Thursday, April 03, 2014

New day, new poll

We’re seeing a lot of opinion polling lately, today’s being a Roy Morgan poll, which showed Labour and the Greens together taking the lead from National. Contrary to popular belief, these polls give us a lot of information—but this far out from an election, they have to be viewed with some caution.

The Roy Morgan Poll found that while the Greens were down to 13%, Labour’s rise to 32% means that together they’re sitting on 45%, ahead of National’s 43%, which was a 2.5% drop for National. As pollster Gary Morgan put it, “It appears the scandal around Justice Minister Judith Collins is continuing to dent support for National.”

Support for the minor parties is up in most cases, and if today’s polls were the election result, one or more minor parties would determine who forms government.

Working out what all of this means for the make-up of the new Parliament—and so, who forms Government—is tricky. Most of the major news organisations make a lot of assumptions about parties winning electorate seats, but what matters is the percentage of the Party Vote each party gets, because that’s what determines the make-up of Parliament.

So, taking these poll results, and assuming the parties win the same number of electorate seats they currently hold (about which, more in a minute), I used elections.org.nz’s MMP Seat Allocation Calculator to come up with this rough break down: It would be a 121 seat Parliament, with Labour having 39 seats and the Greens 16, for a total of 55 (a minimum of 61 seats would be needed to form government in this scenario), though they’d probably also have the support of the Mana Party (1 MP), for a total of 56.

The National Party would have 53 seats and its current coalition partners, the Act Party and United Future, would have one each, for a total of 55. If the Maori Party won all three seats it currently holds, they would get 3 MPs (and cause an overhang). If the Maori Party continued in coalition with National, that block would have 58 seats—not enough to form government, either.

So, in this scenario, Winston Peters’ New Zealand First Party and its 7 seats would determine who formed Government—either Labour or National.

We can play with different scenarios all we want, and what I’ve shown is only one possible scenario. Electorate seats change all the time, and it’s likely that seats will change between the major parties, and there also could be changes with minor parties. Does that affect anything?

Technically, no, in the sense that the Party Vote determines the make-up of Parliament. However, it could determine if there’s an overhang. For example, let’s assume that Labour wins two of the Maori Party’s 3 seats. That would eliminate the overhang, but also reduce the National-led block by 1 seat and increase the Labour/Greens-led block by one, making it a little easier for Labour to form government.

However, if John Key does a deal with the Colin Craig Conservative Party, gifting Colin one of National’s seats (the same sort of seal National does with Act), it would do National no good: They would have the same number of seats they had without Colin but with the Maori Party—and still not have enough to form Government. Even if the Maori Party managed to hold all three of the seats it now holds, too, Key would still only have 59 seats in a Parliament with an overhang—again, unable to form government without a deal with Winston.

There’s also significant resistance (even among National voters) to Key doing a deal with Colin, and it’s entirely possible that if he did one, it would drive swing voters to Labour—maybe even enough for them to comfortably form government.

These poll results will not be the final result of the election, we can be certain of that. No poll can predict what will happen on election day several months from now, of course, so these numbers will need constant review.

All polls are merely snapshots of what likely voters thought during the time the poll was taken. Different things in the news can change the results of future polls either way. That necessary caution in mind, I think all of this is fascinating—and fun.

And, I very much like this snapshot.

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