Referendum: Signs point to big win for current flag

With his inconsistent and contradictory approach, the PM has only himself to blame.

With the postal vote under way (it closes March 24), the clock is ticking for flag change advocates – but polls indicate they have their work cut out.

NBR’s business readership seems reasonably open to change (our poll result will be available here).

But the population as a whole is apparently not so keen. And here the blame lies with John Key. The prime minister has been an articulate advocate for change. It’s time to cut the apron strings, and the silver fern is already used as our national symbol for war graves, sports teams and trade missions, he says. But the PM has undermined his own argument by bringing back royal honours and making watery comments about whether New Zealand should become a republic. Middle New Zealand is confused and unmotivated.

A UMR phone poll of 750, taken in the final week of February, found 59% want to keep the current flag and 32% to change. 9% were unsure. That possibly represents a very modest gain for the change campaign as most previous polls have shown a 2:1 margin for retention of the current flag, UMR notes.

Other UMR findings:

  • support for the current flag among those who declare they are certain to vote is higher at 62% to 32%.
  • National voters are the most likely to vote for change, splitting 45% each way.
  • only 19% of Labour voters support changing the flag with 73% for retention.

I ran my own Twitter poll, which found a big majority of my followers would vote for the current flag. As a self-selecting social media poll, statisticians won’t give it any medals for validity. But comments around it indicated an unholy alliance between anti-change conservatives and “pro-change but hate the Kyle Lockwood design” progressives will see an easy win for the current design. 

A typical response came from Auckland woman Siobhan Keogh, who said she voted, “For the old flag, not because I hate National or because I especially like the old flag. I just can't stand Lockwood's one.”

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