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Cablegate: Polls Show That National Still On Target for Election Win

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RR RUEHDT RUEHPB
DE RUEHWL #0259/01 2340448
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 210448Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5370
INFO RUEHNZ/AMCONSUL AUCKLAND 1718
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 5231
RUEHDN/AMCONSUL SYDNEY 0701
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RUCNARF/ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 WELLINGTON 000259

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STATE FOR STATE FOR EAP/ANP
PACOM FOR J01E/J2/J233/J5/SJFHQ

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KDEM NZ
SUBJECT: POLLS SHOW THAT NATIONAL STILL ON TARGET FOR ELECTION WIN

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1. (SBU) Summary. Political polls released over the August 15-17
weekend showed that National maintained its strong lead over Labour
despite some missteps by senior National MPs that threatened its
popularity. While Labour is struggling to turn the tide, National
appears impervious to much change in its support levels. The polls
also showed that Labour's support parties may struggle to survive
the election. The poll results were followed by the release of
National's party list, which revealed significant emphasis on
introducing much-needed diversity to National's ranks. End
Summary.

Polls Show Crisis No Hindrance to National's Popularity
--------------------------------------------- ----------

2. (SBU) Three political polls released over the weekend of August
15-17 showed that the opposition National Party maintained its clear
lead over the governing Labour Party. These poll findings come after
a difficult period for National, which was accused by Labour of
harboring a hidden agenda after the media released taped recordings
of private comments by senior National MPs at its annual conference
of August 2-3.

3. (SBU) The comments, made by National's Deputy Leader Bill
English and senior MPs Lockwood Smith and Nick Smith, were secretly
recorded , and later released to the media for publication. The
comments hinted at a deviation from current National policy once it
gets into government and greatly embarrassed those who made the
comments and National's party leader, John Key.

4. (SBU) Labour had hoped that voters would react negatively
towards National as a result of the published comments and thus
punish it at the next polling round. Indeed, a special August 19
poll asking whether National is being open with its plans found that
50 percent believed it wasn't, with only 37 percent saying the party
was being open. However, the polls which gauged party support showed
that despite this suspicion voters did not desert National but
continued to express its support for it.

National's Dominance Over Labour Continues
------------------------------------------

5. (SBU) The Roy Morgan Poll of August 15 found National ahead of
Labour 48 percent to 34 percent. On August 16, the Fairfax-Nielsen
Media survey showed National at 54 percent trumped Labour at 35
percent. The August 17 Colmar Brunton poll, New Zealand's most
recognized political poll, had National at 51 percent and Labour at
37%. In the Fairfax poll, Key extended his lead over Prime Minister
Helen Clark in the preferred prime minister polling by 5 points
overall from previous polling to have a 43 to 31 percent advantage.
The Colmar Brunton poll had a narrower margin, but still showed Key
ahead of Clark, 36-33 percent.

Labour's Support Parties Wither
-------------------------------

6. (SBU) Notable in the Fairfax-Nielsen Media and Colmar Brunton,
considered more mainstream that the Roy Morgan poll, were the low
levels of support for the minor parties, particularly Labour's
current support parties, the Green Party and New Zealand First.
Neither the Fairfax nor the Colmar Brunton poll found any third
party had breached the 5 percent threshold needed for a party to
return MPs to parliament. On these findings, the Maori Party,
United Future, ACT and the Progressives, all likely to win
electorate seats, will be the only minor parties in the next
parliament in small numbers. On this basis, the Greens and New
Zealand First, together with its leader Foreign Minister Winston
Peters who is also unlikely to win a seat in a local constituency
could be absent.

National Party List Re-Shapes Image
-----------------------------------

7. (SBU) On August 17, National also released its long awaited
party list, which provided party rankings for its sitting MPs and
candidates alike in the upcoming election. Based on current
polling, National is likely to secure a substantial percentage of
the party vote which would allow for a large proportion of the
ranked list to enter parliament, whether they win a seat or not.

8. (SBU) Noteworthy in National's new list was the high placement
given to ethnic minorities. On becoming National's leader in 2006,
Key promised to bring into his party a greater ethnic mix. National
has previously faced criticism for being dominated by wealthy, white
males. The new list not only has more candidates from Polynesian,
Asian and Maori background, it also has them placed in positions

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which virtually guarantee their entry into parliament at the next
election. These particular candidates do not appear to have been
awarded these high rankings by virtue of their ethnicity alone.
They are each highly qualified and educated in their own right,
including the Samoan-born and Cambridge educated Peseta Sam
Lotu-Iiga and Hekia Parata, a Maori woman, Harvard alumna and former
New Zealand diplomat who has served in Washington.

9. (SBU) Comment. Clark and her colleagues will be frustrated that
Labour did not get a better bounce from this on a period of crisis
for National. These polls suggest that Labour's unrelenting
strategy portraying National as untrustworthy and Key as unfit to
lead is not working. Labour will need to consider a different tack
to address National's consistently elevated popularity as the
election looms; November 8 as the most commonly predicted date. Yet
without a major misstep from National that would seriously erode its
support, there appears little Clark can do to change the public's
view that National is the government-in-waiting. National's newly
released party list places pressure on Labour to put forth some
fresh faces, as its party list is expected on August 30. End
Comment.

McCormick

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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