Friday, February 03, 2012

The perils of pollwatching

DPF has a blog up on Stuff today, breathlessly asking whether National is now the underdog, based on the results of the latest Roy Morgan poll (which shows a slight uptick in support for Labour and the Greens). Its a perfect example of the pollster's fallacy, the imbuing of monthly statistical noise with meaning. As the pollsters always tell us, what matters in polls is the long-term trend, not today's results. And yet pollster DPF seems quite happy to ignore this when he has a deadline to meet - even though he presumably knows better.

(This, BTW, is why I don't blog about polls: because I'm not interested in pretending that noise - as opposed to broad levels of support - is meaningful).

What this poll does show us however is how tight things are for National. With no significant coalition partners left, they need to practically win a majority themselves in order to be able to govern easily. They almost did that this time, with 47% of the vote (which wasn't enough to save them from John Banks). But as a second-term government, they've got nowhere to go but down. Which gives them problems not just at the next election, but in the longer term as well. Under MMP, parties need friends - and National has none. No wonder they wanted to get rid of it!