The secret Rudd donation

March 22nd, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Australian reports:

KEVIN Rudd’s growing fears of losing his seat at last year’s federal election led to a fundraising drive among his supporters to pay for targeted polling and a secret $200,000 overseas donation that the party believes may have breached state electoral laws.

Labor’s pollster, UMR Research Australia, yesterday confirmed it had conducted a $200,000 “program of research” in Mr Rudd’s Brisbane electorate of Griffith ahead of the election on September 7.

The donation was received and UMR commissioned to do the research — understood to have included focus groups and “robo” call messages to voters — just days before the election without the knowledge of the national secretariat and state Labor officials.

UMR is now refusing to refund the money to the Queensland ALP, which sent a letter of demand for the $200,000 after a meeting of its administrative committee on Wednesday.

I have to say I’m with UMR on this one. They were commissioned in good faith by the party leader to do research, and they did the research. The fact the party now has to refund the donation that paid for it is the ALP’s problem. Unless there is more to this than meets the eye, I think it is outrageous they are asking their supplier to give them money back. It’s almost akin to the allegations against Countdown.

While Mr Rudd denies any wrongdoing, the committee was given legal advice alleging the donation from the former prime minister’s long-time friend Kung Chin Yuan, a Taiwanese-born businessman, may have breached Queensland electoral rules, as well as internal Labor rules on the limits for branches handling finances. Under Queensland laws, any donation of $100,000 or more has to be disclosed to the Electoral Commission of Queensland within weeks of its receipt. Mr Rudd says all disclosures were the responsibility of the party.

ALP state secretary Anthony Chisholm told the committee that until this month, he was unaware of the donation until it was discovered in an audit of the Griffith branch. The audit found the donation was paid directly by Mr Kung into the Griffith branch bank account from his bank account in Taiwan and withdrawn hours later to cover the UMR bill.

The Queensland ALP is demanding UMR pay back the $200,000 so it can return the donation to Mr Kung, a Labor donor since 1998.

It’s no surprise that Labor broke electoral laws. But the refund is their problem, not UMR’s.

UMR on the cats poll

March 8th, 2013 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Gavin White from UMR blogs:

Some of you may have seen some of our research commented on in the media earlier in the week. The research has been interpreted as supporting Gareth Morgan’s campaign on cats, but I don’t think it’s anywhere near as clear cut as that. 

In other words, don’t believe the spin of a campaign that selectively quoted the results.

The media reports focussed on one statistic: the fact that 54% of New Zealanders supported some form of controls that would reduce the future population of cats, once told that an Otago University study estimates 1.12 million native birds are killed by domestic cats each year in New Zealand. The question cannot, however, be treated in isolation: the other questions in the survey make clear that the sorts of controls people are actually prepared to have are actually pretty mild.

So what were the full results.

  • 62% believe that all cats should be neutered or spayed.
  • 57% think that cats should be banned from areas near wildlife reserves, forests and national parks
  • 53% believe that all cats should be registered and microchipped
  • 42% consider that all cats should wear bells
  • Just 12% believe that cat owners should not replace their cats when they die
  • Only 7% think that cats should be kept indoors at all times of the day.

This reflects I think the common sense approach of New Zealanders. Only 7% agree with the more extreme proposals from Morgan, but a bit over half agree with some of the more moderate stuff.

Gavin also points out:

In the question on banning cats from near wildlife reserves, forests and national parks, I suspect that many people would have used a reasonably narrow definition of the word ‘near’ (e.g. within a few streets of the park boundary).  It would be stretching the case to say that the poll supports banning cats from whole suburbs or towns (like Karori, which is adjacent to the Zealandia wildlife reserve, or Ohakune, which is near the boundary of Tongariro National Park).

A very good point also. It’s good to have pollsters commenting on their own research publicly – they are often the one best placed to know what limits there are in interpreting what it means.

Reconciling the polls

September 20th, 2010 at 5:52 pm by David Farrar

Darien Fenton at Red Alert blogs:

A UMR survey released today by the CTU shows that 80 per cent of New Zealanders oppose the Government’s planned changes to dismissal law.  Previous polls had asked the question about whether respondents supported a 90 day trial and unsurprisingly, the majority said yes – because after all these were already allowed under previous law.

But Darien is wrong in claiming the UMR poll shows 80% are opposed. The question that was asked is:

“Do you think that all employees should have the right to appeal if they think they have been unfairly dismissed, even if their dismissal was during the first 90 days of their employment?

Now that question is open to a very wide interpretation. An appeal can mean anything from asking your boss to reconsider, to appealing to your boss’ boss to “appealing” to the ERA.  The question is so wide, that it of relatively little value (in my opinion) in judging whether or not people support or oppose the Govt’s law change.

Note this is not a criticism of UMR.  This is a criticism of how Labour and the CTU have portrayed the results.

As a comparison, let us look at the poll done by Colmar Brunton for One News. It asked:

Currently employment law allows a business to take on a new worker and then if it does not work out dismiss that worker within 90 days without the worker being able to take a personal grievance claim. Currently the scheme only applies to companies with fewer than twenty employees but now the government plans to extend the 90 day trial period to cover all companies and so all new workers could be subject to the scheme. Some people believe this places workers in a vulnerable position but the government claims it creates jobs because businesses will be more willing to take on a new worker.

Do you think the 90 day trial law should be extended to cover all companies every time someone starts a new job?

Now this is a far better question (for judging if someone agrees with the Government’s proposed law change) as it tells people what the current law is, tells them what the proposed change is, and summarises arguments for and against.

Colmar Brunton found 60% in favour of extending the 90 day law to all companies.

This is a good example of the importance of poll questions. And again it isn’t that one question is necessarily “good” and one is “bad”.  It is about whether one can fairly interpret the poll result as reflecting what the public think of a proposed law change.

It is quite clear that the UMR result can not be used as representing public opinion on the Government’s law change. All it can be used for is representing whether people think there should be some sort of generic appeal from dismissal decisions – no details on who the appeal should be to – which is crucial. And an appeal is not the same as the right to take a personal grievance and get compensation etc.

One has to wonder why the CTU did not ask the same question as One News? The answer is obvious.

Morality on the Internet

January 12th, 2010 at 3:02 pm by David Farrar

A very interesting survey done in November by UMR of 1,000 adult NZers about morality on the Internet. I blog most of the findings below. It is important to remember this is a poll of all NZers, not just of Internet users.

Respondents were asked about eight activities and if they thought they were morally acceptable or morally wrong, regardless of legality. Morally acceptable percentages are

  1. A single person using Internet dating 82%
  2. A single person flirting online 69%
  3. A single person watching porn online 41%
  4. Watching copyrighted TV online via Youtube 31%
  5. A married person watching porn online without spousal knowledge 21%
  6. Downloading copyrighted music for free 18%
  7. Downloading copyrighted movies for free 13%
  8. Married person flirting online without spousal knowledge 6%

I think the first three are morally acceptable, but the last four are not. No 4 depends a bit on context – if that is the only way to see a TV show in your country, I don’t think it is morally unacceptable.

I’m am amazed that some people think it is morally unacceptable to use Internet dating if single.

Men in all eight categories are more likely to say something is morally acceptable. The biggest difference is with a single person watching porn online – 56% of men say morally acceptable and only 26% of women.

Age difference also pronounced. 59% of under 30s say pron watching is fine for singles, while only 17% of over 60s agree.

Also og interest is 47% of respondents said they have downloaded music files even though only 18% say it is morally acceptable.

Average Annual Mood

January 3rd, 2010 at 3:11 am by David Farrar

UMR have published a 42 page mood of the nation report. I have summarised it at curiablog. I found the graph below fascinating:

The overall mood for the year was the most positive since records begun. What I find remarkable is that this happened during the world’s worse recession for 70 years, and increasing unemployment and record deficits.

Compare that to 1991 when the direction was an average -34% and in 2008 it was +41%. Now this did shrink in December to +29%, but still remarkable.

UMR on perceptions of NZ’s media

October 7th, 2009 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

UMR polled 750 New Zealanders from 24 to 27 September on what they think of the NZ media. Very interesting results:

  • Only 35% said the NZ media are accurate in reporting the news, with 25% saying inaccurate, 37% neutral and 3% don’t know.
  • Over 60s have the lowest score for accuracy – 23% compared to 43% for under 30s.
  • 30% say the NZ media are balanced and 30% say they are one-sided.
  • 27% say they are willing to admit mistakes, and 46% say they are not willing.

It is a pity UMR did not report party identification, as I would be very interested in if there was any significant differences between National and Labour voters.

Polls and markets on Wanganui

October 2nd, 2009 at 8:56 am by David Farrar

The Dom Post reports on a poll on Wanganui:

The survey – made public yesterday by research company UMR – found 62 per cent of respondents from around the country wanted Wanganui to stay the way it was. Only 25 per cent of 750 surveyed supported a change to Whanganui, while 13 per cent were undecided.

iPredict has also launched stocks on whether the Minister will go with the recommendation of the NZ Geographic Board. They have four stocks:

  1. Whanganui is at 80.2c, indicating a clear market belief that the Minister will not second guess the Geographic Board.
  2. Wanganui is at 6.9c
  3. An option of Whanganui/Wanganui (ie both) is on 5.1c
  4. Some other option is on 8.3c

I expect the Minister to follow the recommendation. I think the job of the Minister is to check the Board followed correct process, consulted widely, and considered all relevant issues. I don’t think it is their job to substitute their personal whim or preference for the Board’s.

Thought of the Day

September 25th, 2009 at 7:22 am by David Farrar

I might be wrong, but I suspect Helen Clark hated that her first meeting with Barack Obama was having John Key introduce her as his predecessor, after Obama goes out of his way to say hi to Key.

We sometimes forget what a great reputation our country has overseas as a place to live:

Mr Obama had a friend living in New Zealand who had raved about the country praising its golf courses, skiing and lifestyle for families.

If Obama does visit at some stage, he’ll be a lot more popular than he is back home. UMR released a poll yesterday on NZers views of world leaders. The net positive ratings were:

  1. Barack Obama +82% (88% favourable, 6% unfavourable)
  2. Kevin Rudd +45%
  3. Angela Merkel +15%
  4. Nicolas Sarkozy +2%
  5. Gordon Brown -1%
  6. Silvio Berlusconi -16%
  7. Vladimir Putin -19%

Labour in full panic mode over Mt Albert

April 13th, 2009 at 8:36 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald reports:

The Labour Party is sounding out Mt Albert voters on the byelection – including asking whether they want a “celebrity” MP and testing feelings on Judith Tizard re-entering Parliament.

Labour commissioned UMR Research group to hold several two-hour, focus group meetings of Mt Albert voters in the lead-up to the byelection, following the resignation of former Prime Minister Helen Clark.

Now focus groups are part and parcel of politics. However this is the first time I can recall a party commissioning one (or several) for a by-election. Polls are relatively common, but focus groups less so.

And when you consider that Mt Albert is Labour’s safest seat, that gives some indication as to the degree of nervousness within Labour’s ranks. You see focus groups are not cheap. I do not know UMR’s fees, but for four or five focus groups, the cost I suspect is a five figure sum.

So why would you spend so much money on such a safe seat? Because you are worried you may lose it to a Vote Twyford, Get Tizard campaign. There is no doubt that Twyford is the preferred candidate – but they are nervous over the power of such a campaign. They failed to get Tizard to relinquish her list place, so they are testing the waters.

Interestingly the Electoral Finance Act is no longer in force. So there is no $1,000 limit on an individual or organisation running its own education campaign in the by-election. A group could use direct mail to send a personalised letter to every voter (costs around $20,000) explaining how a vote for that nice Mr Twyford will result in that nice Miss Tizard becoming an MP again. And it could quote from various newspaper articles about the desirability of this. Maybe it could also remind people of s92A, what people say about it, and how Judith says it is a good law that should not be changed. Will Mt Albert residents want their Internet access at risk, if they vote for that nice Mr Twyford? Well, okay – that is probably stretching things too far – but you can see how much fun a third party campaign could have.

Anyway back to the article:

One participant said they were asked about Ms Tizard as part of a wider question about “celebrity” or well-known people standing for politics. Examples included Michael Jones, television presenter Paul Henry, comedian Mike King, actor Oscar Kightley and NZX boss Mark Weldon.

The focus group indicated concern about the possibility of a “Vote Twyford, get Tizard” campaign impacting on Labour’s chances.

That is an interesting sentence. Presumably the Herald has been in contact with one or more of the persons who took part in the focus groups. And they “indicated concern”.

Ms Tizard lost the Auckland Central seat to Nikki Kaye but would re-enter Parliament to fill list MP Phil Twyford’s list spot if he was the party’s Mt Albert candidate and won. The participant said the group members were asked what they knew about Mr Twyford – who lives in Kingsland and is favoured by Helen Clark.

There is another risk to having Tizard come back in to replace Twyford. No less than losing MMP. You see the Government has pledged to have a referendum on MMP. Now personally I don’t think people will vote for change (partly thanks to John Key). but if I was running an anti-MMP campaign, then I would use the Mt Albert by-election as a reason to dump MMP – the fact defeated electorate candidates can come back on the list.

Labour’s intensive polling of Mt Albert voters indicates the party is nervous about holding on to the electorate, which has always been viewed as a safe Labour seat, and where Helen Clark was MP for 27 years.

Just 2000 votes separated National and Labour in the party vote last election – and National’s popularity has soared since then.

Yes but the correct comparison is CR to CL on the party vote and that is 55% CL to 40% CR.

Labour Party president Andrew Little confirmed that the party had commissioned the focus groups and was polling in the electorate. He said it was common to test for important local issues.

Polling is more traditional. In Labour’s case it is going to be combining the polling and focus group results. The difficult scenario for them is if the poll shows that say Twyford can win the seat by 5% or so, but the focus groups show up to 10% of voters could change their votes if exposed to a Vote Twyford, get Tizard campaign. The question for Labour then is – do they risk it? Or in the words of Dirty Harry – do you feel lucky today punk? 🙂

If the polling shows Labour/Twyford way way ahead, then they can select him without worrying about a Twyford/Tizard campaign. But if things are closer, the head office may plump for another candidate such as Meg Bates.

Does anyone know the date of the selection meeting for Mt Albert for Labour? I understand media are allowed to attend and report on them, so I might pop along for the fun!

Explaining the Polls

March 20th, 2009 at 9:02 am by David Farrar

Over at Curiablog I have blogged on the apparent differences between polls on the Section 59 law and how in fact the two polls can be reconciled to each other.

For example while the UMR poll did find only 28% opposed to the new law, they also found 58% agreed that “There are certain circumstances when it is alright for parents to use physical punishment with children” .

In fact only 20% of UMR respondents disagreed with that statement.

I’ve also covered in some detail, how different polls can be focusing on different elements of a law, and differently worded questions can produce different results. This does not mean either one is biased – it means they are focused on different things.

Labour claims polling not for them

August 6th, 2008 at 8:51 am by David Farrar

Keeping Stock blogs, quoting the Dom Post:

“Prime Minister Helen Clark denied yesterday that Labour was polling voters on her response to the furore – a move which could signal she had not ruled out a firmer line against Mr Peters.

It is understood that polling company UMR was asking several questions, including whether Miss Clark had been decisive enough, but she said the poll was nothing to do with Labour.

“It would be news to me, because neither I, nor my staff, nor the Labour Party have authorised any such polling.””

Okay, well we know UMR has Labour as a client. So what are the possibilities:

  1. UMR are polling for another political party on whether Helen is tough enough on Winston and do people think John Key is slippery. Of course you are not allowed to work for two competing clients, so that theory is impossible.
  2. UMR on their own initiative decided to pay for a poll on how slippery is John Key and is Helen tough enough on WInston? And when they get the results of this poll, they will throw them in the bin, and not show them to anyone.
  3. Helen is not being upfront on this issue – which is rather hypocritical considering how much she went out of her way to claim she had no secrets about the who does polling for her,

There is I guess, another possibility. That the Spencer Trust commissioned the poll from UMR!!!

Labour polling on what to do re Winston

August 5th, 2008 at 10:19 am by David Farrar

I got an e-mail last night from someone who was polled by UMR – Labour’s polling company.

On top of the normal questions asking if people think John Key is slippery, there were at least two questions on how the Prime Minister has handled the Winston Peters funding scandal. They asked if people thought she had been decisive and also if people approve of her handling of Peters on a five point scale from strongly approve to strongly disapprove.

This is pretty significant. You don’t ask questions for no reasons. The results of that polling will obviously influence what Clark does once the confidence vote is passed this week.

Winston may not be amused to find out Helen is polling, effectively to find out whether she should sack him or not.

The results will be interesting. You see NZ First can survive by pissing off 90% of the public and confusing half of the remaining 10%. Major parties can not. When National had NZ First’s Tukugate (which was a completely trivial issue compared to this) scandal, it was National that eventually also got pushed down in the polls as you get suffer guilt by association.

Online Voting

March 17th, 2008 at 2:30 pm by David Farrar

The Electoral Commission has released the full data from some research UMR did for them last year, including a section on online voting.  It starts on page 43 of this pdf.

  • 41% of respondents use online banking once a week or more, whiel 34% do not use at all.
  • 60% of under 30s use online banking at least weekly and only 16%
  • Confidence in running of election on a 0 to 10 scale has 95% saying 5 or better and 74% an 8 or better
  • On same 0 to 10 scale for whether one would choose to vote online, 58% are 5 or higher and 42% an 8 or higher
  • For under 30s, 68% are 5 or higher on voting online, and 54% are 8 or higher.
  • Over 60s though have only 41% as a 5 or higher and 26% as an 8 or higher.
  • 76% say a confirmation screen would be an essential feature of online voting (I agree)

Pages and pages of interesting data. The 2010 local body elections provide a wonderful opportunity to trial online voting, and I hope necessary law and operational changes can be made so it can be used in a few areas.