That poll which shows Colin Craig ahead in Rodney, revealed

November 8th, 2011 at 9:20 am by David Farrar

’s Conservative Party has been claiming they will win Rodney, on the basis of this poll report, which is on their website. The key extract is:

47.2% of those who had decided who they were likely to vote for as an electorate candidate would vote for Craig.

This would position Craig in first place in the electorate, ahead of ‘The National Party Candidate/Mark Mitchell/Lockwood Smith (36.3%).

The polling was done by . Whale recently revealed their director is a candidate for the Conservative Party. I commented at the time:

This does not mean that the poll results are or are not valid. As I said, validity is based on knowing the question asked and the methodology. You can poll for an organisation you are involved with. For example, Curia does an annual poll for the Republican Movement on whether people want NZ to become a republic when the Queen dies. Now I am on the Council of the Movement, but this doesn’t influence the results. The key thing is I have publicly disclosed my involvement.

Now in response to a request from Whale, Research First have released details of the questions they asked. It is good they have done so, because as I said the exact questions asked are often vital to interpreting a poll’s results. Their response says:

 Relevant questions included the following, in order of being asked:

1 For your party vote, have you decided who you will be voting for in the election?

2 Which party do you currently intend to vote for?

3 Have you heard of the Conservative Party?

4 Have you heard of Colin Craig?

Participants were read a brief preamble to provide context: ‘Colin Craig is the leader of the Conservative Party of New Zealand. In the Auckland mayoral election, Colin came third with over 40,000 votes’. Then asked…

5 If Colin were to stand in as a candidate in your electorate, what would be the likelihood that you would vote for Colin to be your member of parliament (on a scale of 1 = definitely; 2 = likely; 3 = neutral; 4 = unlikely and 5 = very unlikely)?

Those who identified they were neutral or unlikely to vote for Craig were asked:

6 Who do you intend to vote for?

Okay, let’s take this step by step. The first two questions are pretty standard. Then there are two specific question asking awareness of the Conservative Party and Colin Craig. Then a statement was read out which puts Craig in a positive light (mentioning his votes in the Auckland Mayoral election), and then they ask people how likely it is they will vote for Craig, and only if they say they are neutral or unlikely to they even ask you who else you will vote for.

The results are no surprise, once you realise this is the questions that were asked, and in what order. You have a number of factors here influencing the responses, namely:

  • The mention of the Conservative Party and Colin Craig first
  • The description of Colin Craig provided to respondents
  • The question only asked about voting for Colin Craig, with no mention of anyone else
  • Only if you say you are neutral or unlikely to vote Craig, do you even get asked whom else you might vote for
  • The other candidates are unprompted, so you are comparing unprompted results vs a prompted result.

I am surprised that Research First did not insist on these questions being included in their report, as in my opinion they are quite vital to it. I also think it is unwise to compare answers to a prompted question to answers to an unprompted question.

If I was wanting to poll that seat, and get a result which was fairly trying to ascertain support, the questions I would use are either:

Which candidate, or party’s candidate are you likely to vote for with your electorate vote?

or

The candidates for Rodney are Colin Craig, Conservative; Beth Houlbrooke, ACT; tracey Martin, New Zealand First; Mark Mitchell, National; Terea Moore, Green and Christine Rose, Labour. Which candidate are you likely to vote for with your electorate vote?

One might also have a follow up lean question for those undecided. I very strongly suspect that the results to the questions above would be vastly different to the results of the poll commissioned by the Conservative Party.

There is never any 100% correct version of a question, and rarely 100% incorrect version. In terms of ascertaining potential support for Colin Craig, those questions may be legitimate if commissioned for internal use only. But what I think was wrong was to have them publicly reported as Craig being “in first place”. The questions should have been reported.

The lesson for media here, is to always ask for the questions. Those media who reported the poll, should be wary of doing so in future without checking.

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12 Responses to “That poll which shows Colin Craig ahead in Rodney, revealed”

  1. freedom101 (508 comments) says:

    This sort of ‘push polling’ is electioneering, and probably quite effective, especially when gullible media can be conned into reporting the results. As far as I can see Colin Craig is conducting a very effective campaign and is being noticed. Much of what he promotes is core National Party policy and principles, except that the National Party these days seems a lot keener on chasing left voters than its traditional supporters. They deserve to pay a price for this, and I hope that both ACT and the Conservatives do well.

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  2. Nick K (1,253 comments) says:

    I think it’s very apt they are called the CONservatives.

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  3. Scott Chris (6,176 comments) says:

    A picture taken of the street outside Colin Craig’s Conservative Party (CCCP) headquarters:

    http://www.redbankgreen.com/images/2010/06/bent-pole-060610.jpg

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  4. awb (304 comments) says:

    The Conservatives are a worse one man band than NZ 1st, and about as deceitful. I can’t see them managing 5%, or winning an electorate seat, though fair enough that they would try after witnessing a niche open up after ACT’s implosion.

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  5. toad (3,674 comments) says:

    Potentially interesting scenario if Goldsmith were to win Epsom, Craig were to win Rodney and drag a couple of other Conservatives in with him though, and National needed the Conservatives to form a Government – given that the Conservatives oppose state asset privatisation.

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  6. s.russell (1,646 comments) says:

    And thus it is demonstrated that Conservatives can be just as dishonest as Labourites. Great selling point for Craig. Not.

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  7. Vinick (217 comments) says:

    “This sort of ‘push polling’ is electioneering, and probably quite effective, especially when gullible media can be conned into reporting the results.”

    While there’s no doubt it’s a biased poll, it’s not a push poll.

    There’s a common misconception about what a push poll actually is. A push poll isn’t a poll, but a far more widespread contacting of people to push forward a generally unfavourable message, often to spread rumours about a candidate or party. It’s done under the guise of a poll, whether or not any numbers are kept is largely irrelevant; that’s not the purpose.

    An example would be: “Would you be more or less likely to read Cameron Slater’s blog if you knew that David Farrar had a conviction for masquerading as a police officer” (apologies DPF!)

    The purpose is not to sway a respondent into giving a certain answer, it’s to have that person tell their husband and neighbours about the rumour, and therefore affect the result. It’s been done overseas with allegations of infidelity and financial improriety, but i’m not aware of it occurring in New Zealand, yet.

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  8. peteknn1 (2 comments) says:

    I would like to know if there have been any other recent polls in Rodeny. Colin Craig does seem to have quite a bit of support but is it enough to win?

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  9. Crampton (215 comments) says:

    Craig cites BERL’s shonky alcohol cost figure; that’s as much as I need to know about him.

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  10. Vinick (217 comments) says:

    peteknn1,

    Given what Craig is spending, I have no doubt he’ll be polling Rodney (properly).

    If he was in spitting distance of the National candidate he’d release the poll, along with the questions.

    That he hasn’t is all the proof I need that he is nowhere close.

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  11. Mick Mac (1,091 comments) says:

    Pity they aren’t more substantial as a party as ACT look like losers.
    National needs hand holding still and the Maoris and Greens definitely aren’t the ones to do it.

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  12. The Scorned (719 comments) says:

    Conservatives…. believers in Government so small it can fit in your bedroom….

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