How well is NZ First doing?

Winston Peters was on TV One’s Q+A programme over the weekend, taking aim (as usual) at the polls:

“The polls have been overly kind for National election after election, and against a real night result they’ve been far too high. For Labour they’ve been about right up and down but about right.

“For the Greens, they’ve been excessively favourable to the Greens, always way above what they find they get. And we’re always below what we really get, so your so-called 7 per cent polls are nonsense. We’re doing far better than that.”

Peters puts NZ First at somewhere above 7%. So is Peters correct?

The 7% poll Mr Peters refers to is of course the recent One News Colmar Brunton poll, which has been NZ First’s highest polling this year. Either side of that poll, the 3 News Reid Research poll had them at 4.9%, while the latest Roy Morgan put them at 5.5%. Certainly, that recent polling suggests that the party is now consistently breaking 5% (Reid Research generally has NZ First about 0.5% or so lower than the polling industry average).

My Poll of Polls currently has NZ First on 4.7%. Yes, that’s a climb from their previous position of 4.3%, and another poll showing them above 5% will likely propel them above 5% in the Poll of Polls. However, whichever way you look at it, Mr Peters struggles to justify any sort of claim that the party are polling at 7%.

What about the claim that NZ First are “always below what we really get”? I had a look at systematic polling bias in this post, and the results for NZ First were quite interesting. Averaging the final polls from each of the five main public polling companies, the results across the 2005 to 2011 elections differed quite markedly. In 2011, the average error had NZ First’s final poll rating at 2% below what it ended up with on election night. In 2008, the average error had their poll rating just 0.6% too low, while in 2005 the average error was in fact 0.5% too high. Overall, across the three elections, the final polls from the big five polling companies averaged out at an error rate of 0.7% too low. Add that to our Poll of Polls and NZ First is still only at 5.4% – sure, it gets him back into Parliament, but it’s well below his claim of where NZ First is really at.

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