The first few polls of the new year and the new term are in, and together they suggest a markedly different political landscape has developed since the election.
After the election in November, pollsters took a well-deserved break for the remainder of 2011, much to the relief of politics-weary news watchers. Now that we are in 2012, however, the first few post-election polls are trickling in. We have seen four Roy Morgan polls and a TV3 poll so far, but nothing yet from TVNZ, the Herald, or Fairfax.
Taken together, these five polls suggest that much has changed since the election, according to our slightly revamped Poll of Polls. The results, as always, appear in the left-hand side bar of pundit's homepage, and also here.
National has dipped well into the forties, Poll of Polling a shade over 46%. This is a substantial drop from National's election result, which in turn was a dramatic drop from its polling as late as August 2011. That is still a lot more than Labour, of course, but Labour is starting to make some solid gains back from its election disaster, pulling up to around 30% in our Poll of Polls. The TV3 / Reid Research poll also shows David Shearer already reaching heights in the preferred Prime Minister race that Phil Goff never achieved, which can only be an encouraging sign for Labour.
The Greens’ continued strong showing (Poll of Polls estimate of over 13%, well up on its election night result), mean that a possible left-leaning coalition of Labour and the Greens is now within around 3% of National. A broader, although markedly more difficult to manage, alternative coalition that also includes New Zealand First now has the lead over National and ACT combined.
Among the smaller parties, New Zealand First appears to sit just above the 5% threshold, while Mana and the Maori Party are splitting the small Maori identity vote relatively evenly. ACT’s slow death continues, as does United Future's electoral impotence.
Should upcoming polls also reflect this changed reality, the evidence points to a much more competitive political landscape in 2012 than we saw in 2011. That could intensify further as the government implements its controversial policies around asset sales and firing public workers, and if the bad economic news keep on coming.
Nerdy postscript: Poll of Polls method changes
We have made one alteration to our Poll of Polls method since the election, where the poll-of-polls performed generally well but showed some sluggishness in reacting to late changes in voter support. In addition to weighting more heavily those polls that are the most recent and have larger sample sizes, we now also weight more heavily those polls that take place very close to election day. Details are available at pundit’s Poll of Polls charts and method page.
We have also made the decision to completely restart the Poll of Polling algorithm after each election. The estimates you see now do not include any information from polls in the field before the 2011 election. We did this because of the significant polling gap that we see after general elections, and also because elections often represent a dramatic change in the political landscape.