Labour leaks targeting Bridges

There have been a series of leaks of internal information obviously designed to damage Simon Bridges and National.

This began with the odd expenses leak just a few days before the information was due for public release, followed by the onslaught from Jami-Lee Ross as the now ex-National MP self destructed. There have been further anonymous leaks of historical information that look suspiciously like a continuation of that attack.

There has also been what looks like a Labour campaign to discredit Bridges and destabilise National heading into the holiday period.

Leaked UMR polling information has progressed from whispers to journalists to drip feeing of poll graphics. I posted on this one yesterday –UMR polling history – which notably was monthly polling with the last result from October, so without the latest poll. One could presume someone is only able to get old data, or the November poll didn’t fit the hit.

There is also a word cloud floating around – Stuff reported on it here How public view Simon Bridges – that was purportedly ‘sent to corporate clients in late November’ and has just popped up. This also indicates it is October data – from the time of the Jami-lee Ross saga, so an out of date targeted hit on Bridges.

Ex Labour staffer Neale Jones, now working for a ‘public affairs company, specialising in Government Relations, Strategic Communications and Campaigns’, keeps tweeting a stream of criticisms of Bridges and National. Whether that is personal or part of Strategic Communications and Campaigns is not clear.

And The Standard has a steady diet of anti-Bridges/National posts. Over the past week:

Mostly this is preaching to the converted, and several authors are involved, but it looks like they have more interested in damaging the Opposition than promoting the Government.

Over the same period there are three posts on Labour/Government bills.

Will all of this have any overall effect? It’s hard to say, but even though there has been a string of media ‘opinions’ from political journalists dumping on Bridges the consensus is that a leadership challenge would be unlikely with National polling higher than Labour (apart from the leaks of cherry picked UMR polls.

In the meantime Jacinda Ardern and Labour keep polling reasonably well – but news of Government progress has not been prominent. Perhaps that’s why there is more focus on attacking National.

Political polls for 2018

Political polls for the year haven’t shown any drastic changes, with Labour and National swapping the lead a few times after Labour had risen to be competitive late last year after the election.

I presume there will be no more political polls for 2018. Colmar Brunton (for 1 News) are the only ones left doing polls, and they have just published what will be their last one for the year.

Reid Research (Newshub) did just two polls this year, in January and May. Roy Morgan have up given doing New Zealand polls. Their last poll was in November 2017.

Labour looked dire mid 2017 but Jacinda Ardern’s leadership turned things around for them enough for them to  be able to form a government, thanks to NZ First.

NZ First have remained in the MMP danger zone, peaking on the 5% threshold but dropping as low as 2.4% (in May).

After polling mostly in the 10-15% range in the first half of last year Greens dropped drastically after the Turei fallout, and through this year holding their support just over the threshold in the 5-7% range. So their support has halved from the support they got for most of last term.

It seems normal for coalition support parties to struggle to maintain support.

After the latest poll Ardern was criticised for claiming that Labour “finishing the year stronger than we started it”, but she is correct, sort of, by a small margin and she is comparing two different polling companies.

Reid Research did an unusually early poll in the political holiday period 18-28 January, and had Labour on 42.3%. In May they had Labour on 42.6%.

Colmar Brunton’s last poll (24-28 November) had Labour on 43% (rounded so could have been as low as 42.51% or as high as 43.49%). However Colmar’s first poll of the year (10-14 February) had Labour at 48% so Labour have dropped back from that Colmar high.

Ardern also said “polls do move around a bit these are all still within the margin of error” –

We can only see trends from Colmar – here are Labour’s results for the year.

  • 10-14 February 48%
  • 7-11 April 43%
  • 19-23 May 43%
  • 28 Jul – 1 Aug  42%
  • 15-19 October 45%
  • 24-28 November 43%

The 48% for Labour looks to be a polling outlier – it could have been accurate at the time, but Labour settled in and remained in the low forties for the rest of the year. While they will be disappointed to be trailing National this is a fairly solid result for them, considering their pre-Ardern polling had them dropping in the twenties. Colmar had them trending down to 24% in July 2017.

National’s results from Colmar this year:

  • 10-14 February 43%
  • 7-11 April 44%
  • 19-23 May 45%
  • 28 Jul – 1 Aug  45%
  • 15-19 October 43%
  • 24-28 November 46%

They were behind Labour in February and in October (affected by the Jami-Lee Ross mess) but this is remarkably consistent for a party in Opposition, and with new leader Simon Bridges (since 27 February) who is struggling to make a mark.

Looking at the Labour and National polling for the year there is little in it, and little significant change in most polls.

Media have tried to make big stories out of their polls, but the reality is quite mundane.

I think we have a real problem with how polls are reported. Obviously media try to get bang for their bucks – polling can be expensive – but they usually make mountains out of mole polls, often blatantly misrepresenting what individual polls mean.

Media try to make each of their polls look like some sort of mini election, which is nonsense. They can only be approximate indicators of support, and the year after an election most of the people care little about politics most of the time.

If media were doing proper journalism they would report on the political polling without sensation and misrepresentation. And mostly that would be (and should be) quite boring.

How should the media get value for the money spent on polls? Perhaps they should also poll on things of real public interest at the same time, and make their big stories about that.

1 News blew that opportunity in the last poll. They did ask a one-off question – Should Simon Bridges boot Jami-Lee Ross from Parliament using waka jumping law?

The results of that mean nothing (and were inconclusive, with 31% saying they didn’t know). Most people have moved on from one MP self-destructing – actually most people probably took little notice when the media were going hard out with headlines.

1 News would probably like to encourage National to chuck Ross out of the waka (that would be out of parliament, they have already chucked him out of the party) because that could be headlined as a sensational political somersault or something.

Rather than aiming for short term headlines 1 News could do a really public service (they are a public media company after all) doing a series of meaningful polls on issues that really matter to people, but it would take months if not years to get a return on their investment. They seem too obsessed with short term ratings and clicks.

So I expect more of the same form polling next year, another non-election year. It’s a shame we are so poorly served by media who do polling, but I don’t see that changing.

Something worse has become prevalent – online polls run by media. They are cheap, and nasty, very unreliable so they are of no useful purpose.

Northcote by-election polls

Early voting has opened in the Northcote by-election. ‘Election day’ is 9 June.

There have been claims from both Labour and National about polls leading into the voting period, however these are internal polls commissioned by the parties with no details made public, so should be viewed with scepticism. I’m posting about them here to put it on the record, so claims can be compared to results.

The Daily Blog on Thursday:

The latest internal polling by Labour astoundingly suggests that Labour could beat National in Northcote!

I’ve just seen the latest polling for the Northcote by-election and it’s much closer than we thought.

Going into this race we knew we were underdogs – and, if I’m honest, it looked like we had a huge mountain to climb to even get close given National’s huge majority.

But the latest polling we received yesterday reveals there are just a few points in it. There is a chance Labour could do well on June 9.

Labour have just sent this out to their Northcote support team, and if true could be one of the biggest upsets in a  safe National electorate since Winston took Northland!

Labour has emailed not just members but apparently it’s whole email list (someone I know in Dunedin with no connection to Labour got one).

Referring to a tweet that it had been posted on The Daily Blog:

We will just have to wait and see what the result is. A lot may depend on party ‘get out the vote’ organisation and voter motivation, which can be low for by-elections like this with little but party egos at stake.

Typically single electorate polls can have quite small sample sizes so have higher than normal margins for error.

And by-elections with nothing much riding on them can have very low turnouts. Turnout comparisons in Mount Albert (which Jacinda Ardern won early last year):

  • General election 2014 – 36,922 votes
  • By-election 25 February 2017 – 13,649 vote
  • General election 22 September 2017 – 38,760 vote

These are the by-election candidates in Northcote:

Candidate Name Party
BERRY, Stephen ACT New Zealand
BIDOIS, Dan National Party
CHEEL, Tricia Democrats for Social Credit
HALBERT, Shanan Labour Party
JAUNG, Rebekah Green Party
KOLONI, Kym Independent
LYE, Jeff Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party
WALSH, Liam NAP

Trump improved in polls, a bit

Donald Trump’s approval ratings have been better for most of the last two months (February, March) than they have been over the last twelve months, but they are still negative:

It’s difficult to know why there has been an improvement this year – it will be a combination of factors. Getting tough on trade may be having an effect, and recent recovery may have been influenced by Trump joining the international condemnation of Russia. There is no obvious sign of the Stormy Daniels affair affecting support.

RCP Poll Average trends:

Interestingly the latest poll result is from Rasmussen which has Trump on -8% overall approval (45-53). In late February they had his approval slightly ahead of disapproval (50-48) but his approval has slipped gradually since then.

Despite the improvement Trump is still well below the approval of Obama and GW Bush at the same time into their eight year terms, as shown by FiveThirtyEight:
It’s difficult to predict how things will go from here.

The tax cuts will have pleased many. Time will tell how they work out – Trump has just agreed to a huge spending bill and the US is significantly increasing deficits and debt levels, and that will impact over time.

Much may depend on Trump’s trade ‘wars’ and the economy – the US sharemarket had improved significantly right through last year but ironically dropped steeply at about the same time Trump’s approval ratings improved at the start of February.

Jobs were a big deal in the 2016 election campaign. Success or failure there can only be judged over time.

Trump seems to have had some success in his confrontation with North Korea, and has agreed to meet with Kim Yong Un, but that has not been organised yet – the north Korean leader has just visited China and has said he will denuclearize.

The Middle East could go any way – if Trump can move the region towards peace he will win a lot of credit, but Syria and Afghanistan are still looking very dicey.

Trump’s White House administration has always struggled to get staff and has turned over a lot of high level staff – this could reflect the rush to fill positions when unexpectedly winning the presidency, with a gradual sorting out of who fits his leadership style and policy preferences – or it could be rats jumping ship. Trump’s manner or firing and humiliating people who fall out of favour may discourage potential replacements.

And the Russian election interference issue is still simmering away without a clear idea whether that will damage Trump or his family, but he must have concerns given his attacks on the inquiry and the FBI. This could all fizzle out at the Trump level, or it could blow up big time. The jury is still out on that, with a lot of the investigation details still under wraps.

Evidence against TOP

The Opportunities Party have promoted their policies as evidence based. From About on their website: TOP takes a long term, evidence based view.

However now we are down to the business end of the campaign evidence seems to have flown out the TOP window.

A few days ago on Newshub: Gareth Morgan blames landlines for poor polling, claims he’ll win 5-10 percent

“When I ask the question in the town hall shows I do every night, ‘ Hands up those who’ve got a landline, it’s 10 or 15 percent,” the Opportunities Party (TOP) leader told The AM Show on Thursday.

“What’s wrong with these polling companies? I think we’ll be somewhere between 5 and 10 percent. I’ve said it from day one.”

Where’s the evidence? TOP has a big budget, if they wanted evidence they would have done their own polling. I think it’s quite likely they have done their own polling, if so it is not evidence they want publicised.

Cut Your Hair: The evidence says TOP have no hope

TOP pride themselves on being an evidence-based party. So it behooves us to examine the evidence behind Gareth Morgan’s suggestion that TOP have a real chance of winning representation in Saturday’s election.

Question: Has any party ever achieved what TOP is trying to achieve?

Short answer: No.

Long answer: Only one party has ever won representation under MMP in New Zealand without a sitting electorate MP from a sitting party. That sole exception is ACT, who had several prominent former Labour and National cabinet ministers. That happened in the first MMP election, when everyone and their mum voted minor party.

Not many parties have won representation under MMP in New Zealand, whether through the 5% threshold or local seats. Only one MP has ever won representation for a party that didn’t have an MP elected in 1996 for one party or another: Hone Harawira, for Mana.

Most of the small parties that have won representation have done so via a local seat (Māori, Mana, Progressive, United, ACT, and NZ First have all coat-tailed in). Only 7 parties have ever reached 5%: National, Labour, the Greens, NZ First, ACT, the Alliance, and United Future. The last three have all failed more times than they’ve succeeded and have basically shriveled away to nothing (or, worse, to David Seymour). Scores of parties have failed to reach 5% OR a local seat: the Conservatives, Christian Heritage/Coalition, Legalise Cannabis, Destiny, Outdoor Recreation, Future, etc.

The latest public polls (that use a variety of polling methods):

  • Listener Bauer Media Insights 1-5 Sept: 2.2%
  • 1 News Colmar Brunton 2-6 Sept: 1.9%
  • Newsroom-SSI 4-6 Sept: 2%
  • Roy Morgan 28 Aug-10 Sept: 2%
  • Newshub Reid Research 6-11 Sept: 1.6%
  • 1 News Colmar Brunton 9-13 Sept: 1.6%
  • Horizon Research 9-14 Sept: 2.3%

Evidently TOP look like getting nowhere near the 5% threshold.

So they have done their own polling. It shows them very likely to come up short.

Morgan will know that if they don’t look like getting close to 5% many voters will prefer to vote elsewhere rather than risk ‘wasting their vote’.  Hence the bullshit about the polls being wrong.

Question: Might the polling be wrong?

Short answer: Anything is possible, but TOP reaching 5% would require polling error on an unprecedented scale.

Morgan and Sean Plunket ranting and abusing on Twitter won’t change things.

It’s not just history and the polls that are against TOP. Others have tried Donald Trump’s tactic of being bellicose and abusive and complaining about the polls – in particular Winston Peters, and NZ First has slumped over the last two months in the polls.

Question: Is this a good year for a minor party to achieve the never-before-achieved?

Short Answer: No—on current polling this will be the worst MMP election ever for minor parties.

It looks like it will take a major game changer for TOP to get close to or beat the threshold, and they are running out of time.

Question: Could TOP win a local seat?

Short answer: There is no evidence to suggest they will come close to winning any local seat. Morgan might have had a chance, but he isn’t standing in a local seat.

That Morgan is targeting the polls and the threshold (without any evidence) supports this. TOP dabbled with targeting the Ohariu electorate a couple of weeks ago but that effort seems to have fizzled.

In some ways TOP have been impressive. Their evidence based approach to developing solid policies has been very good. Morgan has impressed sizeable crowds at campaign meetings.

But TOP has been shut out of small party debates. And they have failed to attract enough positive media attention. Morgan and Plunket have also been too cranky on Twitter and possibly elsewhere in social media.

Yesterday Plunket tweeted a challenge:

A bizarre approach.

It must be frustrating to have put so much time and money into their campaign, but making up shit about polls looks desperate and not based on any evidence.

Moaning about polls is almost certainly not going to change the game and suddenly boost support for TOP. Morgan might be better trying a different last gasp approach.

It’s sad to see another new party beaten by the ridiculously high threshold. Parliament could benefit from a different approach and some fresh ideas and MPs. But facts are facts, and TOP look like failing.

Poll trends

Polls are useful indicators, albeit backward looking. Trends are also worth keeping an eye on, but they can disguise sudden shifts.

David Farrar tweeted on a post at Kiwiblog:

This is quite misleading. I don’t know whether this is deliberate or not but the timing of this is questionable. August polls are already out of date. Farrar is National’s pollster.

There has been three public polls in September that add a lot to knowledge of poll trends.

Opinion polling for the New Zealand general election, 2017 is more up to date, and much more informative.

This shows that the dramatic Labour upswing has been sustained in September, and National support is diving.

It also highlights the Green dive in support, and shows that so far there is no sign of the  much touted late campaign improvement for NZ First.

 

The NZ First poll jump fallacy

Does NZ First always get substantially more votes in an election than they poll? No, there have been a number of variations over the last few elections.

This sort of claim at The Standard is common:

NZF always get 5% additional votes at the Election cf to the polls so they are probably tracking at 16-17% which would appear to be about right at this stage ?

I’ve often seen journalists claim that NZ First get more votes than they poll. Sometimes selective poll results are used to try to justify the claims.

But the fact is that NZ First polling results and trends compared to election results has varied markedly over the last few elections. And there have been varying factors involved.

In 2008 the trend remained quite flat for NZ First – election result 4.07%:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opinion_polling_for_the_New_Zealand_general_election,_2008

In the months leading up to the 2008 election NZ First were embroiled in controversy over donations to the party. While Serious Fraud Office and Police investigated. Peters stood down from his ministerial roles (he was found not guilty of illegal wrongdoing).

In 2011 NZ First were all over the place, election result 6.59%

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opinion_polling_for_the_New_Zealand_general_election,_2011

Always the political opportunist Peters benefited from the controversy over the ‘tea tapes’ involving John Banks and John Key late in the campaign.

In 2014 there was a bit of a late upswing – election result 8.66%:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opinion_polling_for_the_New_Zealand_general_election,_2014

This wasn’t a huge rise. In March 2014 NZ First had poll results up to 7% and through the year they often got 6.0-6.5%.

In August to December 2012 NZ First had poll results from 1.8% to 7%, often getting 5-6.5% (8 times in that range).

Every election differs, especially for smaller parties who can hardly be seen during the term and then get some attention during the campaign.

Some pundits have suggested that this election has similarities to 2005, except with major party roles reversed. National under Don Brash’s leadership had recovered from an abysmal 2002 low and went very close to beating Labour under Helen Clark.

A lot of late campaign focus then was on the two largest parties, and while NZ First ended up calling the coalition shots and ending up in government (remember the ‘baubles of power’) they lost ground late in the campaign.

In 2005 there was a late drop – election result 5.7%:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opinion_polling_for_the_New_Zealand_general_election,_2005

In June and August NZ First had been getting up to 10-11%.

Peters may find an issue that resonates over the next five weeks and NZ First may get more votes than they have been polling. But they could just as easily stay flat, and a controversy could see them slide like the Greens just have.

Many different things could happen.

Labour are currently resurgent and could suck support away from NZ First.

Voters could fear a Labour+NZ First+Green coalition and rally behind National.

TOP may have a late surge of ‘stuff the others’ vote at the expense of NZ First.

Age and the rigours of having to campaign in an electorate and nationally may catch up on Peters – there are signs of strain showing. He could have a health scare.

Shane Jones may do or say something stupid (he’s been quiet lately) and scare voters off NZ First.

Nicky Hager could launch another book.

Cameron Slater may score a vital hit against National (he’s been trying hard enough, largely in vain).

Jacinda Ardern could be found wanting in election debates and voters may desert Labour, some to NZ First.

Election campaigns inevitably throw up surprises, and that can mean opportunities for smaller parties like NZ First – and can also deprive them of oxygen.

One thing is certain – a significant number of voters make late decisions about how they vote, and this means there can be significant shifts in support – as there have been over the last month.

Making presumptions based on selected past poll trends is futile.

Challenges for National

Despite the crisis faced by Labour, National still have challenges of their own heading into the election campaign.

Few expect them to do as well as last election when they just got a slim majority with 47.04%, trimmed to a whisker when they lost the Northland by-election.

Three recent polls:

  • UMR (Labour’s internal poll): 42%
  • Colmar Brunton: 47%
  • Newshub/Reid Research: 45.1%

I think the UMR poll is a bit older and tends to favour Labour rather than National, but these polls suggest that National have a challenge avoiding having to negotiate with Winston Peters based on all of these results.

BUT anything could happen now as a result of Labour’s torpidity followed by turmoil.

This could throw everything wide open if voters desert Labour and switch to the Greens or NZ First. Or voters may prefer the safety of an uninspiring but well known National plus a few small support parties again.

National still have the advantage of having a good relationship with several small parties still, while the Labour-Green Memorandum of Understanding was effectively thrown out the window by Metiria Turei and now Andrew Little seems to have smashed any window of opportunity for Labour.

So National has been helped by the turmoil on the left, but they have to do more to help themselves. Arrogance and complacency are probably their biggest challenges to overcome, but they could do with a much stronger approach from Bill English as well.

If they cruise then NZ First and the Greens make pick up the bulk of the votes thrown up in the air by Labour.

A difficult day for Labour

It will be a difficult day for Labour today with rumours of an imminent  leadership change all over the place.

On Sunday a very grim looking Andrew Little responding to a grim Colmar Brunton poll result that had Labour on a this century low (for CB) of 24%, saying he had offered to stand down, precipitated a flurry of speculation and anguish.

The hopes of those who tried to play it down with ‘just one poll’ were dashed when it emerged that prior to the CB result Labour had received an internal poll result of 23% from UMR.

So that was a double poll whammy tripled by Little’s response. On RNZ yesterday morning he said he was remaining as leader seemingly because no one else was willing to take over, and this set off a storm through Monday.

And this was topped off by a Newshub/Reid Research poll that had Labour on 24.1%.

This morning Little’s office has advised media he won’t be fronting up for any interviews, with a Labour caucus meeting scheduled.

Whatever happens, whether Little stays or goes, this is a monumental mess for Labour.

It will take several weeks for polls to show us what effect this will have all had on support for Labour but the outlook has to be grim.

We may find out what flavour of grim today.

UPDATE: Little has stepped down.

Clinton still unpopular

One of the reasons Hillary Clinton failed in last year’s presidential election was her relatively high unpopularity. While it doesn’t matter now she is political history, she is just as unpopular (her excuses for losing won’t have helped).

People tend to not like losers, especially sore losers.

The Democrats aren’t doing much better.

Fox News:  Is the Democrats’ brand ‘worse than Trump’? Some party officials admit it is

Chris Murphy, a Democratic senator from Connecticut, made some candid comments that caught my eye yesterday.

“The fact that we have spent so much time talking about Russia has been a distraction from what should be the clear contrast between Democrats and the Trump agenda, which is on economics.”

Bingo. Running mainly against Donald Trump didn’t work for the Dems in 2016, and it’s not working now.

Ohio Democratic congressman Tim Ryan told the New York Times that his party is “toxic” in large swaths of the country: “Our brand is worse than Trump. We can’t just run against Trump.”

They are diverting from their own substantial problems by trying to blame everything on Trump.

One of the stupid things about this approach is that they don’t need to show how bad Trump can be, he keeps doing that himself. His stupidity over the Comey non-tapes is evidence of that – seeTrump “did not make…any such recordings”.

Trump’s unpopularity is similar to Clinton’s. From FiveThirtyEight:

538TrumpPolls2017June22

That is historically low approval for a president in their first six months in office. Trump has managed to get there through his own efforts, he doesn’t need the Democrats to discredit him.

That both Clinton and Trump are so disliked is an indictment on the state of US politics.