Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Fuck the polls

At last, proof that polls are as reliable as chicken entrails. The latest TV3 TNS poll shows a 17 point swing to Labour over five days. Frog, in a rare show of understatement, calls it puzzling. I call it complete bullshit.

It is time for media outlets to release full methodologies and raw data to back up these alleged facts if they are to present them as Headline News. I want evidence! If other branches of the scientific community have their studies peer-reviewed, open-sourced if you will, it is good enough for polling companies.

The electorate may be volatile but it is not bipolar. However, some wildly improbable reasons for this sadistic statistic must be examined before we can justifiably dismiss it all as hokum. Frog's best guess is the last poll was a Nat Spike. This falls into line with Labour's response at the time, that of a Rogue Poll. National fluked it. Perhaps. If tax and race are the Nats only big guns and there's no joker up the sleeve, they have indeed spiked.

National has not done as much damage in Labour's Education and Health weaknesses as I had anticipated. Maybe they are the king-hitters for the week before E-Day. Something like tax deductible private health insurance and introducing the International Baccalaureate as the external benchmark for Education sectors might work.

One question at the Aro Valley meeting was whether Maori language teaching should be compulsory for primary school children. The first component of the IB has a provision for this, and so it should. Any second language will do and it might as well be Maori. I'd personally recommend Spanish or Mandarin for my kids, but that's just my opinion. Each to their own.

But I digress. 17 points is too dramatic to blame on a fall from apotheosis. The Greens' own levels of polling further discourage this explanation. One week they're barely making 5%, the next they are the third largest party. No, really.

Another possibility is that the polls are true and accurate but are picking up the static of the General Electorate. It does exist, that hiss as voters admit to pollsters that they really don't know who the fuck to believe any more but today they'll say Blah.

I admit falling in this category. Yeah, I'm a lapsed Act member. I'd like to vote for them, but I just can't vote for a party with Muriel Newman in it. I used to think the same about Stephen Franks, but last night he seemed to have a lot less liberal chill than normal. Maybe he's a man with nothing to lose and just doesn't give a fuck any more. About bloody time.

There's no way that I'll vote National. They're just too white bread. Too much meat and two vege with vanilla ice cream for dessert. Perhaps in a later incarnation of it, when DPF is party president or something.

I've voted Labour before and I'll do it again, but this year I don't think so. They've run out of ideas for now. Power corrupts.

Voting Green would feel good at the time, but would I wake up the next day and regret it? I'd really like to vote for the Greens if they weren't such a bunch of earnest self-sanctimonious do-gooders. The Greens are the reason I'd keep state assets for now. We'll need something to sell off later to pay the bill.

No other parties rate. UFO and NZ First are toxic for all sorts of personal and professional reasons. Maori Party are well-meaning but racist and clumsy. Liberterianz only exist to make Act look moderate. It's times like this I wish there was space on the ballot to tick "none of the above." If only it were that easy to have a vote of no confidence in one's representatives!

If there are many more voters in the same schooner, then the polls mean nothing. Like Schrodinger, we won't know where the cat's at until we open the box on the night of Sept 17. Welcome to NZ's first election based on the Uncertainty Principle.

One more possibility worth noting is that the recent price rises mean a disproportionate number of Labour voters are at home answering polls as conservative voters are the only ones able to afford to drive.

Here's my guess; it's all voodoo. Polls belong with the other soothsayers, tarot readers, psychics, astrologers and card sharps. When you can't be fucked finding a story, commission a poll. Instant news and a good return on your investment. Polls are the Reality TV of the news media. Cheap entertainment value only. Don't expect deep, just thick.

If you're interested in finding out more on the role of the media, the Vic Uni Continuing Education 6 O'clock Lecture Series has a doozy coming up:

Election 05: Will the media cast the final vote?

The 2005 election campaign is now in full swing. As our political leaders increasingly use the media to battle it out for our votes, join us for an examination of the role played by the media in this year's campaign using comparisons with past elections here and overseas.

To what extent do the media report the campaign, and to what extent do they create it?

Lecture Theatre 2, Ground floor, Rutherford House
23 Lambton Quay, Victoria University Pipitea campus, Wellington.
Free entry

Guest speaker: Kate McMillan is a Lecturer in Comparative Politics and teaches courses on the media and politics at at Victoria University.