Richard Prebble: The polls toll woe for Labour


Polls are like the vaccine: you need two to have effective coverage.

The Roy Morgan poll found that the majority of the country does not support the Labour/Green Government.

The Newshub Reid Research poll revealed Labour’s support has fallen to 43 per cent.

The two polls confirm the tide has turned.

A poll can be likened to a still photo of a moving train. By the time the results are analysed, the train has moved on. You need two polls, taken on different days, to see which way the train is going.

We can draw significant findings from the two polls.

First, the results are accurate. Two polls using different techniques reached the same result.

Second, we can see the trend. Labour’s 9.7 per cent drop in support, as measured by the Reid poll, is huge. By today the party’s support will be even lower.

Similarly, Act’s leap in both polls is extraordinary. By today Act’s record 13 per cent support will be even higher.

The Greens’ polling remaining static is bad news for the coalition. The Greens are not picking up the voters abandoning Labour.

There is a switch of support across the political divide. It is the type of voter shift that changes governments.

The right way/wrong way poll is the most accurate predictor of all. The number who think the country is headed in the wrong direction is rising rapidly.

The coalition has decisively lost the male vote. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s support now comes mainly from women. Depending on support predominantly from one gender is inherently less stable.

Nine months into a 36-month term is almost certainly too late for Labour to reverse its fortunes.

The seeds of Labour’s polling woes were decided on election night, and ironically by the party’s reliance on polling.

The party’s massive election majority means there is no handbrake. The Greens as a coalition partner encourage Labour’s loony policies, like a $685 million cycle bridge.

Perhaps more significant was Labour losing a Māori seat to the Māori Party. Labour’s 13 Māori MPs are in a contest with the Māori Party and are dragging Labour away from the middle, where elections are won.

Take the proposed transfer of ratepayer-owned water assets into four new entities. Labour says its planned Three Waters reforms are to improve efficiency. There is another agenda. Cabinet agreed “that a high-level principle of partnership with iwi/Māori will be followed throughout the reform programme, and reflected in the new three waters service delivery system”.

How co-governance of our water supply improves efficiency is yet to be explained.

If Labour is not governing for all New Zealanders then the party will free-fall down the polls.

It is Labour’s reliance on polling that may be their downfall. Freedom of Information requests reveal that agencies handling the Covid response have been polling heavily.

It explains why MIQ is a mess. Many of Labour’s female supporters are telling pollsters they do not want to let anyone into the country. Labour has been reluctant to remedy the obvious faults in the quarantine system for fear of upsetting their supporters. This week’s decision to let in seasonal workers from Covid-free Pacific Islands could have been made last year.

The Government waited until February to order the vaccine and then ordered just one. As a result, we are just a quarantine leak away from Australia-like lockdowns.

Labour has forgotten that, just as science is the way to defeat Covid, the way to be re-elected is to be a good government.

Gestures will not cut it. The weekend’s apology to the Pasifika community for the dawn raids was hollow. Under Ardern, between May 2020 and May 2021, 223 raids for overstayers occurred, 19 at dawn.

This week’s gesture is banning gay conversion therapy. I googled “gay conversion therapy near me”. The answer was Texas. I could not find anyone in New Zealand promoting the practice.

This month will bring Labour more bad polling no matter what the Reserve Bank decides.

If, as the market expects, the bank raises interest rates, it will be unpopular with voters with mortgages. If interest rates are unchanged, then inflationary expectations will increase. Voters hate price rises.

Labour’s fate is sealed. Its loony left and Māori Caucus will not agree to a reset.

National is stuck just below the psychologically important 30 per cent. It is not all bad news. National has stopped falling. The brand is incredibly strong. Unlike Labour, the party can reset. National MPs just need to stop leaking.

The MPs need to heed the advice of Keith Holyoake: “An ounce of loyalty is worth more than a ton of talent”.

Act has shown National the way to polling success: be disciplined, on message and have good practical policy solutions.

These two polls two years out indicate that the next election is National’s and Act’s to lose. Don’t count out the ability of National’s MPs to come to Labour’s rescue.

– Richard Prebble is a former leader of the Act Party and former member of the Labour Party.

The NZ Herald’s editorial policy for political polls is to report only on polls by companies which have signed the New Zealand Political Polling Code. Australian-based polling company Roy Morgan is not a signatory and therefore the Herald does not use their poll results in news stories.

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