Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The wild polls - now some realism

TV3 poll has Labour at 45% and National at 36%. So are the voting public that volatile? or is something else going on?

To figure out where the public are likely to be heading requires a bit of sobriety and to look at past elections. Clearly the New Zealand public will flee from a major party if it particularly disenchanted with it - National at 21% last time and Labour at 28% in 1996 are two good example. However, this election the minor parties have been sidelined - there is only one contest and it is the Helen and Don show.

Labour got around 41% in the last election - which means it is highly unlikely to do BETTER than that this time round. There has clearly been some swing away from Labour- the only question is whether Labour has gained a few points from minor parties, like the Greens and even the 2% or so who will have fled the entrails of the Alliance/Progressives. I would be surprised if Labour reached 40% this time, but equally it is highly unlikely to drop below 35%. Labour won in 1999 with just under 38% of the vote- my pick is that Labour needs to get that to have a chance at government (38% + 1% for Jim + 5-6% for Greens + 3% Maori) and it will get between 36 and 40%. Less than 38% is a Labour loss. One factor not included in this is turnout - last time a Labour victory was pretty much assured, now it is not, and the party faithful (on BOTH sides) will turnout in higher numbers, the issue is whether Labour can motivate its crowd to vote, because they want to avoid a Brash government.

National at 21% last time is clearly, on worst estimates polling well above that. National has never had more than 34% in an MMP election, and even in 1993 only managed around 35%. For Brash to have rebuilt National to be polling above that consistently is in itself a victory. English, Bolger and Shipley couldn't manage that (excluding Bolger's 1990 campaign which saw pre-election and post-election policy not exactly matching!). National has clearly cannibalised the ACT, NZ First and United Future vote - there is about 15% of its increase simply in that. The rest comes down to Labour, and my bet is that National will manage to scrape into around 37-41%. I cannot see it doing much better than that. If National gets 40% and still does not form a government, Brash will still be the party hero - and will have let himself and the party down ONLY because he listened to the lilly livered quivering and flip flops that his advisors told him to do.

Brash believes in asset sales - he could credibly have said, why should the government own farms? Why not sell a strategic stake in Air NZ - Labour was willing to let QANTAS have part of it? Why not allow private capital to boost our SOEs?

Brash believes in education choice - why not advocate vouchers that allow parents to choose their school?

Brash believes in the defence alliance with the US - why not advocate improved relations and a referendum on the nuclear issue.

Anyway - both major parties will be close, unless one of them screws up badly. However, neither of them are likely to go above 41%

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