Poll of Polls update: Volatility masks a slow-moving tide

Our poll of polls continues to show a slow drop in National's fortunes, and an increasingly positive outlook for Labour and the left more broadly.

Three recent polls have provided fairly different stories about the current political landscape. Here is what we see when we average out all the polls in the pundit Poll of Polls: National sits a little above 45%, less than a point above the combination of Labour (32%) and the Greens (12.3%). New Zealand First sits just a touch under 5%, the Maori Party a little over 2%, and none of the other parliamentary parties are making much noise. Our poll doesn't currently track the Conservatives, but eyeballing the recent polls I think they are sitting somewhere between one and two, meaning they would need to strike an unlikely deal with National to have any bearing on the 2014-2017 Parliament.

Just as important as the current estimates, maybe more so, are the post-election trends. Since the start of the year, National has dropped over two points in total. Most of ACT’s implosion happened before 2012, so National’s rating is not really bolstered through picking up former ACT supporters. There is also wide variation in National’s rating. Two recent estimates (Roy Morgan, TV3), for example, put National over seven points apart form each other at similar-but-not-identical times. At the risk of too much chicken bone reading, I suspect this volatility means a many National 2011 supporters’ faith in their choice has been shaken by the long string of stories highlighting bad news and incompetence this year, but none of the other parties have been able to solidly win that cohort over just yet.

Nonetheless it does look that Labour has taken votes from National during the year. Labour has gone up by 4.5% through 2012, and only about two of those appear to have come at the expense of the Greens, who are coming down from their stratospheric ratings immediately post-election. In 2011, the Greens and Labour were basically swapping votes, with around 80% of one party’s gain coming at the expense of the other. In 2012, by contrast, the two larger left parties have managed to grow the left-leaning bloc by 2.3% from their January 2012 figure, and by well over five points from the election results less than a year ago.

Also important for Labour is that it appears to have solidified its standing in the early thirties, this most recent poll notwithstanding. At the start of the year, about half the polls had Labour below 30%, with some as low as 26.5%. Since May, however, only one poll has had Labour under 30%. That poll is, of course, the most recent one, but I have never paid too much attention to a single poll. It will be interesting to see the rest of this year’s polling to see whether there is a new dropping trend for Labour or whether this particular poll was just a bit out of whack with the general growth trend.

We estimate the gap between National and (Labour+Green) to be only around one point as at now, down from 5.5% at the start of the year and nine points at the election.

These trends will not, of course, continue in a linear fashion for the next two years. As I wrote at the start of 2011, that isn't how politics goes over a long period. But a persuasive case can be made with the data that large, persuadable sections of the public are tiring of the current government and are willing to listen to Labour and the Greens, when previously they were not.