Farrar’s honeymoon poll bounce scam

A very detailed analysis by   of how claims of a failure to benefit from a ‘poll bounce’ after the after the election was bad for Labour amounts to a dishonest scam by David Farrar in collaboration with Bill English. And how much of the media and blogosphere got sucked in by the meme put out by Farrar (not me though that didn’t rate a mention).

It’s a long post that has some interesting information about polls both recent and historical, making both reasonable and  questionable points.

Sub-Zero Politics: Farrar’s Honeymoon Scam

Introduction

Over recent weeks, National Party agent provocateur David Farrar has managed to profoundly shape mainstream media analysis of the Post-Election Mood.

In two highly influential Kiwiblog posts, Farrar set out to aggressively heighten expectations of the new Ardern Labour Government’s impending Poll performance (What sort of poll boost should the new Government get? November 6, 2017 – published some 2 weeks before the very first poll was released) and then subsequently went out of his way to ignore the first two Post-Election polls,  instead waiting 5 weeks for the third poll to emerge, before declaring that Labour had conspicuously failed to live up to expectations (No real bounce for Labour in first Colmar Brunton poll December 10, 2017).

  1. Incoming governments traditionally enjoy a huge Honeymoon surge of post-Election support.
  2. This massive Post-Election Poll Bounce comes largely or entirely at the expense of the Opposition Bloc and in particular the Major Opposition Party.
  3. Such a Poll Bounce failed to materialise in the immediate aftermath of the formation of  the 2017 Labour-NZ First-Green Government .
  4. This failure is unprecedented in Modern Political History
  5. The reasons for this alleged failure are two-fold: (a) In 2017, “there was no clear vote for change as happened in 1999 and 2008” and (b) Labour “have had a pretty shambolic start to Government” (Dec 10 post).
  6. None of this augurs well for the survival /  longevity / future electoral prospects of the Ardern Govt.

Media UpTake

As so often over recent years, Farrar’s carefully-contrived narrative quickly gained wide currency among MSM Notables. Despite the central involvement of both Farrar and segments of the Fourth Estate in the murky 2014 Dirty Politics scandal, journalists still seem more than happy to take his claims at face value and to widely disseminate them throughout the media.

I didn’t take much notice of the honeymoon non-bounce theory because every post-election period is quite different, and the 2017 pre-election and post-election certainly was, and it takes time for Governments to settle in and for enough poll results to be done to give an idea of trends. I think it will be several months before polls give us a good picture of party support trends.

Swordfish claims (without evidence) that the ‘scam’ was a Farrar/National Party plot:

Obviously, Farrar had closely co-ordinated this whole strategic campaign with Bill English’s Office.

That isn’t obvious. English could simply have picked up on what Farrar had posted and the media had reported. Swordfish could have used the same reasoning to claim that ‘Farrar had closely co-ordinated this whole strategic campaign with journalists and bloggers’.

I’ll skip the detail and go to the start of a lengthy conclusion.

Conclusion

Prominent National Party operative David Farrar has very successfully managed to sell the MSM a bogus honeymoon meme. This, in turn, has generated a whole series of negative headlines for the Ardern Coalition … reinforcing, in the process, some of National’s key attack lines around the alleged fragility and illegitimacy of the new Government.

It’d probably be going a little too far, I think, to suggest that a Machiavellian Farrar brought to bear all the innumerable dark arts of messaging, comms, social psychology and public relations when devising his various rhetorical strategies. That would be crediting his two Kiwiblog posts with a degree of sophistication that they don’t, quite frankly, possess. But in his own relatively crude way, he was able to successfully weave a dodgy little tale of woe for the Govt using his trademark blend of fact and fiction, as always playing on the ambiguity that lies between.

The nub of Farrar’s Honeymoon Scam is this: Both explicitly (Nov 6) and implicitly (Dec 10), Farrar left visiting journalists with the distinct impression that the two previous incoming governments – 1999 Clark Labour and 2008 Key National – had enjoyed massive double figure spikes of support in the very first post-Election Poll. At a bare minimum, journalists went away from Kiwiblog with the impression that these honeymoon surges emerged in the immediate wake of these elections – that is, the first few weeks.

Yet, as we’ve seen, Farrar’s claims were essentially fraudulent.

I don’t have the time or inclination to carefully check Swordfish’s claims against Farrar’s – it’s only polls, and the Government is setting off into the political year as if the polls didn’t matter anyway.

But here are more detailed poll trends of each oh the post election periods being analysed, in easier to follow pictures – the starting point for each chart is the election result.

Post-1999 election polling:

Not many polls and not much sign of a bounce there.

Post-2008 election polling:

No immediate bounce, it wasn’t until a number of polls in 2009 before the trend of poll support for national became obvious.

Post-2017 election polling:

Too few polls and too soon to tell, in very different circumstances.

Take from this what you like, but remember that they are only polls. They are of interest but can be easily over-analysed and are often misleadingly reported by media and by bloggers and by parties.

Post debate poll bounce for Clinton

The FiveThirtyEight odds for president have swung back towards a bigger lead for Hillary Clinton. Their current forecast:

538presidential20160929

http://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/2016-election-forecast/

A the trend lines show that could just as easily turn around again. The US electorate seems to be volatile, I suspect with a large number of voters unhappy with all candidates.

Will the weight of media opinion take it’s toll on Trump in the final month of the campaign?

USA Today is the latest to come out against Trump.

USA TODAY’s Editorial Board: Trump is ‘unfit for the presidency’

The Editorial Board has never taken sides in the presidential race. We’re doing it now.

In the 34-year history of USA TODAY, the Editorial Board has never taken sides in the presidential race. Instead, we’ve expressed opinions about the major issues and haven’t presumed to tell our readers, who have a variety of priorities and values, which choice is best for them. Because every presidential race is different, we revisit our no-endorsement policy every four years. We’ve never seen reason to alter our approach. Until now.

This year, the choice isn’t between two capable major party nominees who happen to have significant ideological differences. This year, one of the candidates — Republican nominee Donald Trump — is, by unanimous consensus of the Editorial Board, unfit for the presidency.

From the day he declared his candidacy 15 months ago through this week’s first presidential debate, Trump has demonstrated repeatedly that he lacks the temperament, knowledge, steadiness and honesty that America needs from its presidents.

Whether through indifference or ignorance, Trump has betrayed fundamental commitments made by all presidents since the end of World War II. These commitments include unwavering support for NATO allies, steadfast opposition to Russian aggression, and the absolute certainty that the United States will make good on its debts. He has expressed troubling admiration for authoritarian leaders and scant regard for constitutional protections.

They then list a number of problems they see with Trump:

  • He is erratic
    He simply spouts slogans and outcomes (he’d replace Obamacare with “something terrific”) without any credible explanations of how he’d achieve them.
  • He is ill-equipped to be commander in chief
    Trump’s foreign policy pronouncements typically range from uninformed to incoherent.
  • He traffics in prejudice
    From the very beginning, Trump has built his campaign on appeals to bigotry and xenophobia.
  • His business career is checkered
    Trump has built his candidacy on his achievements as a real estate developer and entrepreneur. It’s a shaky scaffold…
  • He isn’t leveling with the American people
    …alone among major party presidential candidates for the past four decades, he refuses to release his tax returns…
  • He speaks recklessly
    …It’s hard to imagine two more irresponsible statements from one presidential candidate.
  • He has coarsened the national dialogue
    Trump’s inability or unwillingness to ignore criticism raises the specter of a president who, like Richard Nixon, would create enemies’ lists and be consumed with getting even with his critics.
  • He’s a serial liar
    Trump is in a league of his own when it comes to the quality and quantity of his misstatements.

They also state reservations about Clinton:

Nor does this editorial represent unqualified support for Hillary Clinton, who has her own flaws (though hers are far less likely to threaten national security or lead to a constitutional crisis). The Editorial Board does not have a consensus for a Clinton endorsement.

Some of us look at her command of the issues, resilience and long record of public service — as first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of State — and believe she’d serve the nation ably as its president.

Other board members have serious reservations about Clinton’s sense of entitlement, her lack of candor and her extreme carelessness in handling classified information.

Clinton is a significantly flawed candidate. Just far less so than Trump.

USA Today concludes:

Whatever you do, however, resist the siren song of a dangerous demagogue. By all means vote, just not for Donald Trump.

That’s damning, but they encapsulate the concerns of many, not just in the US but around the world.