In an earlier post I argued that political polls tend to be self-fulfilling on the basis that people are reluctant to vote for a persistently low-polling party or leader. Our natural instinct is to back winners. The high-rating leader is also able to bask in the warm glow of his poll success while his low-rating opponent has to engage in an unconvincing dismissal of the poll result and an equally unconvincing defence of his and his party’s performance that presumably led to it.
TV3’s latest Reid Research poll may not be accurate. Labour may not have only 32.6 percent support or the Greens only 11%. National may not be within cooee of 51.4%. But for the moment, and until the next moment, that’s where the parties stand. National supporters will take heart; Labour and Green supporters will endure a small chip in their confidence.
But it’s in the Preferred Prime Minister stakes that the effect is most dramatic. According to this poll, John Key on 41% has a massive 31% lead over David Shearer on 10%. The Labour leader is back where his predecessor was just before the election – only worse. And yes, I know, it can’t be right, it isn’t fair, and the only poll that matters is the poll on election day. But it’s a really bad look and the very last thing that Shearer needs as he announces his new front bench line-up.
And here’s the main point: Shearer’s future will be determined by the polls. If he lingers too long under 15% the uneasy peace which he has quite skilfully negotiated between the Labour Caucus factions will become increasingly fragile. The knives will be out. He might well have been better during today’s reshuffle to take the Clark approach and bring Cunliffe, who has after all publicly declared his loyalty, back into the tent, if only close to the flap.
And then there’s the likeable and engaging Grant Robertson – young, ambitious and only one step away from the glittering prize. As he pondered the results of this latest TV3 Reid Research poll, what thoughts might fleetingly have traversed his consciousness?
Dr Edwards is right; political polls are self-fulfilling prophesies. And we wonder how many polls showing David Shearer at a mere 10% in the preferred Prime Minister stakes will roll by before the Labour caucus gets restless.
The other issue of course is the party rank and file. Labour activists are angry at the treatment meted out to David Cunliffe and those who dared to express their democratic opinion that he might be a better leader than the incumbent. Political parties rely on activists and supporters doing the grunt work around the country. If Labour continues to alienate its activist base and its supporters, they may simply vote with their feet, their time and their donations.
Still; we don't imagine that the Green Party will be complaining...