Saturday, August 19, 2017

The support is there

The biggest question arising from the latest Colmar Brunton One News Poll, aside from why the poll results were reported so poorly, is where did the Green Party support go? Answering that will suggest the way forward, so it’s important. However, no one knows for certain, so it’s all just speculation and supposition. Here’s mine.

As I said in yesterday’s post, much of the Greens’ 15% support in the July Colmar Brunton Poll wasn’t about the popularity of the Greens, but about the unpopularity of the Labour Party, which was polling at 24% in that poll. Left-leaning Labour voters who were unhappy with their own party really only had one alternative: The Green Party. It will be in Parliament, its policies have always been the most closely aligned with Labour’s (from their perspective, at least). I also think that many Left-leaning Labour supporters felt that the Greens’ Co-Leaders were more appealing than Labour’s leader at the time, Andrew Little. I say that because in that July poll, Andrew was tied for third place in “preferred prime minister”, and he was tied with his own deputy, Jacinda Ardern, on 6%—nowhere near the 24% who said they’d vote Labour.

After Jacinda Ardern became Leader of the Labour Party, things changed—dramatically. In the latest polls, Labour has skyrocketed in popularity, and so has Jacinda Ardern, to the point where she’s now tied with the National Party Leader, Bill English, for “preferred prime minister” at 30%. For Ardern, that’s close to the party’s support—37%—a near parity that Andrew Little never achieved, which reinforces my belief that disaffected Labour voters didn’t like Andrew.

Meanwhile, the Greens had their own problems. Former Co-Leader Metiria Turei had revealed benefit fraud from some two decades earlier, and was pilloried in the news media and by the punditocracy. On the other hand, her admission made her popular among party supporters.

A short couple weeks later, however, and on the eve of a new poll that showed a drop for the Greens, she stepped down from co-leadership of the party and announced she would not return to Parliament. I won’t play “the blame game”, but on social media play was fast and furious. Some blamed Turei herself for the predicament, but many Greens supporters blamed Labour for not being supportive enough—though what “enough” meant varied quite a lot. I saw plenty of Greens supporters—the most hardcore of which don’t like Labour very much—say they’d switch to Hone Harawira’s Mana Party. The Colmar Brunton poll shows that didn’t happen.

Nevertheless, there was a strong part of the Greens supporters who were angry that Turei was forced out as co-leader, and, based on the evidence, I believe they told pollsters they were “undecided”, as I said yesterday. So, the 15% support the Greens had in the Colmar Brunton poll in July included a large number of disaffected Labour supporters who'd gone “home” in the most recent poll, and other Greens supporters who were pissed off about the way Turei was treated, and who are probably not fans of the Labour Party (since so many aren’t) had nowhere to go. Hurt, angry, but still with a green heart, so to speak, they became “undecided”. To me, this seems the most likely scenario.

I think “undecided” was the best name for them: They couldn’t or didn’t want to support Labour or any other party, they didn’t like what had happened, and so, they truly didn’t know what they were going to do. They really were undecided.

Labour’s gains, meanwhile, came somewhat from the Greens, sure—those disaffected Labour voters. But support for National and New Zealand First was also down, those voters had to go somewhere, and Labour was the only party to rise by a large number. Meanwhile, the number of voters calling themselves “undecided” also declined, though still at 13%.

What this means is that the Greens’ almost certainly didn’t lose all their lost support to Labour, even though the headline reporting made it look that way. Actual voting behaviour is always far more complicated than polls suggest or journalists report.

The reason this matters is that if the Greens support really did move to undecided, it should be fairly easy to win them back—certainly easier than winning over, say, National or New Zealand First supporters. Because they’re unlikely to take votes from Labour, given the popularity of Jacinda Ardern, campaigning to win undecided voters is their best strategy, anyway, regardless of whether their support went there or elsewhere.

And finally, one more point. In the July Colmar Brunton Poll, the combined support for Labour and the Greens was 39%. In their latest poll, that support was 41% at the same time support for both National and New Zealand First dropped. In polling, it’s always important to look at the trends, and what we see is the Centre-Right declining and support for the Centre-Left increasing. This is important for changing the government, and Labour and the Greens are STILL the only two parties publicly committed to doing that.

So, where did the Greens’ support go? Many places. But the most important thing is that support for the Centre-Left is rising, improving the chance the government will change, and if these trends continue, we WILL see a Labour-Greens government.

If we stay the course and keep telling our message to voters, especially undecided voters, we can change the government. Let’s do this.

No comments: