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Are Polls Lying? Trends Shed Light

Although several leaders from various parties have taken additional effort this week to discount the results of the latest Newshub-Reid poll (26-July-2020), underlying trends validate most of the results.

Political trends often reveal a fundamental reality that may not fit the narrative being publicised. An important facet of trend analysis is the examination of current enculturation, which strongly influences overall voter decisions.

By extrapolating from the dominant enculturation several key socio-political factors, it is possible to determine future events and results. These factors will influence the election, and thereby support the latest poll results. 

Three such factors are detailed below.

1. National may not be clear on the influencing trends

The two core groups of traditional National party voters that are incentivised by the most recent rhetoric and the newest leadership are the conservative voters and pensioners.

Both have been a traditional effective base for National and have been among the more consistent voting blocs. Nevertheless, both voting blocs do not account for sufficient numbers to offer National the votes needed for defeating Labour.

Instead, there is a growing decline in the influence of these traditional National blocs. Even though numerically pensioners are, their influence in total is declining as city centres and the metropolitan regions are booming and the numeric growth is primarily in younger voters.

Moreover, the influence of religious conservatives is also in decline as traditionally conservative voting blocs are diminishing, underpinned by the existing enculturation in New Zealand as well as the increasingly negative perspectives associated with the conservative religious movement in the United States. Both have factored into a reduction in overall church attendance and a steady deterioration of focus on “conservative” or “traditional” principals.

The trend is moving away from conservative ideology and populist leaders’ who voice “strength” and “traditions” but fail to overcome the pandemic and economic woes. This reality will have a substantive impact on how well conservative politicians fare in New Zealand this coming election.

National are entering the September election challenging growing trends that are strongly opposed to the antithetical “dominant” leadership, and cultural ideals that now focus on softer political rhetoric. National find themselves with messaging that goes against the trends, while also incurring the extra challenge of sitting as the opposition at a time when negative voices are discounted among voters.

2. National lost a number of popular candidates from its ranks

In the advent of this political season, besides the various controversies, National has also lost a number of traditionally popular candidates that may have helped to close the gap with some of the voters they rely on. This trend away from well known, popular figures in the National party has impact election results even dating back to the retirement of English and Joyce.

There is a remarkable downward influence when popular leaders depart from a party, especially ones that have been visible and integral for years.

Four such leaders that will not be among the National ranks going into the election are Amy Adams, Paula Bennett, Nikki Kaye, and Anne Tolley.

All four of these National party leaders have substantive tenures, having been in parliament for at least a decade. They have been integral to a number of election cycles and become popular among traditional National voters.

Their departures diminish the number of well-known faces in the National party, leaving behind old guard leaders like Collins and Brownlee, or new faces which have limited exposure among voters. It will take substantively more than the 6 weeks left to election for these new leaders to emerge and validate their roles to voters.

3. Labour as the incumbent party retains the positive perception

Arguments can be made regarding how effective Labour’s management of the pandemic and economic crisis has been to date. Most statistics and the general global situation validate the methodology Labour has applied. More importantly, when analysing such trends and voting cultural ideology, perception remains the potent tool.

The current overall perception is that Labour has been successful thus far in pandemic and economic management. In the six weeks to election, it is plausible that a sudden negative change may influence last minute voter perception.

However, this is highly dependent on Labour’s strategy and communication going forward. As wage subsidy and mortgage deferment options cease, Labour will need to promptly reinvigorate perceived economic stability among voters.

The election will be underpinned by an overall trend for softer leadership and a shift in the paradigm where voters demand economic growth and instead now focus primarily on stability. If the environment remains relatively stable, with pandemic controls and economic incentives continuing beyond the election cycle, Labour will retain momentum.

Moreover, the traditional opposition rhetoric that use to apply in previous elections no longer stands. For instance, emphatically pointing out failures of the government is no longer appealing to general voters. The increasingly dominant and negative tone that has saturated the voting psyche is a major barrier for any opposition voice.

There is a strong trend away from negative rhetoric, as many voters are saturated by the pessimistic media and the perpetuated gloomy outlook. Trends show a major ideological pushback, with voters demanding stability and positivity from their leaders.

The polls are a reflection of this change, both in perception and demand among Kiwi voters. 

Even traditionally conservative voters are longing for political voices that provide stability and optimism, not the standard opposition rhetoric. This cultural trend will continue to factor in to election cycles for the foreseeable future.

Any party that wants to increase their power and influence must change the tone of their rhetoric to ensure they do not become correlated in the voting minds with the pervasive pessimistic voices these voters have chosen to shun.

Mark Rais is the creator of the think tank Trend Analysis Network, writer for the technology and science industry and volunteer senior editor for an on-line magazine. He has published several books and written numerous articles on the topics of macro-economics, technology and society.

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