he and Labour never recovered.

Source: Nats, Labour both on rise

It’s annoying that NZ Herald scatters incomplete results through and article and doesn’t provide at least a link to all the pertinent details of the poll. For all I know they could have only managed to poll 200 people this close to Christmas.

UPDATE: Full results apparently

National 50.4%
Labour 28.9%
Greens 9.5%
NZ First 5.6%
Conservatives 2.9%
Maori 1.5%
Act 0.4%
Mana 0.2%
United 0.0%

Final poll results – table

All five pollsters have released their final week results, with results narrowing.

Election 2014 final poll results


  • Polls ask “If an election was held today who would you vote for?”, they don’t try to predict election day voting.
  • It is common for movements in support late in campaigns due to tactical voting and undecideds deciding.
  • If ACT and United Future win electorates they may add more to seats than their share of vote.
  • If the Maori Party hold all three seats they will get more than their vote share. If they hold two seats they will be about proportional to their party vote according to the poll average.
  • If Conservatives don’t make the 5% threshold the other parties will increase their % share of seats.
  • If Hone Harawira loses Te Tai Tokerau Internet-Mana will not get any seats and their party vote will be ‘wasted’.
  • In 2011 National got 47.31% and with ACT and United Future seats were just able to make a majority.

Most of this polling will have occurred before Monday night’s “The Moment of Truth” meeting. NZ Herald recorded before and after results:

With 60 per cent of the poll done by Monday night, when the event happened, National was polling at 47.8 per cent, down on last week, said DigiPoll general manager Nandan Modak. From Tuesday it jumped to 49.1 per cent.

But I asked Andrew from Colmar brunton if he’d seen any change and he responded:

Was looking the whole time, even during.

Impossible to tell if any impact, with any degree of certainly.

I saw no increase for National compared to first two days, but it’s not that simple, as party support differs by day normally.

– @Unimatrix_0

Colmar Brunton explain ‘margin of error”:

The maximum sampling error is approximately ±3.1%-points at the 95% confidence level. This is the sampling error for a result around 50%. Results higher and lower than 50% have a smaller sampling error. For example, results around 10% and 5% have sampling errors of approximately ±1.9% points and ±1.4% points respectively, at the 95% confidence level.

See full final results – Final pre-election poll results

See also Coalition possibilities many and varied