Salmond on DotCom

February 12th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Rob Salmond (former Labour Parliamentary Political Director) blogs:

As readers will know, Kim Dotcom has promised to wind up his party if it isn’t polling 5% by the time the ballots are printed, and then throw his (considerable) resources behind another party of his choosing.  …

I think it is almost certain that the Internet Party will not be polling 5% at any point this year. The party’s figurehead cannot legally run for anything, they will have no TV presence, and no debate presence, either. Further, the party’s policy offerings are “thin” to say the least, not covering the issues that the overwhelming majority of New Zealanders say they care most about. Together with a crowded field in a close contest, all this spells near certain failure. (The TV3 revelation that one in five people said they would “consider” voting for the Internet Party – when specifically pushed on the subject – does nothing to change my mind on this.)

If I am right about that, then come ballot-printing day Mr Dotcom will be throwing his weight in with someone else. And by “his weight,” I presume he means large buckets of money. That sets up an silent auction for parties to compete for Dotcom’s money on the basis of policy promises, first and foremost about Dotcom’s own extradition case. That is, if parties decide they want to play.

I think the opposition parties should all take a pass. 

Very pleased to see Rob say this. I think all the party leaders who have been repeatedly going out to Dotcom’s mansion to discuss his party and extradition case should front up and reveal how often they’re met him, and what promises (if any) have been made to try and get him to endorse their party once he withdraw’s the Internet Party.

To me, it all sounds pretty icky. One of the reasons the left parties worked hard to try and make election funding fairer in the late 2000s was to limit the influence of individuals seeking to essentially buy government policy for cash. (These measures were, naturally, rejected by the right, citing freedom of speech and freedom of spending and so on.) Breaking it down, this gambit looks exactly like a convluted version of a rich guy offering up cash in exchange for personally favourable policies. Yuck.

Rob’s wrong on the Electoral Finance Act (and I note third party spending limits were retained by National, as well as donation transparency) but he is right that this looks like a rich guy trying to purchase policies that benefit him personally.

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Some fisking

January 25th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Matt Nolan at TVHE fisks Rob Salmond over his claims to be revealing the truth about income inequality in NZ. he points out numerous flaws, including how his figures are not per capita, so as more population enter the highest income band, this exaggerates income growth. Nolan also makes the point:

We have seen median income growth outstrip mean income growth in NZ for a long period of time, implying that static inequality has come down a little bit. 

Another claim which should be fisked is David Cunliffe who said:

“Kids don’t leave their lives at the school gate. When kids go to school hungry and one in five doesn’t even own two pairs of shoes, we can’t expect them to achieve.

I’ve looked long and hard for a source for this claim, but can’t find one. Can anyone find one?

What I could find was the latest NZ Living Standards Report which does ask if everyone in a household has two pairs of good or sturdy shoes. And 92% said they did, and only 5% said they did not because they couldn’t afford it.

Now 20% is four times greater than 5%, so that is some exaggeration.

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Salmond rejoins the Labour Leader’s Office

January 23rd, 2013 at 2:56 pm by David Farrar

Rob Salmond on his website discloses:

I am a native-born New Zealander, and also hold US citizenship. I work as Political Director in the Office of the New Zealand Labour Party Leader, a position I have held since early 2013. I have been a member of the labour party since 1998, and have worked on various partisan and independent campaigns for left-leaning government in New Zealand since 1996. Earlier New Zealand-based work included positions in the Office of the Prime Minister (2007) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (1998-2001).

It s fascinating that Rob has moved back to New Zealand to take up this role. A very smart appointment by Robertson and Cameron as I rate Rob’s political and data skills very highly. I expect to see his presence lead to significant changes in Labour’s political operations. National should perhaps be happy he wasn’t there in 2012.

Not quite sure where political director sits in the structure, and whether it includes media, comms and research – or if they all report to the chief of staff.

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Salmond on why the Labour activists are wrong and the Leader is right

August 14th, 2012 at 1:30 pm by David Farrar

Rob Salmond writes at Pundit:

Since 1996, the NZES has asked people to rate themselves ideologically on a scale from 0 (left) to 10 right). The results are public up to 2008, and have been pretty consistent. There is never an absolute majority of either left wingers or right wingers, usually not even close, and the proportion of people who say they are perfectly centrist (5 on the scale), is around 25-30%. That is a huge bloc of voters perched right in the middle. Ideology in New Zealand is a bell curve, and a steep one at that.

We await the 2011 NZES results with interest.

Given this distribution of voter ideologies, it does not take a statistician to figure out that the left needs to do well with centrist voters in order to win. Same for the right. And, when you look at the NZES figures, that is what you find. In the three MMP elections where Labour took office, the left scored its three best results with centrists. In the two elections with public data where Labour lost – 1996 and 2008 – it had its two worst results with centrists. The difference – best to worst – in that period is over ten points.

This suggests there is real benefit to the left in trying to win the support of people to the right of Labour and the left of National, and that this benefit cannot be gained any other way. Without those people, getting the left enough seats to govern becomes virtually impossible.

Salmond is of course absolutely right. Elections are won in the centre. Of course one can sometimes redefine the centre, but this is very challenging.

Of course, there are different ways to woo those folk. Labour can moderate its own policy, alter which policies it emphasizes in the political debate, try to alter voters’ perceptions of National, or try to convince centrists to change their issue opinions and even their ideology.  The last strategy, of convincing voters they are flat out wrong, is a favorite among activists of all stripes, because it requires change by others but no compromise or change on their own part. 

That was a gentle slapdown to many of the Labour activists. It also applies to activists on the right who whine constantly that John Key has not scrapped Working for Families overnight.

So what do centrist voters want? One issue that has come up recently is welfare, with David Shearer giving a speech that included an anecdote about a person who was, officially, too sick to work but, in fact, not too sick to paint his roof. That, Shearer said, was not good enough.

In 2008, the last publicly available survey, the NZES asked voters about many issues, including welfare. 61% of centrists thought welfare “made people lazy” while only 18% disagreed. Even left-leaning voters were evenly split on this issue (39% agree vs 38% disagree). Moreover, clear majorities of both centrists and lefties also supported work for the dole. Again, this is unlikely to have changed much since 2008.

Of course, anyone expecting Labour to give in to every reactionary impulse among centrists and start proposing work for the dole schemes and a return to capital punishment (66% centrist support in 2008) is in for a long wait. But these results suggest that voters of all ideological hues want something less severe than that, too – parties should emphasize what they will do to make sure the welfare system is a hand up rather than a hand out, and is not open to abuse. That is what David Shearer did.

Would anyone actually suggest that Shearer was wrong on the facts? That our welfare system is never abused at all? Or that people who can work should work? Or that people who are capable of painting their own roof are probably also capable of, say, painting someone else’s roof?

As I have said, i think many on the left were being far too precious with their trenchant criticism of Shearer over that part of his speech.

Josie Pagani said that, in her experience, Labour is seen as “the party for beneficiaries;” Shearer was reminding everyone that Labour supports people who pay taxes, too.

Well that last sentence is debatable :-)

As Rob slaps down some activists, Jenny Michie slaps down some of the caucus:

I have spent the better part of 17 years  – eight  of those as a paid organiser for the Labour Party – practicing the ancient art of alchemy; turning supporters into volunteers, volunteers into members and members into activists. …

I make this point because I am deeply concerned about what’s going on with some members of the Labour caucus and the long term effects their behaviour  will have on Party members and supporters leading into the 2014 general election. …

I can only hope David Shearer was misquoted on Newstalk ZB when asked if he was happy with the behaviour of his caucus.  Labour Partymembers deserve better.

MPs  just can’t  indulge in this sort of disloyal, backstabbing, bitchy and  frankly unkind behaviour .  It will affect supporters and activists (not to mention the general voting public).

Jenny concludes:

Labour, get it together.

You’re letting us all down.

d

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tax wedges

February 7th, 2012 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Simon Collins reports at NZ Herald:

A new book has found total tax rates on the incomes of rich New Zealanders are now the lowest in the developed world.

New Zealand’s top tax “wedge” of 33 per cent on incomes above $70,000 is lower than all 27 other high-income nations in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, after including social security and payroll taxes which do not exist in this country.

Rich New Zealanders also escape without paying any tax on capital gains that would be taxed in most other countries.

On the other hand, New Zealand has the world’s most comprehensive goods and services tax (GST), taxing 98 per cent of all potentially taxable consumer spending compared with a developed world average of 59 per cent.

New Zealand is one of only five high-income OECD nations that do not allow any exemptions for food – a key factor in our high food prices.

The book’s author, Professor Rob Salmond, a New Zealand-born political scientist at the University of Michigan, says New Zealand has a tax system of extremes.

I’m not sure I’d call the book new. I read it last year. It’s a good book with lots of interesting data.

At some stage I hope to have time to discuss it in more detail. I would make one point for now though. This is off memory though, but if I am wrong I am sure Rob Salmond will correct me.

The tax wedge includes social security and payroll taxes, and presumably this includes payroll taxes in Australia where the “tax” goes towards the individual’s retirement savings.

I believe there is a huge difference between taxes where your tax money goes to the Government to spend on whatever they decide, and between payroll deductions where the money is invested in your name, and still belongs to you.

UPDATE: Rob has clarified the OECD tax wedge does not include the superannuation deductions, which is good.

Incidentally I do support a capital gains tax. I believe the best tax system is broad based and low rates.

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Salmond on charter schools

December 7th, 2011 at 1:09 pm by David Farrar

I love it how much more reasonable we all get (including me) after an election. Yesterday John Pagani was saying some of what ACT asked for in welfare reform is okay stuff, and today Rob Salmond blogs on charter schools:

We should be asking what makes successful charter schools successful, not declaring all charter schools a failure on the basis that some charter schools failed. More on that later. …

People who are about progressive educational outcomes should ask hard questions about the government’s proposal. Where will the schools be placed? How will the schools select their students? How many will there be? The answers to those kinds of questions will determine how supportive I am.

What we should not be doing is writing off charter schools en masse. There is evidence that charter schools, done right, are progressive institutions. Our challenge is to make sure the government does them right.

Worth reading Rob’s entire post on the issue.

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Salmond on education data

October 26th, 2011 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

First John Pagani writes a post on national standards I agree with, and now Rob Salmond does a post on assessment data which I also largely agree with.  Rob blogs:

The Los Angeles Times has produced a detailed set of estimates about how much value each teacher in Los Angeles adds to their classroom. That is hugely valuable information. New Zealand’s education establishment should be doing something similar.

I blogged last year on the remarkable data published by the LA Times. It basically measures the effectiveness of individual teachers.

Why should we follow the Times’ lead? Because it helps us to reward great teachers and provide remedial support for teachers in difficulty. And because it allows us to diagnose, early, easily, and with reasonable precision, what is going wrong when a school is performing badly. Is it one or two bad teachers? A bad english department? Poor school-wide leadership? Or is the issue in the community itself, a problem at home rather than in the classroom? The data can answer that crucial question better than a big round of finger-pointing in front of an inspector from ERO.

We can do all kinds of helpful things with this information. If one school has a dysfunctional maths department and there is a great maths teacher at another school, the government can fund the Board of Trustees to pay generous incentives to convince the great teacher to take on the troubled department as HoD. Same thing for giving great teachers powerful incentives to teach at generally underperforming schools.

Absolutely agree.

It is true that there are already multiple ways to assess teachers in New Zealand. There is teacher registration. There are periodic assessments against professional standards. In some situations, there are Teacher’s Council investigations. There is ERO. Those are all good things to have, and this data-driven assessment should be used to extend those assessment regimes, not to replace them. The data based assessment does add real value, however, both as a nationwide diagnostic tool for educators and administrators and as an individual assessment tool for rewarding great teachers and helping others improve.

True. But with teacher unions so against even allowing data on schools to be collated and analysed, I can only imagine how far they would go to stop what Rob proposes.

Who should find out the results? Well, the teachers for a start. They need to know how they are doing. And their local Board of Trustees. And the government folk should know, too. They are collectively charged with improving the educational outcomes for New Zealand’s tragically long “education tail.” Once they know how their teaching resources are distributed, they can better shuffle them around to make the system more effective.

Which is of course what the Government is trying to do with national standards, as well as give parents better information.

Parents should probably get some information about how their kid’s school does compared to other schools with similar student demographics. That is a valuable accountability mechanism for Principals, who get paid good money to be accountable to their local communities. But unfiltered league tables of area schools do more harm than good, presenting an apples to oranges comparison as if it were apples to apples.

The answer to bad league tables is good league tables. Not banning league tables.

Parents should also not get access to individual teacher rankings. Here I disagree with the Times. Why? Because it is little more than a recipe for school administrators to be drowned in a tide of the pushiest, over-caffeinated parents demanding that Little Johnny should move over to that excellent Mrs Paki’s home room. Now! We don’t get to see the latest performance review of the cop that pulled us over, or the nurse in the hospital ward, or the customs agent at the border. And rightly so. Teachers are no different.

I’m okay with parents not seeing results of individual teachers, so long as School Boards and the Government does.

Rob also says in his comments:

Secondary teachers with a BA and a teaching diploma start at $47k and can earn up to $71k at current scales, even without any of the additional salary Units under the control of Boards of Trustees. The top of their base salary scale is more pay than 90% of New Zealand adults recieve, according to IRD data. I think **great teachers** should receive substantially more compensation than this, but I do not think **all teachers** should get a big raise.

Again I agree. I’d love School Boards and Principals to have the ability to have performance pay.

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Salmond on the polls

September 29th, 2011 at 11:59 am by David Farrar

Rob Salmond blogs at Pundit:

The race to become the next government is effectively over, but there is intrigue in some of the secondary numbers

That’s a huge (but realistic) admission from someone who used to work for Helen Clark.

The headlines tend to concentrate on its head-to-head lead over Labour, which has climbed up to almost 24% in our poll of polls. But even more important is the lead that National and ACT together hold over the grouping of Labour and the Greens. That gap has grown steadily over the last year, from a low of around 10% in November 2010 up to its current level of over 17%. This translates into a seat advantage of around 21 seats, making a right-leaning government massively more likely than a left-leaning government

Rob notes:

As remarkable as that kind of a lead is, it is nothing especially unusual. This has been the broad political situation in New Zealand since early 2009.

There has been a perhaps remarkable lack of volatility in the polls the last three years.

First, some commentators have been suggesting that ACT’s gambit when it took on Don Brash as its leader has already proven a failure, and there has been no improvement for ACT in the polls. That claim is false.

In April, we estimated ACT’s support at around 0.8%, whereas for the last two months we have estimated it hovering between 1.9% and 2.2%. The ACT vote has more than doubled since Don Brash became leader, and the rising trend has been fairly consistent. Of course, this is a far cry from what Dr Brash promised – I recall the number 15% crossing his lips in yet another ill-advised outburst – but it is not nothing.

That is correct, and in four of the five MMP elections ACT has got around 2% more actual vote than the polls were showing this far out.

Our Poll of Polls currently does not include the Fairfax polls, because they are new kids on the block. Including them, however, would make little difference to our predictions – less than 1% for each of the three largest parties, and substantially less than that for all the smaller parties.

I’ve included the Fairfax polls in the Curia average (there are slight difference in methodologies of weighting them) and I have National at 55.1% in the weighted average against 53.5% in the Pundit average. Also Labour at 27.5% vs 30.0% for Pundit. Curia has Greens at 9.4% vs 8.0% for Pundit.

The company that does Fairfax polls are Research International and they are not new. They used to be TNS which were TV3’s pollsters in 2008 – and they got closest to the actual election results.

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New maths

July 18th, 2011 at 3:27 pm by David Farrar

In a desperate attempt to justify whacking the “rich” with higher taxes, Rob Salmond comes up with a new form of maths – when a figure is negative you count it as zero, rather than include it in the calculation.

According to Rob if you had assets and liabilities of (for example):

  1. Term Deposit – $200,000
  2. Shares – $100,000
  3. Loan – $50,000

Then your term deposit is only 67% of your net assets ($200,000/$300,000) rather than 75% 80% ($200,000/$250,000).

Hilarious. And desperate.

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Having a clear message

May 11th, 2011 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Grant Robertson blogs:

One of the great joys of being interested in politics is the debate over strategy and tactics.  Everyone has an opinion.   All parties, and people within parties have these debates.   Personally I don’t always agree with every tactical decision made by my own party, as I am sure that is the case for most politicians.

But one thing that fascinates me is when people decide that a party can only focus on one thing at a time.  Case in point.  In the last few days Labour has been raising issues to do with spending by National on the Diplomatic Protection Squad and on painting Premier House. The pretty simple idea here is to show a party that tells New Zealanders to tighten their belts, but is happily overspending, and has its priorities wrong.

Now I expect our political opponents to adopt some kind of diversionary response.  On these issues it has taken National a while to get something, but it has arrived, complete with NZ Herald editorial to back it up.  Labour is focusing on the small issues, they should be focused on the big policy issues.

Ok, that is a political response, but let’s not give it too much credit. Just because Labour is raising these issues does not mean that we are not raising other issues. I am sure it will not have escaped readers of Red Alert that we have a major campaign on stopping asset sales. The New Zealand Herald who are criticising Labour’s approach today attended the launch of the asset sales billboards put up by Labour last  weekend, but chose not to cover it.  So much for the focus on the big issues.

Grant says that parties can do more than one thing at a time. Of course they can. They can do, and often are doing, dozens of things at a time. But that is not the issue. The issue is that the media will not run dozens of different political stories. If you put out lots of stories, then don’t complain when they don’t choose the one you want. Labour’s chances of getting publicity over say asset sales is diminished everytime they decide to complain about the cost of painting Premier House. TVNZ and TV3 are not going to run two stories that day about what Labour has said.

Parliamentary parties tend to have a media office – the press secretaries. An outsider might assume the role of the media office to to help MPs to do press releases. In fact, often their role is to stop MPs doing press releases. When you are an Opposition MP you want to be getting your name out there so you try and do as many releases as possible. The problem is that if you allow every MP to be firing off press releases on their pet issues, you get no co-ordinated message. When I worked for National in opposition, I’d say MPs would have happily fired off 25 press releases a day if the media team didn’t stop them. Normally they could slow the flow to 5 or so.

Labour are lacking internal discipline. Even putting aside the truly bizarre rants now appearing on Red Alert, they get distracted by what they see as “easy hits” and don’t stay focused on a consistent message. One message they have been trying to push is about the cost of living. Now if you really want the public to focus on this as an issue, you need to bang on about it ad nauseaum. It takes sometimes a dozen stories for things to register with those not overly politically interested.

So what Labour should have done on cost of living is collect enough stories about increased costs, and for at least four weeks in the House ask questions on it every day – doctors fees, grocery prices, school fees etc etc. And do press releases every day on it. And have all the MPs do their weekly local columns on it. And most of all not to run off after some other issue such as the PM has bodyguards after a couple of weeks. You need to be relentlessly on message – even if the press gallery complain you are boring them. If you give the media two stories to report on, they’ll not choose the one you have been hammering away on. So you need to be disciplined. A campaign should run for months, not days or even weeks.

Now Grant and others might feel I am giving them bad advice, because I don’t support them. Now I don’t actually do that – I have enough of an ego that I never would give advice which is obviously bad, because that makes me look stupid. But regardless of that, maybe they will take heed of Rob Salmond, who is a former staffer for Labour. Rob at Pundit says:

But Labour could have kept on talking about policy anyway. If it had released its proposals on how to fix our schools or bring down the cost of living or protect the environment, they would have been covered. Labour made no such large-scale announcements. Since March. In an election year. When down 15 to 20 points.

They should have. During this later period, the National-Labour gap in our poll of polls has grown by almost 2.5%.

To be sure, there is a steady stream of criticism of the government’s policies coming from Labour MPs, and it is good that they are doing that. But that kind of empty rhetoric is never going to attract much attention. It is just what the opposition does.

And the increasing tendency to target small amounts of expenditure specific to John Key and other Ministers is altogether unhelpful. Maybe Labour could attract some fleeting interest out of an extravagant helicopter ride or two. But painting the Prime Minister’s house? Providing him bodyguards? Please.

Rob continues:

Moreover, this kind of muckraking against popular Prime Ministers does not work. Take, for example, the most high profile equivalent attack against Helen Clark – the speedgate scandal from July 2004. This one at least involved public safety and not just relatively minor sums of money. The three firms polling at the time collectively had National leading Labour by around one point just before the scandal broke, and a few weeks later had Labour leading by around four points. Not exactly a practical vindication of this kind of tactic.

My advice to Labour is to lift your sights and start to talk positively. Quit calling John Key a dick. New Zealanders collectively do not think he is a dick, and the last three years of polls suggest they are pretty firm in that view.

Rob is absolutely correct here. Labour are using tactics which might work against a tired third term Government, but don’t work against a fresh first term Government with a PM who polls as the most popular New Zealand has had.

Instead, tell us what specifically you are going to do for New Zealanders after November. And no, “more than that dick John Key” is not a good answer.

Labour have an opportunity with the budget next week. The Government borrowing is now at $380 million a week. One can finger point over blame as politicians will do. But will Labour lay out their path to reducing the deficit and debt?

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Polls and Prediction Markets

February 26th, 2010 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

I attended on Wednesday night the launch of “Key to Victory” which is the normal post election campaign review book edited by Stephen Levine and Nigel Roberts.

I find these books so fascinating, I was even reading it during the speeches!

Bryce Edwards has reviewed (h/t iPredict Blog) a chapter by Shaun McGirr and Rob Salmond on what sources of information best predicted the election outcome. Was it an individual poll, the iPredict markets or the polls of polls.

The amount invested in iPredict was considerable:

  • $64,500 was traded over the likely nature of ‘the Maori Party’s post-election relationship with National’
  • $25,800 was traded over the Wellington Central battle between Grant Robertson and Stephen Franks
  • $132,100 was traded over whether ‘there will be a National prime minister after the 2008 election’
  • $413,000 in total was invested in election-related predictions

And how did iPredict do”

So, how accurate was iPredict in 2008? McGirr and Salmond conclude that although iPredict overestimated the eventual support for both Labour and National, it was more accurate any individual polling company.

And the individual polls:

In reality in 2008, McGirr and Salmond found this to be the case – with Colmar Brunton and DigiPoll exaggerating public support for National, and Roy Morgan exaggerating support for Labour (p.264).

So which polling companies were most accurate and inaccurate? McGirr and Salmond say that TV3’s TNS poll was the best (as it was in 2005 as well), and Fairfax’s Neilson pool was the poorest.

The TV3 poll is the one that currently shows a 27% gap! Mind you they are now with Reid Research, so there may be a different methodology used now.

Then they look at the polls of polls published by three outlets – NZPA, Rob (at 08 Wire) and myself (at curiablog).

In addition to the five opinion polls, some observers attempted to average out the idiosyncratic errors of the individual polls by aggregating them into a “poll-of-polls” using different methods. The New Zealand Press Association simply took the average of the estimates of the six most recent polls, while The New Zealand Herald took the average of the last four polls. Two blog-based polls-of-polls – one run by David Farrar of New Zealand’s premier political blog Kiwiblog, and one hosted at a smaller blog [run by author Rob Salmond] called 08wire – weighted more recent polls with larger sample sizes more heavily (p.257).

And how did the poll of polls do?

McGirr and Salmond say that ‘Poll-of-polls consistently performed well during the 2008 campaign, outperforming most of the opinion polls and the prediction markets’ (p.270). They therefore advocate that both the media and public should pay much more attention to this highly accurate source of political information.

Tis has prompted me to update the poll of polls widget, which is below.

Salmond ranks the different outlets for their accuracy to the final result. In order they were:

  1. NZ Herald poll of polls 6.1 (error from result)
  2. NZPA poll of polls 6.8
  3. Curiablog poll of polls 8.1
  4. TV3/TNS poll 9.6
  5. 08 wire poll of polls 13.6
  6. iPredict 15.7
  7. TVNZ/Colmar Brunton poll 16.8
  8. NZ Herald/Digipoll poll 19.8
  9. Roy Morgan poll 20.8
  10. Fairfax/Neilsen poll 29.6
  11. NZ Political Stockmarket 109.5

The NZ Political Stockmarket used virtual money, so it shows what a difference real money can make.

The authors conclude that media outlets should not just report the individual poll results when they commission a poll, but also publish regular info on a poll of polls and on iPredict.

Incidentally I will probably review and tweak the curiablog methodology a bit when I have some spare time.

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Dirty politics in cyberspace

September 21st, 2008 at 6:42 am by David Farrar

Anthony Hubbard in the SST has written an interesting and well balanced article on dirty politics in cyberspace. Has quotes from Cameron Slater, Rochelle Rees, Lynn Pretnice and Rob Salmond.

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