Saturday, 19 March 2016

Heading South ?

Commenting on Kiwiblog a couple of days ago, Right-Wing Blogger and National Party cheerleader, Keeping Stock suggested "Labour's poll ratings are heading south at an alarming rate".

But is this true ?

Are Labour's numbers in free-fall ?

          One News Colmar Brunton      - Labour Support                   
  2015       Feb  31          April  31           May  31          July  32        
                 Aug  32            Oct  31                                                        
   2016       Feb  32                                                                                

Nope. Not for Colmar Brunton.

               Herald-DigiPoll         - Labour Support             
  2014        Dec  29                                                                
  2015        April   29            Aug  31              Dec 31          

In a word: No.   Nay.   Nyet.   Nein.   Nicht.   Not for Herald-DigiPoll either.

                        3 News Reid Research       - Labour Support                
  2015       Jan  29       May 30        July  31        Sep  33         Nov  32   

Fraid not  ...     Well   ...   not unless you consider the definition of "heading south at an alarming rate" to encompass a one point fall on the previous poll and a one-to-three point increase on those immediately prior to that.

                     Roy Morgan    - Labour Support                                          
  2014        Oct 23             Nov 24              Dec    27                                    
  2015        Jan  26            Feb  30           March  31          April   28         
                   May  26         June  26              July  32           Aug    27         
                   Sep  31            Oct  29               Nov  30              Dec  29        
   2016        Jan  28            Feb  27          March  28                                  

Slightly more promising for Keeping Stock.   But, nah sorry, still no fluffy toy.

Labour's certainly down on its July apex of 32% and, indeed, on the 7 Roy Morgans in which it scored above 28%. Then again, it's up on another 8 polls where it rated 23-27%, including the latest survey's immediate (February 2016) precursor. No doubt about it - the Party's suffered a mild decline on most of its mid-late 2015 numbers in the Roy Morgans. But can we really say that they're currently "heading south at an alarming rate" ?  Wouldn't have thought so. More a kind of roller-coaster ride that's recently levelled off mid-way between the highs and lows.

So, for three of our four major public pollsters, Not even remotely !!!

For the other ? Not really. You'd be stretching your definitions to breaking point.

And then, of course, there's the arguably more important question of the Opposition Bloc's poll numbers ... last two polls (Feb Colmar Brunton and March Roy Morgan) put them back in front.
Translation:  Winnie kingmaker once again.

(NOTE: The Tables above include all polls carried out by New Zealand's leading Public Pollsters since the September 2014 General Election. No Colmar Brunton or Reid Research polls were conducted in late 2014, and no Herald-Digis or Reid Research polls have yet been undertaken this year)

Meanwhile, leading National Party Spin-meister, Matthew Hooton, has also been weaving one or two colourful wee rhetorical strategies around the notion that Labour are in free-fall. In Hooton's case, though, the focus is on data from Labour's private pollster UMR Research.

Part and parcel of his on-going strategy to de-stabilise the Labour leadership by talking up rumours of caucus discontent (a strategy that Hooton, Slater and Farrar have been assiduously pursuing for some time now, just as they did during the tenures of Little's three immediate predecessors), Hooton argues that:  "Alarm has been raised after Labour's private polling showed it was down to just 30% in February, from 35% before Christmas. Worse, those voters have not gone to the Greens but slipped back to National so that the gap between left and right is now wider than a month before Labour's last election debacle".

(Working as a double-act, Farrar then blogs approvingly, liberally quoting Hooton, while adding (as he so often does) his own carefully-misleading and de-contextualised comments and poll stats).

For starters, you can see that 30% is, in fact, entirely in line with Labour's recent numbers among New Zealand's leading Public Pollsters - who, as we've seen have recorded pretty stable support for the Party over recent months (and, of course, an Opposition Bloc lead in the latest two polls).

Particularly interesting, too, that when Labour politicians told the media that their internal poll put them on 35% - as they did in December - you could hear Hooton, Farrar et al scoff from a mile away: "Yeah Right". Yet the moment these Right-Wing commentators get wind of a possible decline for the major Party of the Left, the numbers of  Labour's private pollster very suddenly become absolutely sacrosanct.

Much more importantly, though, it has to be said that Hooton's pulling a bit of an old swifty here.

The 35% figure in UMR's December poll was very much an outlier. UMR poll on a monthly basis and in a clear majority of their polls through 2015 (including the four immediately preceding the December one), Labour were sitting on 31% (and were on 32% in most of the remainder). This notion of some sort of dramatic fall is, therefore, unmitigated nonsense.

He's also being a little playful when he seeds the idea that: " ... the gap between left and right is now wider than a month before Labour's last election debacle."

First, Hooton fails to define precisely what he means by Left and Right. Is he, for instance, including Colin Craig's Conservatives in his definition of Right ? What about NZ First and, most importantly, the Maori Party ? And is IMP counted among the Left ?

Here are the 2014 General Election Party Vote percentages:

Labour+Green 36     Left 37      Oppo 46           Govt 49        Right 53

So the Left-Right gap was either = 12 points (Left vs Govt), 13 points (Lab+Green vs Govt),  16 points (Left vs Right) or 17 points (Lab+Greens vs Right). All depending on how Hooton defines his terms.

And here are the UMR figures a month out from the Election (I'm presuming these are the stats Hooton is referring to, albeit without ever detailing - as you'll see, for obvious reasons):

UMR one month before 2014 General Election:

Labour+Green 42      Left 45      Oppo 51          Govt 46        Right 49

So, in fact, all he's saying is: the current gap is more than 1 solitary percentage point (Left vs Govt), or more than 4 points (Lab+Green vs Govt) and (Left vs Right) or more than 7 points (Lab+Greens vs Right). In other words, despite what Hooton is carefully trying to imply, the Left-Right gap  (however defined) is significantly less than the one that occurred at the 2014 Election.