Why National still has a problem with Maori...

A new Maori Television poll shows Maori support for Labour and Helen Clark remains high

Despite its remarkably steady poll lead, as shown in the latest Pollwatch poll of polls here on Pundit, National is taking a considerable gamble in this election. Still seemingly unable to understand that coalitions are at the heart of MMP, National's prime strategy is to win 50 percent of the vote on its own—or, at least, a percentage in the late 40s that's sufficient for it to govern alone.

It would be remarkable if National could hold its current lead. As David Lewis pointed out last week, no single party has won more than 50 percent of the vote since 1951.

If the Labour/Progressives/Greens/New Zealand First gaps closes, National's Plan B is to beg a few seats from Act, United Future and perhaps the Maori Party. Hence John Key's efforts to woo Pita Sharples and Tariana Turia and downplay the Maori-bashing that National revelled in under Don Brash. The Maori Party, shrewdly, has ruled nothing out, putting them in the box negotiating seat come November 9. Commentators have bought into the potential for a National—Maori coalition. The strongest point in that argument is that National could yet offer movement on the Foreshore and Seabed Act, or even some constitutionally-creative role for the Maori Party within a new government.

But the very serious weakness in that plan has been highlighted by a Maori Television poll released last night. The channel's statement reads:

A political poll commissioned by Maori Television shows that Labour has a clear majority of support amongst Maori voters (52 per cent) followed by the Maori party (20 per cent) and National (15 per cent)... On leader preferences and assessments, Maori voters' support for Labour is reflected in their much stronger preference for Helen Clark (38 per cent) for Prime Minister than John Key (10 per cent) who enjoys as much support for preferred PM as Winston Peters (10 per cent).

And that, in a nutshell, is why it would be very hard for the Maori Party to sign a deal with National. Sharples and Turia can't burn off the people it wants to be the party's long-term supporters for the sake of a single term in government.

The poll is one of eight being carried out by the channel's Kowhiri 08 programme, in partnership with TNS. The margin of error is 4.8 percent. Here are some more of the findings:


Attribute Clark% Key%
More honest than other politicians 61 22
Down to earth 74 42
In touch with the needs of Maori 52 14
Rather inexperienced 8 66
Base: Maori voters 420 420


I would have that thought that "In touch with the needs of Maori" is a crucial point.


MMP VOTING: PARTY VOTE: If a general election was held yesterday, which political party would you have voted for?

18-28 September 2008
Total Maori Non-Maori
% % %
Labour 41 52 35
National 40 15 51
NZ First 4 5 3
Green Party 5 5 6
ACT 1.7 0.6 2.2
United Future 0.4 0.3 0.5
Maori Party 6 20 0.4
Alliance 0.1 - 0.1
Christian Heritage - - -
Progressive 0.2 0.3 0.1
Destiny NZ 0.3 0.6 0.1
All others 1.5 1.4 1.5
Base: 1172 355 817
Don’t know/ undecided 11.3 12.6 10.7
Would not vote 2.9 2.9 2.9
Base: 1365 420 945


It seems that the National Party is still suffering from the Brash attacks, if not its decades-long refusal to take Maori issues seriously. What's surprising is that John Key doesn't rate better, despite his recent efforts. He may find solace in the fact his negatives aren't as high as his parties, but he'll be disappointed his positives aren't a lot better.



18-28 September 2008
Total Maori Non-Maori
Main candidates % % %
Helen Clark 34 38 32
John Key 28 10 36
Winston Peters 5 10 3
Pita Sharples 1.2 3.6 0.2
Tariana Turia 1 3 -
None 4 5 4
Don’t know 19 20 18
Base: 1365 420 945


With numbers like this, National's going to have to offer the Maori Party the sweetest of sweetheart deals if the Maori Party is going to be able to sell a right-sided coalition to the people it represents.

Hat Tip to Rachel Cunliffe at Throng.