The tide goes out slowly, but it does go out.

National and its dwindling supply of allies have almost exactly the same level of support as the left-leaning combination of Labour and the Greens, our latest poll of polls shows. This result mirrors the individual results of two TV polls, both published yesterday, showing a very close result.

We estimate that the Maori Party would hold the balance of power if an election were held today, with both the left and right blocks picking up 58 seats. With New Zealand First holding over 4% at this point in the cycle, however, only a great fool would say it will definitely, of even probably, miss out on seats at the next election. Should New Zealand First ease up to 5-6% then it would hold the balance of power instead of the Maori Party. (New Zealand First would need 5% rather than 4% because the Electoral Commission’s proposed reforms to the electoral system, even if enacted quickly, will almost certainly not take force until the 2017 election.)

If that happens, then any government would require at least three parties to at least not oppose it in confidence votes, and a National-led administration would likely require five parties (National, ACT, United Future, the Maori Party, and New Zealand First). Given what John Key has said previously about the dangers in “multi-headed monster” governments, that situation would not make him at all comfortable.

Our “now-cast” – the fancy word people use now when they want to say “poll-based seat calculation” – also gives seats to the three small party leaders currently holding electorates. In at least one case (ACT), and possibly more, this is probably an overly generous assumption. More realistic assumptions in this area would probably hurt National’s cause more than the left’s.

Just as important as the two-years-before-the-election snapshot is the trend line in support, which has clearly favoured the left through 2012. At the last election, the left-right polling gap was around 11%. At the start of 2012 it had dropped to around 5-6%. Now it is zero. These linear trends will not, of course, extend all through the next two years. But the substantial right-to-left movement over the past twelve years clearly shows increasing dissatisfaction with National’s performance in government, and increasing support for a centre-left alternative coalition based around Labour and the Greens.

Even more than the individual results over the weekend, that trend is David Shearer’s friend, and John Key’s enemy.

Comments (11)

by Andrew Geddis on December 03, 2012
Andrew Geddis

 (New Zealand First would need 5% rather than 4% because the Electoral Commission’s proposed reforms to the electoral system, even if enacted quickly, will almost certainly not take force until the 2017 election.)

Why "will almost certainly"? There's no legal reason they couldn't be in place for 2014 - convention dictates that changes to electoral law are carried out the year prior to an election (i.e. 2013), which then would leave 11-ish months to bed them in before the 2014 vote.

Or is this more of a prediction that in order to avoid any one party being seen to "stack the deck" in their favour, there'll be a conscious decision to delay the changes for an election cycle (at which point their potential effects are far less foreseeable)? Which is, as it happens, a good idea and one I support.

by Graeme Edgeler on December 03, 2012
Graeme Edgeler

Was about to make the same point as Andrew.

The Electoral Commission was clearly of the view that its recommended changes should be enacted before the 2014 election.

by Rob Salmond on December 03, 2012
Rob Salmond

Yeah, "almost certainly" is an overstatement. I think any changes this term *should* probably not affect 2014, but go into force from 2017 instead, precisely to avoid the short term temptation to stack the deck. I hereby amend to "hopefully."

by Lynn Prentice on December 03, 2012
Lynn Prentice

Bearing in mind the way that some commentators have been talking up a NZ First / National / X coalition over recent months and others have been talking up NZ First / Labour / Green coalition, I suspect that both sides will just accuse each other of stacking the deck. Of course NZ First will just chortle.

In any case NZ First is quite unlikely to get below 5% bearing in mind that they have a quite robust constituency that tends to be somewhat skeptical of MSM prognistitations (as I repeatably pointed out during and after the 2008 election). That constituency also appears to be remarkably resistent to telling pollsters that they will be voting for NZ First. Just look at the consistent lower polls that they have throughout the election cycle compared to what turns up on election day.

In a 2014 election I suspect that if they go for 4% rather than 5% then it will make remarkably little difference to the outcome. The main effect will probably be for any newcomer parties in giving them a target that is conceivably feasible vs one that is likely to be unobtainable. That could cause issues with 'wasted' votes.

 

by jack on December 03, 2012
jack

You people act as if those polls are gospel. I looked at Horizon Polls and NZ first is up to 8 percent. They were running higher just before the last elections but National and MSM tried to crucify NZ first about "unstable government".. Your right, a fool will believe that NZ first is out. They'll make it back in.  It's the msm that doesn't want them in.

by Steve on December 03, 2012
Steve

Once again your poll of polls only includes 8 parties and only accounts for 98% of voters. It's a shame you don't include NZs fastest growing party, the Conservative party who are polling higher than at least 3 of the parties you do include.

by Rob Salmond on December 03, 2012
Rob Salmond

@Lynn: I think your assessment is about right.

@jack: I do not trust the Horizon Poll. As the last election it predicted National to get around 35% of the vote. It got 48%. But I agree with you than NZF is likely to get back in.

@Steve: Yes, the Conservatives are growing."Fastest growing?" Depends on how you define it, I suppose. We can never include everybody in these things and I have only ever included parties that have a current seat. Once the Conservatives have a plausible path to Parliamentary representation then they could be reasonably included. Right now they do not have that. Notice I do not have the ALCP either, who also have no seats and sometimes often poll about the same as The Conservatives' recent record.

by jack on December 03, 2012
jack

Horizon Polls got it right.  National got 35 percent of all voters registered.  It got 47 percent of those who voted.  No one predicted such a low turn out.  National didn't even come close to 55 percent which Fairfax printed on the front cover in large printof the Dominion Post the day of the elections.. I think that was to disenchant the opposition.  Unfortunately, it was very affective since over a million didn't vote.

by Steve on December 03, 2012
Steve

Rob you really  should be including the Conservative party as they were the 5th highest polling party at the last election. This year they have featured in every poll by every polling organisation, unlike Act,Mana and United. At times this year they have also polled higher than both NZ First and the Maori party.

You do the Consrvatives a disservice by comparing them to the ALCP, who were NZ's 10th largest party at the last election and got about 1/5 of the votes the Conservatives got.

by Andrew Geddis on December 03, 2012
Andrew Geddis

@jack,

How, then, do you explain away the fact that the final Horizon poll before the 2011 election had Labour at 29% (when it actually only got something like 20% of all registered voters), NZ First at 10.9% (actually got 4.6% of all registered voters), the Conservatives at 5.3% (actually got 1.9% of all registered voters) and so on? There's a good reason that Rob doesn't include Horizon in the mix ... it is junk.

Also, I don't think over 1 million people see the DomPost frontpage.

by Rob Salmond on December 04, 2012
Rob Salmond

@jack: For a detailed account of how Horizon got it wrong, have a look at my chapter in the VUW post-election book "Kicking the Tyres."

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