Honesty, competence, internal polling

Swordfish frequently posts on poll related matters at The Standard and elsewhere. They seem to have detailed knowledge of internal Labour polls and also imply knowledge of internal National polls.

First, comments on honesty and competence.

Certainly the detailed breakdowns of leadership polls over the last few years suggest that Key’s/National’s popularity has revolved not so much around public perceptions of honesty as around perceptions of basic competence.

The New Zealand Election Study of 2011 found that Valence issues – especially perceptions of Leadership Ability and Economic Competence – played the most important role in vote choice for those not already firmly aligned.

And furthermore, despite the assumptions of some on the Left that Key’s image had remained entirely untarnished up until the Dirty Politics scandal erupted, his Honesty ratings had, in fact, been slowly but steadily eroding for quite some time – at the time of the September 2014 General Election, they were down more than 20 percentage points on 2009.

And yet the Nats still managed to win in 2014 and they’ve remained relatively high in the polls.

Why ? Largely, because a crucial segment of swing-voters were holding their noses and pragmatically placing perceived competence above concerns about dishonesty. (I’m putting aside the fact that the collapse of Colin Craig’s Conservatives has also played a part in keeping the Nats ratings at a respectable level and partially disguised a broad Nat-to-Oppo swing over the last 12 months).

But…

…it’s just possible that the Panama Papers affair may be hitting both Key and the Nats in the polls as we speak. As Pat (comment below) implies, we’ll need to see what happens over the next few polls – but arguably we already have some evidence.

First, I know of 3 Polls that have been carried out since the Panama Story broke: 1 Public Poll (Roy Morgan) and 2 Internal Party Polls (Curia for the Nats / UMR for Labour).

Both Roy Morgan and the UMR have National down on 42% – its lowest rating in any poll since the last Election (with the Govt Bloc also on its lowest rating and the Oppo Bloc on a 54% high in the Roy Morgan).

The Nats are down 5.5 points on the February Roy Morgan

Swordfish’s Roy Morgan numbers for National aren’t accurate. They are:

  • February 1-14, 2016: 48.5%
  • February 29 – March 13, 2016: 46%
  • April 4-17, 2016: 42.5%

This may foreshadow a slide for National, but their previous low of 43% in June 29 – July 12 2015 was followed by a bounce back to 50.5%.

… and down a very similar 5 points on the previous 2 Internal National Party Curia polls (conducted before the story broke).

Interesting knowledge of National’s internal polls. I don’t know how widely those results are circulated.

Second, a mid-April UMR found strong concern (even among erstwhile National voters) about New Zealand’s reputation as a tax haven, about the way the Government had handled the fallout, and about the inadequacy of the proposed Shewan review.

Time will tell whether tax and trust issues will persist or whether they will fizzle out due to a lack of substance.

And third, as I mentioned in earlier comments in April, the latest UMR puts Key on his lowest ever Favourability rating of just + 2 (compared to + 16 in the final quarter of 2015, + 27 in 2014, and + 58 during his first year in power).

That looks significant but it would be interesting to compare with Curia results on favourability ratings. I know Farrar rates favourability as an important factor.

Swordfish either doesn’t have those details from Curia or chooses to not mention them.

So, too early to tell for sure, but there are at least some initial hints of a slump in Tory support. Even if they have taken a hit, though, past experience does suggest that it could be temporary. We won’t know until we know.

Yes, too early to tell if National is suffering lasting poll damage.

Not too early to tell which side of politics Swordfish is inclined towards, and it’s not ‘Tory’ (which is not a very New Zealand term).

The openness and honesty of blogging

Long time US based British blogger Andrew Sullivan has hung up his keyboard after leading the way in political blogging for most of this century.

He looks back at the strength of honesty.

In his last post The Years Of Writing Dangerously at The Dish he looks back to his first post:

[T]he speed with which an idea in your head reaches thousands of other people’s eyes has another deflating effect, this time in reverse: It ensures that you will occasionally blurt out things that are offensive, dumb, brilliant, or in tune with the way people actually think and speak in private. That means bloggers put themselves out there in far more ballsy fashion than many officially sanctioned pundits do, and they make fools of themselves more often, too.

The only way to correct your mistakes or foolishness is in public, on the blog, in front of your readers. You are far more naked than when clothed in the protective garments of a media entity.

But, somehow, you’re liberated as well as nude: blogging as a media form of streaking. I notice this when I write my blog, as opposed to when I write for the old media. I take less time, worry less about polish, and care less about the consequences on my blog.

That makes for more honest writing. It may not be “serious” in the way, say, a 12-page review of 14th-century Bulgarian poetry in the New Republic is serious. But it’s serious inasmuch as it conveys real ideas and feelings in as unvarnished and honest a form as possible. I think journalism could do with more of that kind of seriousness.

It’s democratic in the best sense of the word. It helps expose the wizard behind the media curtain.

Some political blogging is more spontaneous, raw and honest, but wariness is essential, some of it is deliberately and blatantly dishonest, party of a dirty game.

He now says:

I stand by all those words. There are times when people take this or that post or sentence out of a blog and make it seem as if it is the definitive, fully considered position of the blogger. Or they take two sentences from different moments in time and insist that they are a contradiction.

That, it seems to me, misses the essential part of blogging as a genuinely new mode of writing: its provisionality, its conversational essence, its essential errors, its ephemeral core, its nature as the mode in which writing comes as close as it can to speaking extemporaneously.

Everything is true, so long as it is not taken to be anything more than it is. And I just want to ask that future readers understand this – so they do not mistake one form of writing for another, so they do not engage in an ignoratio elenchi. 

What I have written here should not be regarded as interchangeable with more considered columns or essays or reviews.

Blogging is a different animal. It requires letting go; it demands writing something that you may soon revise or regret or be proud of. It’s more like a performance in a broadcast than a writer in a book or newspaper or magazine (which is why, of course, it can also be so exhausting).

I tried, above all, to be honest. And you helped me. Being honest means writing things that will make you look foolish tomorrow; it means revealing yourself in ways that are not always flattering; it means occasionally saying things that prompt mass acclamation but in retrospect look like grandstanding.

I try to be honest and open too. It’s easier, and I think better. But it does expose me to a lot of personal attacks, taking what I say out of context, and highlighting of mistakes (blogging inevitably leads to mistakes).

But for me it’s worth it. You have to be open and honest if you want to demand more opennes and honesty from other bloggers and from politicians.

But it was effort nonetheless, as the exhaustion in our minds and bodies now proves. And it was the effort to keep honest that matters to me now.

Being open about who I am and what I am trying to do enforces honesty, because if I’m not honest I will justifiably be blasted.

In the main it’s the dishonest hiding behind anonymity who attack because they don’t know how to deal with openness and honesty. And they hate their dishonesty being exposed.

The dishonest inevitably turn to personal attack because that’s all they can do when they can’t defend their dishonesty.

Blogging can be a dirty weapon.

But it can also be a weapon against the dirt.

The best way to fight is by being open and honest.

Prosser out on his ear, maybe next month?

Richard Prosser wrote an extreme column about Muslims, a very deliberate aim to inflame, and to sound like a tough guy. And he was apparently unrepentant. Patrick Gower reported:

No apology over Muslim statements

New Zealand First MP Richard Prosser has outraged Muslims. Both he and his leader, Winston Peters, refuse to apologise.

“If MPs don’t say this, who will?” Mr Prosser says. “We are here to represent and to speak about the views that people have.”

A tough stance from someone who will never back down. From his book Uncommon Dissent:

One of the best things about being a no nonsense right wing nationalist social and political commentator is never having to say you are sorry.

It doesn’t matter if you upset anyone, because the only people likely to be offended by your unabased dissertations of truth and common sense are pinkos and liberals and other whingeing minorities whose opinions don’t count anyway.

And get offended they certainly do!

And this his how Prosser is promoted on his book sales site:

RICHARD PROSSER is not just one of the country’s newest politicians. He’s also the outspoken, straight-talking, politically-incorrect mind behind Investigate magazine’s monthly “Eyes Right” column.

ON ‘LIBERALS’: “I mean if people want to be weak, stupid, effeminate, erectile dysfunctional, naïve, apologist, namby-pamby, thumb-sucking, lefty pinko fantasy-land morons, let them find their own word for themselves, and leave “liberal” for us genuine freedom-loving, gonad-equipped, libertarian go-getters”

PREPARE FOR A WITTY, PUNCHY & EASY-TO-READ EXPLANATION OF EVERYTHING THAT’S WRONG WITH NZ, AND HOW TO PUT IT RIGHT…

But that was last year. And his unrepentant refusal to apologise was last Tuesday.

By Wednesday Prosser had changed his tune. Stuff reported Prosser’s sorry but backlash continues:

The Waimakariri-based list MP has vowed not to write any more inflammatory columns, saying: “It’s what a shock jock does, and I’m not that any more.”

The “gonad-equipped, libertarian go-getter” is not that anymore?

He “unreservedly” apologised for his provocative Investigate magazine column, which said Muslims should be banned from Western airlines.

Last night, he insisted his mea culpa was genuine. “I think you can learn from these things and not make the same mistake twice.”

He added: “I suppose the disappointing thing is that you realise you have made some mistake and set out to make an apology and that doesn’t get accepted, then that’s a little bit on the nose.”

The article was “not his best work”, he admitted. “I shouldn’t have allowed that to go out and tar them all with the same brush. Nor should I have gone down the line of calling for a blanket ban . . . it’s not a political solution.

It’s an off-the-cuff, in-the-pub solution.”

The column was not an “off-the-cuff, in-the-pub” comment. Neither was what he wrote in his book. He has made big claims about his no nonsense unrepentant wish to offend people “whose opinions don’t count anyway”.

Prosser has a right to speak, like anyone in New Zealand. But that doesn’t rule out consequences.

And as soon as he feared consequences he backslid. He made a half arsed apology – he said sorry if people were offended, he didn’t ‘unreservedly” apologise. And then said it was “on the nose” if people didn’t accept his apology – having written “One of the best things about being a no nonsense right wing nationalist social and political commenter is never having to say you are sorry“.

And he didn’t stand by what he had written. When a motion was moved in the House making a statement distancing Parliament from what he had written Prosser was in the House and agreed with the motion. (See Parliamentary motion on religious equality).

Prosser’s words obviously can’t be trusted. He has not been an honest MP.

ON KEEPING POLITICIANS HONEST: “Our Prime Minister, and members of the Cabinet, need to have a similar Sword of Damocles hanging over them; they need to know that if they don’t perform, conform, behave properly, and do as We The People tell them, that they’ll be out on their ears, not maybe in three years time, but maybe next month. That should keep the bastards honest.”

He has not performed or conformed as an MP – all of Parliament made it clear they didn’t think he had behaved properly.

If one bastard was to be kept honest he would be out on his ear. Maybe this month.