Rogue polls versus statistics

It’s common for politicians to claim that unfavourable polls are inaccurate (and nearly as common for them to accept favourable polls as ok).

Gerry Brownlee went as far as claiming a Newshub/Reid Research poll published on Monday was ‘rogue’.

RNZ: Gerry Brownlee questions methodology used in latest Newshub Reid Research poll

The latest Newshub Reid Research poll, released last night, has put the Labour Party on 60.9 percent and National on 25.1 percent, as the election draws closer.

The National Party released a statement just one minute before the news of the poll, dismissing it as rogue.

“I don’t believe it at all, I think it’s entirely out of kilter, it’s absolutely opposite to what we’re hearing in the electorates. The poll itself doesn’t go anywhere near where our polling is, the polling itself is clearly wrong,” party leader Judith Collins said.

National’s election campaign chair and deputy leader Gerry Brownlee told Morning Report that he meant no disrespect to the people who participated or those at Reid Research, but questioned the methodology being used.

“[The methodology used] potentially could not be random. When they applied that methodology, you’re going through selecting people who meet certain criteria that you want to have inside your polls – age groups and diversity, but that doesn’t mean you are always getting a truly random sample of what people are thinking politically.”

He reiterated the same message he had from last night, that statistically one in 20 polls would be wrong and that this was that one.

The poll has a margin of error of 3.1 percent, and was done between 16-24 July with 1000 people surveyed – the majority by phone and the remainder via an internet panel.

One of the problems with Brownlee’s claims is that while statistically a 1 in 20 poll may be outside the margin of error it is very likely to be 10% outside the margin of error. It would be much more likely to be just 0.1% outside the margin of error, or 1% outside.

According to statistical methods with the 95% confidence used is there is a 95% (19 in 20) the 25.1% result for National will be between 22.0% and 28.2%, and a 1 in 20 chance it will be outside this range. But the chances of it being 35% (or 15%) are very slim.

National leaked an internal poll result of 36% (but gave no details about polling period or sample size) – this means there is a 95% chance of it of actually being between 33% and 39%.

The 1 News/Colmar Brunton poll published on Thursday had a different polling period and a different result.

It was published as 32% with a margin of error of 3.1% (at 50%, it reduces the further you get from 50%). But that’s a rounded result, it could have been anywhere between 31.51% and 32.49%.

Accounting for the margin of error that’s a 95% confidence range somewhere between about 28.5% and 35.5%, with a 1 in 20 chance it is outside this.

Labour were published as 53%, but that’s a 95% confidence range somewhere between about 49.5% and 56.5%, still a big lead over National.

So any poll is quite approximate, despite how Newshub and 1 News try to portray their results.

Political news will affect who people think they may vote for. Sensationalised news of poll results is also likely to affect voter decisions.

And these poll results are already out of date. The Colmar Brunton poll published on Thursday:

  • Interviewing took place from Saturday 25 to Wednesday 29 July 2020.
  • Sunday (50% of sample size target was reached on this day).

So political news (including the Monday Reid Research poll) and social contact through the week would barely be reflected in the Colmar poll.

Brownlee making a fuss about a poor poll result drew more attention (some negative) to the result, but will probably only play a very small in the next poll.

Rogue MPs are a much bigger deal than rogue polls.

Polls are a useful but very approximate indicator of voter preferences in the past.

Collins: no reason for National to change ‘no deal’ with NZ First

Some time ago the National caucus decided they would rule out doing a coalition deal with NZ First after the election.  Todd Muller had indicated that hadn’t changed under his leadership, and now Judith Collins has done the same.

NZ First are launching their election campaign this weekend, but this may dampen their enthusiasm as it reduces their leverage as they can’t play Labour versus National.

Stuff:  Judith Collins says post-election deal with NZ First ‘not likely’

Speaking to media after putting up the billboards, she said had seen Winston Peters on Saturday morning and had “wished him well – but actually I’d rather we just won”.

She said it was “not likely” they would be in government together: “I don’t know if his party’s going to be there after the election”.

“It’s really important to understand the caucus has said that they don’t want to do a deal with Winston Peters. There is no reason that I know that we are going to change that.

“My view is I’m just not worried about him, or his party vote. I’m focused on the National Party vote.”

As that is a politician speaking it doesn’t rule out a deal categorically, but if Collins reneges on this she should be hammered.

Talking of hammering, that’s what has been happening to NZ First in polls, with recent polls putting Peters’ party around 1%.

In a ‘preferred Prime Minister’ poll this week David Seymour and Chloe Swarbrick polled higher than Peters. Winston is going to pull something out of the hat this campaign if he is going to save his party.

The poll was commissioned by The Project with Yabble, and the 500 respondents were asked: Thinking about all current MPs of any party, which one would you personally prefer to be Prime Minister?  The poll was conducted on July 15 and it has a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percent. – Newshub

Media continue pressure on National but they are scrutinised as well

Media continue to pile pressure on the National Party over their handling of emails leaked by Michelle Boag.

Boag has already resigned from the party and withdrawn from being involved in Nikki Kaye’s electorate campaign, and MP Hamish Walker has pulled the plug on his political career after admitting forwarding private information about Covid cases to media.

But the weekend is full on trying to find something else to dump on National.

Kaye fronted up on Q+A – 1 News chose an uncomplimentary photo.

This is a common way media try to convey something about politicians.

Jack Tame also said that while Kaye looked genuine in denying knowing about the leaks from Boag ‘it still looked very suspicious she didn’t know’.  Why? Either they take her word for it, or find evidence she wasn’t being truthful. Politicians have enough problems when they don’t look genuine, but saying ‘she looked genuine but…’ is bordering on dirty politics.

In contrast, the Spinoff was more kind with it’s photo selection:

Political leaks are frequently used by media. In this case they are distancing themselves, but questions are also being asked about the media involvement.

Mediawatch (RNZ): Walkergate revives Dirty Politics vibes (audio):

A universally-condemned leak of Covid-19 patients’ personal data for political purposes prompted the media to ask if ‘Dirty Politics’ was back – or had ever gone away in the first place.  But just like Nicky Hager’s book in 2014, this episode also raised questions about the media’s handling of the leak itself.

Dirty politics worked and works because the media amplified political attacks, often from leaks.

UMR poll: National bottomed out

The latest UMR poll suggests that big National’s slide may have ended, getting 30%. They were still polling in the forties in February before Covid struck but slid to 29-30 in three polls, and in the latest (Roy Morgan in late May) they got just 26.5%,

And for now at least, and Todd Muller has at least got higher approval than Simon Bridges had. It’s early days for Muller’s leadership, and his first week was not flash and he was dumped on by media, but he at least has a chance to build on some support.

  • Labour 54% (down marginally from 55% in April)
  • National 30% (up marginally from 29% in April)
  • NZ First 5% (down from 6%)
  • Greens 4% (down from 5%)
  • ACT may be 2.5%

No result reported for ACT or parties not in Parliament (but a social media mention of the ACT result).

Preferred Prime Minister:

  • Jacinda Ardern 65% (no change)
  • Todd Muller 13%

The April UMR poll had Bridges on 7% so Muller and National may feel a bit of vindication for changing the leadership.

The poll of 1211 voters was taken from May 26 to June 1 and has a margin of error of +/-3%.

UMR polls are private polls (paid for by Labour and corporate clients) but have been more often leaked when they have been favourable to Labour and bad for National

Source ODT/NZ Herald (with a stupid headline, the situation now is very different too when).

Another awful poll for National (and great for Labour)

Today’s 1 News/Colmar Brunton poll is bad news for National, and very similar to the Newshub/Reid Research poll out earlier this week and also a recent leaked UMR poll:

  • Labour 59%
  • National 29%
  • Greens 4.7%
  • NZ First 3 %
  • ACT 2%
  • Maori Party 1%
  • The Opportunities Party 1%

Refused to answer 5%, undecided 11%. Fieldwork conducted 16-20 May.

The ‘preferred Prime Minister was as bad (and exceptional for Ardern):

  • Jacinda Ardern 63% (+21 from last October))
  • Simon Bridges 5% (-6)
  • Judith Collins 3%
  • Winston Peters 1% (-2)
  • Nikki Kaye 0.4%
  • Todd Muller 0.2%

Notable also is that both Greens and NZ First are under the threshold, and Peters is also dropping to negligible ‘preferred’.

So Labour very strong, Act ok (if Seymour can hold Epsom), Greens in the danger zone and NZ First/Peters really struggling.

Of course tomorrow’s National leadership showdown adds importance to this result.

David Farrar very quick off the mark with the poll results but no commentary: Latest poll
(but his Curia poll average hasn’t been updated for three months).

And Greg at The Standard was ready to rumble: The Colmar Brunton poll

Last legs of leadership for Bridges

Talk of changing the Leader of the Opposition is not uncommon, especially by political opponents trying to stir, but after another very poor poll result for himself and for National it looks like the last legs of leadership for Simon Bridges.

In fact bridges says he knows of two challengers and the National leadership will be put to the test by next Tuesday at the latest (when the next caucus meeting is scheduled).

I don’t think National can afford to let it drag out that long.

Poll support has been turned badly against National, They started the year with two good results (RR 43.3% and CB 46%) but a leaked UMR polls this year have gone 38%, 35% to 29% last month (with Labour up to 55%).

And polling last week by Newshub/Reid Research matched this with National on 30.6% (Labour 56.5).

And while in ‘Preferred Prime Minister’ Bridges had been creeping up to 11% in February, UMR had him down to 7% lst month and RR has him on 4.5%.

The performance of bridges through the Covid crisis has been sometimes ok-ish but was often criticised for being out of touch. He also has a problem with his presentation. He often appears to be negative and whiny, and there is no easy fix to that.

there is now open support of an alternative leader from ex-Prime Minister and National leader Jim Bolger: Former PM Jim Bolger backs Todd Muller for next National leader

Bolger told RNZ’s Checkpoint that MP Todd Muller had the attributes to be National’s next leader.

Muller, who worked in Bolger’s office when he was Prime Minister, is understood to have the numbers to roll Simon Bridges, should its caucus make that decision when it meets next Tuesday.

Bolger said he was sure the National caucus was doing a lot of “soul-searching” as it tried to determine the way ahead.

I’m sure some of the National caucus will have informed Bolger of that. Him going public is an ominous sign for Bridges.

And after being defiant following Monday’s poll Bridges now concedes he has challengers. Newshub: MPs will challenge for National Party leadership, Simon Bridges confirms

“There is a focus on the leadership of the National Party. I understand that two of my colleagues will challenge, want to and seek to challenge, Paula Bennett and I for the leadership and the deputy leadership of the National Party,” he told The AM Show.

He refused to name the two colleagues, how he came to know of the challenge, if he had spoken to the MPs, or when they will announce their run for the top jobs.

“I think it is for them to state their leadership intentions. I want to give them the dignity of being able to make their statements,” Bridges said.

Bridges called for the issue to be resolved quickly so the focus can get back on Kiwis. He said he will put his leadership to the test by Tuesday at the latest.

“I am very confident that I will win, but I do want to put it to the test as I say, so we can quickly resolve this and get back to the things that matters for New Zealanders.

When a leader in a weak and weakening position concedes he has challengers it looks like he is toast.

National’s pollster David Farrar as good as confirms the leadership challenge at Kiwiblog: National’s leadership

As with any major political event I will cover it on Kiwiblog, but as has been my long standing practice I won’t share my opinions on what I think Caucus should do… (because he works for the party and because he knowns many MPs very well).

My only advice to National is to not let things fester.


Todd Muller looks the most likely replacement. He has been MP for Bay of Plenty since 2014, and while not well known has done a lot of work on National’s climate change policy, which largely supports what the Government is doing.

He has a healthy majority, getting more than double the votes of his Labour challenger last election.

Judith Collins is another likely challenger, but the ongoing word is she doesn’t have a lot of support among National MPs. Cameron Slater has stopped openly promoting her. All National MPs seem to have distanced themselves from Slater (he switched to promoting Winston Peters three years ago and that appears to be his current agenda) but the taint remains for Collins. Salter keeps dumping on just about everyone else in National.


I was going to post about Stuff giving Bridges some free self promotion – Simon Bridges: Five things we need to do to get New Zealand working after Covid-19 – but that seems to be a last gasp now.


Bridges is being interviewed on NZ now. He starts by diverting to ‘focussing on the issues of the day’.

But he is refocussed quickly and he concedes what has been reported already without naming the challengers.

He switches to electioneering again but is refocussed again. He says he is very confident he and Paula Bennett have the numbers, but they all say that.

He claims he has an ‘overwhelming majority’ support.

He says he isn’t surprised by the polls when asked about Colmar Brunton who is polling right now (to be published tomorrow apparently) and in the current circumstances that is unlikely to help Bridges.


Judith Collins has ruled out challenging.

All the word is that Todd Muller is challenging with Nikki Kaye deputy (the two people are a single ticket).

 

Pressure mounts for National and NZ First, Greens still bordeline

The latest Reid Research poll may well be the best result that Labour and Jacinda Ardern get unless the transition out of lockdown and getting the economy up and running again goes smoothly.

But with National on 30% and Simon bridges dropping to 4.5% as preferred Prime Minister the pressure continues to build over leadership, and also for survival for many National MPs.

If National drop to around 30% in the election in September they are unlikely to get any list MPs back into Parliament, and their may be an overhang with their electorate MPs possibly adding up to more than their MMP proportion of votes.

Bridges has sometimes seemed ok but often comes across poorly. The key reason why there are not challengers queueing up is that no one else wants to become leader facing likely defeat.

However the risk with keeping Bridges on is that he could drag National down further, which would be bad for list MPs and MPs in marginal electorates wanting to keep their jobs.


NZ First have not polled over 5% this year in published polls, and slipped to 2.7% in the latest.

Winston Peters hasn’t even featured on ‘preferred Prime Minister’ coverage of the latest poll.

It’s unwise to count NZ First out before an election but they have been dumped before while in Government, in 2008. Each recovery mission must be getting harder for Peters and riskier for his party.

With Labour polling over 50% they wouldn’t need NZ First even if the latter survives the election. Challenging times for Peters.


Greens made the cut, just, getting 5.5%, but they have been struggling to keep over the threshold in polls and they are openly struggling to get donations.

Labour’s popularity may benefit the Greens as long as it doesn’t suck oxygen and support from the minor party.

Not having a single strong and prominent leader works against the Greens beyond their core of dedicated supporters.

And on current polling Labour wouldn’t need the Greens to form a Government. Even if they formed a coalition the Greens are likely to be in a weak bargaining position.


A lot could happen over they next four months, and political support can evaporate as quickly as it can build.

But as Covid continues to dominate the news and public attention, and as Ardern continues to receive adulation and deserved praise, voters may ignore the inadequacies of some of her ministers and keep dishing out support.

National came close but always failed to get enough votes to rule alone under MMP.

In the current circumstances and with current levels of support Labour and Ardern look to be in the strongest position of any party to win a majority alone.

Cannabis referendum could be ignored or low priority by incoming Government

We get to vote on the cannabis legislation that allows for recreational for those 20 or older bit with strict controls.

But will the next Government honour the result if a majority vote in favour? There’s no guarantee of that as it is not a binding referendum.

The cannabis reform bill got this far due to a governing agreement between Greens and Labour at the Green Party’s request. The Greens have not had a strong influence in Government (they operate outside Cabinet) and the Bill is quite conservative.

And it could still be ignored or put on the back burner. At best it could take a year or two to happen, depending on what priority the Government gives it in the next term.

If Greens don’t make the threshold, or just get in again with a small number of MPs, or are rejected by Labour in the next governing arrangement (NZ First may make a condition of support being that Greens are left out), then Greens may have little or no say.

NZ First + Labour may not honour the referendum result, but that would be a ridiculous stance for NZ First given their insistence on referendums to let the people decide.

If National lead the next Government they may ignore the will of the people, they have been very conservative on cannabis reform.

But a possibility that should not be ignored is if Act get a few seats and enable National to govern – they may insist on change.

Peter Dunne discusses these issues except the last point (Newsroom):  Cannabis questions dropped in too hard basket?

Given that the moves towards freeing up the recreational cannabis market were primarily Green Party initiatives that neither Labour nor especially New Zealand First were all that keen about, the proposal that has now emerged hangs together reasonably well. It is an improvement on the current de facto situation, and for that reason alone is worth supporting in the referendum.

However, possibly reflecting the awkwardness of its development, it is far from perfect, with a significant number of issues either apparently unresolved, or seemingly parked in a very deep too hard basket.

What happens if the referendum supports change?

The present Government has made it clear that while it will not regard the outcome as binding, it will undertake to introduce reform legislation at some unspecified time during the next Parliamentary term.

There is no guarantee within that commitment that any such legislation will mirror the referendum proposals or that the Labour Party will even support it beyond its introduction stage. If, for example, the Greens have less influence in the next government, what influence will that have on the shape of legislation? Conversely, if the next government is more reliant on New Zealand First, what assurance is there that a Bill will even make it to the introduction stage?

Should the National Party lead the next government, the prospects for any form of legislative change following on from a positive referendum vote seem pretty low, based on statements to date from its various spokespeople.

They reinforce my own experience working as Associate Health Minister responsible for drug policy, in the last National-led government where National was extraordinarily wary of any changes to drug laws.

How long it will take to pass such legislation?

Typically, a Bill of this type takes between six and nine months to pass through all its stages in the House, including the select committee process and the hearing of public submissions.

Even if such a Bill were to be introduced early in the life of the next government, it would most probably be the latter half of 2021 at the absolute earliest before it would be passed by Parliament. Again, typically, allowing time of say two to three months as a minimum for the development and implementation of the regulatory regime to follow, it would most likely be late next year at the earliest before recreational cannabis could be legally available.

So if the law change is supported will people wait until it actually becomes law? If not, how will the Police deal with it?

In the meantime, assuming a vote for change, there will be a strong public feeling that having voted for change it should be permissible to use cannabis recreationally immediately.

That would put the police in a very awkward position. Would they be quietly encouraged to go lightly on the current law, because it is about to change, which would be a very dangerous precedent, or would they be expected to keep enforcing a law that everyone knows is about to be overturned?

Either way, their position is invidious, and does not appear to have given been sufficient consideration. Certainly, to date, the Government has given no indication of its thinking on this point, which is not helpful.

Maybe they haven’t thought about it. The Greens should be making sure the Government does think ahead on this.

Presumably, the police would be expected to enforce these new restrictions vigorously, otherwise they are pointless. But enforcement of this type would lead to more people coming before the Courts for diversion, a fine, community service, or even possible imprisonment.

However, the current law on illegal use has been barely enforced by the police for years now, so it is an open question whether they would be any more diligent in enforcing any new, tighter law. And if they are not going to do so, what is the point of making the law tougher?

Current policing attitudes notwithstanding, one of the strongest criticisms over the years from cannabis reform advocates has been of what they have seen as the clogging of the Courts from cannabis prosecutions and the consequent labelling for life of many people with criminal records as drug offenders.

Yet under the new regime, this could potentially intensify, making the situation much less satisfactory than at present.

An unintended consequence could be more arrests and convictions.

All this could be rendered moot if the majority vote against change.

If a small majority vote for change it may give National or NZ First (or Labour without the Greens) to drag it out over years, or ignore it altogether.

The best way to make it difficult to ignore the referendum result is for a significant majority to vote in favour of the modest reform being proposed, but it could be difficult getting enough to see it this way.

A hard to ignore leaked poll: Labour 55%, National 29%

The bottom line for a UMR poll (warning – leaked private poll) conducted between 21-27 April as we approached the end of the Level 4 lockdown:

  • Labour 55%
  • National 29%
  • NZ First 6%
  • Greens 5%
  • ACT 3%

(But RNZ have NZF and Greens swapped: “It has polled the Green Party at 6%, New Zealand First on 5%”)

With NZ First and Greens on similar levels to other recent polls this suggests a big chunk of ex-national supporters have swung to Labour, but at the same time ACT has improved.

This looks grim for National, and it’s no wonder the talk of Simon Bridges and leadership has ramped up lately.

There’s a lot that can happen before the election with Covid and the economy, but it’s a big challenge for National to turn this around without changing their approach or their leader.

Also Preferred Prime Minister:

  • Jacinda Ardern 65%
  • Simon Bridges 7%
  • Judith Collins 7%
  • Winston Peters 3%

If a Labour activist could make up a poll result that was sort of credible but great for Labour and terrible for National it would look something like this, but all they have had to do is leak their actual poll. There have been similar numbers mentioned over the past couple of weeks.

NZ Herald: A leaked poll shows National has dropped below 30 per cent, and Labour at 55 per cent

But speaking to the Herald, Bridges rubbished the poll.

“UMR are Labour’s pollsters and are consistently, badly wrong.”

He added that Labour “should be focused on getting New Zealand back to work, not leaking dodgy numbers”.

But this is a big pig of a revelation for National, and Bridges is rough at applying lipstick.

Polling under 30 per cent is a huge psychological barrier for National and means many of their current list MPs would lose their jobs at this year’s election.

It wasn’t long ago that 40% would have been seen as pretty bad for National.

And perhaps more good news for the Government – the poll shows that 78 per cent of New Zealanders believe the country is heading in the right direction.

The number of people saying New Zealand is on the right track hasn’t been this high on a UMR poll since 1991.

“This can again only be attributed to a rallying around in a national crisis and a related current confidence in the government steps taken to combat Covid-19,” UMR said in its commentary.”

Again, things could change, but I expect this poll will be in a post at The Standard very quickly and not so fast at Kiwiblog.

NOTE:

  1. As far as it’s possible to determine I think that Labour’s internal polls conducted by UMR have tended to favour Labour.
  2. Leaked polls should always be viewed with some suspicion but more details seem to have been made available this time to media.
  3. At a time of crisis with a Government generally seen to be managing things well it is going to benefit, and the Opposition is likely to not benefit

UPDATE: The Standard posted on this an hour and a half ago – UMR’s bombshell poll result

By my count National have 39 electorate MPs and 18 list MPs. If they got 29% in the election they would not get enough MPs to get any list MPs, there would be an overhang of a few MPs.

I can imagine a few list MPs will be getting a bit nervous about their futures – like Paul Goldsmith, Michael Woodhouse, Alfred Ngaro, Melissa Lee, Juan Yang, Brett Hudson, Nicola Willis etc

Constructive Simon Bridges interview on NZ Q+A

Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges cam across surprisingly well in an interview on NZ Q+A this morning. He was supportive of many Government actions in dealing with Covid-19, and his criticisms were reasonable and constructive on quarantining people arriving in New Zealand and Covid testing.

He also pushed for more businesses to be able to open.

1 News: Bridges calls for more businesses to safely operate during lockdown

A “constructive conversation” is needed on whether contactless businesses should be able to run safely during lockdown, National leader Simon Bridges says.

“When you think about our economy, the longer we see the devastation, the job losses, the businesses going under, it’s heart attacks, it’s mental health issues, it’s fatalities in its own way,” Mr Bridges told TVNZ1’s Q+A with Jack Tame.

“Let’s try and deal with some of the randomness where one is an essential service and one isn’t, let’s be agile and potentially we can move to a more risk-based system.”

Mr Bridges said the country needed to be “quite agile about those questions now and certainly if lockdown goes longer”.

“The Government needs to do everything it can to have the most effective lockdown so we can get out of this as soon as we can.

“We’re devastating our economy, we’re curtailing freedoms, so the sooner we can get out the better.”

Mr Bridges also called for an increase to testing, pushing the daily tests into the “tens of thousands”.

As of yesterday, a total of 33,116 Covid-19 tests had been done, with the country at a capacity to do over 6000 tests per day.

“If you dealt with everyone who had symptoms, close contact, overseas, you would be testing more,” Mr Bridges said.

Full interview via https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/bridges-calls-more-businesses-safely-operate-during-lockdown