What now for Bridges?

There had already been murmurings in media about Simon Bridges leadership of National before the latest poll (Newshub/Reid Research) had him at 9% ‘preferred Prime Minister’.

Newshub headlined their poll with Simon Bridges failing to connect with voters – Newshub poll and the l4esd paragraph was worse:

A Newshub-Reid Research poll has brought some seriously bad news for Simon Bridges.

Mr Bridges, who has now been in the role three months to the day, has earned just 9 percent of the vote in the preferred Prime Minister stakes – the lowest result for a National leader in over a decade.

The poll, which is the first to be conducted since the new Labour-led Government’s first Budget, suggests his status as leader of the Opposition is failing to get any real traction with voters.

This is despite National support holding up on 45.1% to Labour’s 42.6%.

And also as has been murmured lately, Judith Collins got a promotion: Judith Collins makes surprising appearance in preferred Prime Minister poll

Prime Minister Judith Collins – how do those four words strung together make you feel? For 3.7 percent of New Zealanders, it feels pretty good.

Because for the first time ever, Ms Collins has registered in our Newshub-Reid Research poll as a candidate for preferred Prime Minister.

However, Ms Collins is ranking higher than Ms Ardern did when she first appeared as a preferred Prime Minister in 2015. Back then, Ms Ardern debuted at 3.5 percent.

But this is dire news for the actual leader of the National Party, Simon Bridges – his preferred Prime Minister ranking is just 9 percent.

I’m not sure how 9% is dire but 3.5% is somehow seen as an ominous appearance in the poll.

What should Bridges do about this poll? Nothing except continue on his two and a half year strategy. As one person put it, “his listening tour now is classic first year opposition stuff”. Travelling the country meeting as many people as possible is relatively low profile, but an essential in creating credibility and support.

I don’t think an election has ever been lost on a ‘preferred Prime Minister’ poll this far out from an election.

Jacinda Ardern peaked at 4.2% in 2016, and was averaging about 6% for the first half of 2017, suddenly spiking to 26% in early August, 6 weeks before the election.

There’s no reason Bridges can’t do something similar (unless he continues to look like a damp squib) if National are still near or ahead of Labour in the all important party poll, especially if NZ First look like they do now, out of contention, and if Greens look shaky again.

Neither James Shaw or Marama Davidson rated at all in the ‘Preferred prime Minister’ poll – Shaw got 0.4% with Colmar Brunton in December and February, but his absence in this poll means nothing about Green prospects.

Winston Peters got 4.6% in the latest poll, about average for him since the election, and he is going to be acting Prime Minister soon.

We have no idea how Jacinda Ardern’s popularity will track over the next two years. She may or may not even lead Labour next election. And that isn’t what is important anyway.

Bridges should carry on with his strategy and hope that he finds a formula that connects him with voters. More importantly National as a whole need to continue to look like a credible alternative.

Media will keep posting pointless poll stories – they use polls to create news, not to give a non-emotional balanced indicator of a snapshot of public opinion that is very minor in the whole scheme of things.

The opposition will continue to talk up doubts over National’s leadership.

The niche blog Whale Oil will continue it’s primary role as a political activist, talking up Collins and trying to trash Bridges. That’s been their modus operandi – promoting Collins and trashing Key/English/Bridges – for years. But 3.5% is a long way from suggesting their is wide support for Collins, even within National.

And WO’s toxic association with Collins will make things difficult for her – if she still has leadership ambitions. She is probably the most prominent and effective Opposition MP  at the moment, but it’s not uncommon for a non-leader to be the primary attack weapon of a party.

All this poll does is create a flurry of speculative comment, until the next poll. And there’s going to be many more of them before the election.

It’s not unusual for many people to prefer the current Prime Minister to be the Prime Minister – but Ardern’s 40%, well short of a majority, shows that it means little.

It is almost certain that National would suffer in the polls if they switched leaders every time media made a headline out of a single number. Labour struggled for eight years and ten months in Opposition, and their revolving door leadership was a significant part of that.

Bridges has far more important things to work on then ‘preferred PM’ polls that mean very little under MMP.

What will the polls do?

Now Bill English has taken over from John Key as Prime Minister there will be a lot of interest in what the polls do.

Internal party pollsters may be busy but the public are unlikely to get much of an indication this year.

Roy Morgan may do a December poll but their polling is usually over two weeks so would span the transition from Key resigning to English taking over. At best it may give us a rough indication.

I think it will be the end of March before we get a good idea of whether the polls show any support shifts or not, by then we will have several Roy Morgan polls plus possibly Colmar Brunton and Reid Research polls for comparison.

Poll possibilities:

  • National hold or rise – I wouldn’t rule this out but it’s feasible, Labour, Greens and NZ First haven’t changed apart from their hope levels.
  • National drop a bit, but from currently high forties to mid forties which is still within recent fluctuations – I think this is most likely short term while the public ponders.
  • National drop to the low end of their recent range in the low forties – quite possible but unless English stuffs something up badly I think less likely.
  • National support crashes and Labour leaps – a lefty dream rather than likely reality.

Andrew at Grumpollie has looked at what might happen with ‘preferred Prime Minister’ based on past Colmar Brunton trends in WHY WE SHOULDN’T GET EXCITED ABOUT THE NEXT PREFERRED PM RESULT:

The next Colmar Brunton preferred Prime Minister result will generate a lot of interest – probably a few cheers from the opposition and kind folks at The Standard, and fairly cautious or defensive responses from some National Party supporters.

Here are my predictions:

  1. Bill English’s result will be lower than John Key’s current result of 36%.
  2. Andrew Little and/or Winston Peters’ results will increase, but probably not substantially (which one does or doesn’t increase could be interesting!)
  3. John Key will still feature strongly in the results for this question.
  4. Support will increase for Paula Bennett and Simon Bridges.

He also suggests what reactions will be and why people need to ‘calm the farm’ – I hope media will remain calm but doubt they will resist trying to make a sensation out of rough indicators.

There are also some interesting trend charts from Colmar.

The only certainty is that polls will continue to fluctuate – plus too much will be read into them by media and pundits with vested interests.



Preferred Prime Minister

I don’t think the ‘Preferred Prime Minister’ polls prove very much but as John Key has shrunk further to 36% in the latest 1 News/Colmar Brunton poll it may be of a bit of interest to look at more details.

  • John Key 36%
  • Andrew Little 8%
  • Winston Peters 8%

Looking further back:


Key jumped when he became National leader in 2007 and climbed from there through to 2012. Since then he declined quite a bit and levelled off for three years but is dipping again. But his last six results (back to October 2015) are barely out of margin of error variance:

  • 40%, 40%, 39%, 39%, 38%, 36%

However Andrew Little has never risen to any extent. His last six results

  • 8%, 9%, 7%, 7%, 10%, 8%

Others ‘preferred’ in the latest poll:

  • Don’t know 34%
  • Other 3%
  • None 2%
  • Refused 1%
  • Jacinda Ardern 1%
  • Metiria Turei 1%
  • Phil Goff 1%

Goff is now mayor of Auckland. Ardern is hardly knocking on the leadership door.

  • Grant Robertson 0.5%
  • Te Ururoa Flavell 0.4%
  • Helen Clark 0.3%
  • James Shaw 0.3%
  • Peter Dunne 0.3% (first time included over the last year)
  • Annette King 0.2%
  • Paula Bennett 0.2%

Bennett is the best of the National alternatives.

  • Tariana Turei 0.2%
  • Shane Jones 0.1%

Neither of them have been MPs for years.

  • Gerry Brownlee 0.1%
  • Gareth Morgan 0.1%
  • David Shearer 0.1%
  • Stephen Joyce 0.1%

0.1% is 1 respondent out of the 1,010 eligible voters asked.

Click to access Preliminary_ONE-News-Colmar-Brunton-Poll-report-Nov-12-13-21-23.pdf



Less preferred Prime Minister

Preferred Prime Minister polls are a bit odd in our political system where we don’t vote for Prime Ministers, we vote for a party (the crucial MMP vote) and for electorate MPs.

But it does give us a bit of an indication how popular the current Prime Minister is.

Patrick Gower overstates the situation in the latest Newshub/Reid research poll in Key’s popularity plummets to lowest level

John Key’s popularity as Prime Minister has dropped to its lowest point since he took office in the latest Newshub-Reid Research poll. 

Just 36.7 percent of those polled listed the current Prime Minister as their preferred option — down 1.6 percent from a Newshub poll in November.

A drop of 1.6% is within the margin of error so that isn’t particularly significant as far as polling goes.

However it is noteworthy that it’s Key’s lowest result since he became Prime Minister. He received about 10% less than the National poll result. This could suggest that voters rate the party and government as more important than the leader.

National rose marginally (by 0.3) to 47%.

At least as noteworthy is Anderew Little dropping by about the same amount as Key, to 8.9%, along with Labour dropping 1% to 31.3%.

If there is no credible alternative leader to Key and no credible alternative major party to National then they will benefit from Labour’s and Little’s continued struggling to impress.

This week it’s the battle of finance, with Bill English pitted against Grant Robertson. That match up could be at least as decisive in next year’s election as Key versus Little.

But Key dropping slightly has excited some at the Standard – Newshub poll – Key falls to lowest popularity – although the comments are mixed.

The timing of the poll is curious, in the lead up to the budget where opposition parties are going hard out trying to set the debate agenda and attack the Government in advance as much as possible.

If the Government delivers a positive budget it could change voter sentiment significantly, if they deliver a dog of a budget it could do likewise in a negative direction, so polling in advance is not great timing as far as assessing relative support is concerned (the timing is likely to suit media marketing as much as anything).

Non preferred PM

David Farrar on Facebook:

Little factoid, as I’m compiling my monthly polling newsletter.

Andrew Little’s Preferred PM rating is one half of what David Shearer’s was three years ago and one quarter of what John Key was nine years ago as Opposition Leader.

Key in 2007 – May polls had him at 32%, 45.5% and 38%, better than Helen Clark in each. A quarter is 8-11.5%.

Shearer in preferred Prime Minister polls in 2013:

  • 15.0% – One News Colmar Brunton 13 February 2013
  • 18.5% – Herald-Digipoll 21 March 2013
  • 12.4% – Herald-Digipoll 12-23 June 2013
  • 12.1% – 3 News Reid Research 9-14 July 2013
  • 13.0% – One News Colmar Brunton 27-31 July 2013

Half of 12-18% is 6-9%

David Cunliffe from September 2013 to September 2014 ranged from 8 to 18.2%

Andrew Little preferred PM at Colmar Brunton over the last year:

  • 9% – May 2015
  • 8% – July 2015
  • 10% – August/September 2015
  • 8%- October 2015
  • 9% – February 2016
  • 7% – April 2016



Preferred Prime Minister

As a predictor of party prospects in elections the preferred Prime Minister is of limited use but gives a bit of an idea about which politicians the public think about or know.

From the Colmar Brunton poll published last Sunday:

“Now thinking about all the current MPs of any party, which one would you personally prefer to be Prime Minister?”

IF NONE: “Is there anyone who is not a current MP who you would prefer to be Prime Minister?”


Helen Clark, Shane Jones, Turiana Turia are all ex MPs and Kim Dotcom has never been an MP but there are not many choosing them, Dotcom has only had one person choose him once.

0.1% in a sample size of a thousand is just one response.

Many voters could name few MPs. Even leaders like Andrew Little aren’t well known, so the Prime Minister usually scores well above the rest.

So ‘Don’t know’ is not surprisingly quite high, with over a third of respondents not choosing anyone.

SAMPLING 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. These sampling errors assume a simple random sample of 1,000 eligible voters.

Poll results less than a percent or two can be quite fickle.

Poll source (PDF)

Key not backing away from public protest

Some are making a lot of booing and objects being thrown at John Key and claim it’s a sign of massive public displeasure at Key and the government.

It’s impossible to gauge how the general voting public see events over the last two weeks, beginning with the large turnout for the TPPA protest in Auckland, followed closely by the Waitangi debacle and Key’s appearance at the Auckland nines, and then with the Big Gay Out baying at Key in the weekend.

A Herald headline claims TPP protests put damper on long Key honeymoonbut is it?

Key says he expects protests to continue but it won’t put him off public appearances.

Yesterday, Mr Key said he expected to encounter protesters against the Trans-Pacific Partnership for the rest of the year.

But he would not be changing his public appearances to minimise the encounters.

“… I’m not going to back away from it or engaging with other New Zealanders because you get a small group of very noisy protesters.”

It could be that the protests are helping dent Key’s popularity, although the opposite may also happen in reaction against over the top actions of a few.

The Herald compares preferred Prime Minister polls between Key and Helen Clark but they are crucially looking at different times in their terms.

  • Helen Clark after 6 years – ‘nearly 60%’
  • Clark prior to losing in 2008 – 41.6%
  • Key after seven years (December 2015) – 65.2%

That was before this month’s protests and attacks. The next poll on both party support and leader support will give us a bit of an idea about whether the protests are effective or counter-productive.

But if Key keeps appearing in public and fronting up in spite of protests it could be an indication that his own polling isn’t causing him any concern.

Preferred Prime Minister trends

Colmar Brunton have tweeted (@ColmarBruntonNZ ) ‘preferred Prime Minister’ trends for the last twenty years.

The second chart is of most immediate interest.

John Key climbed quickly to 30-ish as soon as he took over from Don Brash, and soon afterwards overtook Helen Clark, over a year out from the 2008 election. After that he climbed significantly more, but dropped off in 2011. Since then he has fluctuated, and while he’s bee lower he’s in risk of heading into the danger zone.

In the meantime since Clark resigned from leadership four successive Labour leaders have failed to impress. Andrew Little’s trend downwards will be a concern for some, but probably outweighed by concern about how yet another leadership change would look.