Final polls vs the 2014 election actual result

Advance voting began today (Photo: Electoral Commission)

How did pollsters go last election?

Pretty well. The actual results were well within their margin of error (see tables below) and close to the actual National and Labour vote.

But our average of the five final-week polls does reinforce two polling phenomena that have now been observed for several elections in a row.

One is that the Green Party vote is over-estimated.

As Green support tanked in a rash of polls after Metiria Turei resigned, some of the party’s supporters took to social media to complain that its youthful supporters lacked landlines, so were not captured in the surveys.

The counter argument is that most of the polling companies are now using a mix of online, landline and mobile phone responses, and all are weighting their samples to match New Zealand’s demographics at the last census.

They all have the right percentage of millennial voters surveyed.

The real problem is the under-30s vote in lower numbers than any other age group, so some of that Green support goes begging.

With NZ First, I suspect we’re seeing a “shy NZ Firster” phenomenon, just as there was a “shy Trumper” effect that saw some of Donald Trump’s supporters too sheepish to admit they would vote for him when rung by pollsters (but not internet surveys) in the run-up to the US election. As NBR observed pre-election, this is nothing new, tracing its roots back to the so-called “Bradley Effect” in California in 1982, when many respondents were too sheepish to admit which way they intended to vote in a racially-charged contest).

With pollsters being dumped on left, right and centre, it’s also worth noting while the Shy Trumper effect had its limits in the US, yes, it did distort some polls (to the degree that there were many) in a handful of rust-belt states that proved crucial to the outcome under the first-past-the-post Electoral College system. But Hillary Clinton actually carried the nationwide popular vote (analogous to our MMP list vote) by 48.0% to 45.9% – that is almost exactly mirroring the final day of tracking polls,  which had Ms Clinton an average 2.0% ahead.

The UK’s Brexit referendum in June last year didn’t look so good for the pollsters.

A BBC poll-of-polls showed a tightening race, with “Leave” ahead in four of the final 10 polls it quotes. Yet, nevertheless, the final day’s polling average was Remain 45%, Leave 44% – when, in the actual referendum, “Leave” won by four points.

The pollsters’ explanation was that the heat of controversy over Brexit drew in people who don’t usually vote, throwing their carefully-calibrated weightings out of whack as some demographics voted in larger numbers than expected.

However, the pollsters re-jigged, and at this year’s UK general election they correctly anticipated an increased youth vote as Labour ran a resurgent campaign.

The final BBC poll-of-polls was right on the money, predicting Labour would get a much higher vote but still fall slightly short of the Conservatives’ tally.

Advance voting opens
A final factor: Voting opened in our election today.

So any events from now – and any polls – will be coloured by the fact that some ballots have already been cast.

The Electoral Commission says that in 2014, 717,000 or 29.70% of registered voters cast an early vote.

This year, it’s anticipating that figure could be up to 50%.

Accordingly, it has boosted the number of advance polling booths from 295 last election to 485 – and many have been placed in areas where young people lurk in a bid to boost participation of the weakest group, the under-30s.

Related video: Robertson and Grant head-to-head, moderat

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10 Comments & Questions

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It is great opening up more advance voting stations but they really do need to get online voting up and running. I'm struggling to vote this year due to working during the week, away for the weekend, and then off on holiday before polls open on Saturday.

I have seen that there does seem to be an advance polling station in Albany that is open outside of working hours (on Thursday and Friday evening) but I'm not sure whether any of the political parties has decent enough policies to make me take an hour's round trip in Auckland's traffic worthwhile. All parties seem to have policies that they know better than me how to spend my money; so does it really matter who wins?

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There was a ferocious debate around security after a pilot was mooted for the last round of local body elections, then ultimately abandoned. I suspect we'll see Ian Apperley (pro online voting) and David Lane (wary) weigh in shortly. 

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"Don't make me go there" Dave...

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Heh - 4 of us convinced the Christchurch City Council (who, afterwards, we found would've voted 13-0 in *favour* of joining the online voting "trial" (<- it wasn't a "trial" as it would've been a binding vote)) that online voting just isn't a solvable problem today. After our presentation, they voted 12-1 against taking part in the trial. You may say "but what about online banking?!". Those who say that are precisely the sorts of people who should learn a bit more before promoting an idea the implications of which they don't understand. The whole story is right here (including video :) ): https://davelane.nz/brakes-headlong-rush-online-voting Since that presentation, nothing in the technology has changed, although many other online voting systems around the world have been tried and have (unsurprisingly) uniformly failed, or been found to have egregious security flaws rendering the legitimacy of any results they might proffer completely null and void. The only countries who have persisted with online voting are those who have too much political capital invested in their baseless reputation for technological "innovation" (or shares in the online voting system) to quit.

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There also the issue of the flawed assumption that online voting will improve voter turn-out. There's no conclusive evidence in any of the overseas trials that this is the case, so the whole purported justification for adding this costly, risky, and fundamentally flawed concept (alongside in person voting, which, even if we were foolish enough to introduce online voting, would need to stick around for at least a generation) is, well, completely wrong.

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If you don't vote, however difficult and onerous, then you have no right to complain. However, I do agree that NZ should have the technology to setup a secure online voting solution as an option. Obviously it should not be compulsory at this stage as there are too many of the older generation that don't even have an email address. But we should start the process of moving to electronic only.

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I can complain; just limited to the total lack of choice and fiscally responsible policies on offer - rather than "I'm upset X has got in because Y would have been better". Because nope, they are both as bad as each other!

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Given that 50% of people are expected to vote before 23 September, why is there still campaigning and election advertising going on. Seems to make a mockery of no electioneering on polling day.

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That's a good point. Will put it to the Electoral Commission.

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I am extremely doubtful about the applicability of overseas Brexit and US Presidential polling data to New Zealand elections. Why is it that no-one has thought about watching Germany's opinion polls, given MMP? Looking at the current disposition of the Bundestag, it is more similar to New Zealand's electoral configuration, albeit with the Left added there.

I suspect that many of your readers would find it more comforting to read about Chancellor Merkel and the CDU/CSU centre-right, which appear to be on course toward a fourth term. Like New Zealand First, Alternatives for Germany is a reactionary anti-immigrant nationalist party. The Greens are self-explanatory. The Left are akin to the vanished Alliance. The Social Democrats are ringers for New Zealand Labour. Curiously, Alternatives for Germany looked like it might cost the CDU/CSU that fourth term, but it looks like it peaked far too early. There could be a lesson in that for us.

Might I also note that it is curious that the 2017 British election is not included in this logistical exercise?

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