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STATISTICAL NOISE

Tova O'Brien: Politics as a popularity contest.
While Tova O'Brien thinks Newshub's first opinion Poll of the year is ' a doozy', the reality is that its still just statistical noise.

TV3'S POLITICAL EDITOR, Tova O'Brien, tweeted that she wanted us to 'brace ourselves' because the results of the first Newshub Opinion Poll of the year were going to be 'huge' and 'a doozy'. Gosh. Be still my beating heart. How are Newshub's future polls going to live up to this kind of hype? Will they be even more huge and even more doozier?

In the end  it was revealed that what  had got Tova sounding like an infomercial was the Reid Research Poll that showed Labour ahead of National for the first time in twelve years and - wait, there's more - National leader Simon Bridges faring badly in the preferred Prime Minister stakes. Given that the preferred Prime Minister is always the actual Prime Minister of the time Bridge's crime appears to be that he isn't Prime Minister so he too could be preferred Prime Minister. It all makes sense if you don't think about it too much.

I'm loathe to get mired in opinion poll politics but this poll, like all polls generally, needs to be approached warily and handled only with protective gloves on. While O'Brien claimed on the six o'clock news bulletin that the Reid Research Poll was 'the country's most accurate poll' (Roy Morgan and Colmar Brunton probably don't agree with Tova) it still polled just one thousand people - 750 by phone and 250 online. And, if you read the fine print, you will see that the margin of error is 3.1 percent. Which means that the Green's, polling at 5.1 percent, could actually be as high as 8.2 percent or as low as 2 percent. And with New Zealand First polling at 2.9 percent does that mean, in theory at least, they could actually have no voting support at all? Could Winston throw an election party and absolutely no one would show up, other than Jamie-Lee Ross?

Such important questions do not bother The Commentariat because polls like this give them something to talk about - endlessly. Rather than doing some real work on issues that do matter, like climate change and the widening chasm of economic inequality , they can speculate about how Jacinda's Arden child has contributed to Labours' poll result. Some of us might think this is a whole lot of hot air about a whole lot of statistical noise.

I'm as guilty as anyone for sneaking a look at the poll results when they are released - its a bit like chomping down a king sized bar of chocolate and feeling sick afterwards. But opinion polls inevitably turn politics into a horse race. And they obscure the stark fact that, despite all the outward appearances of a competitive race, market politics and capitalism always win in the end. The race is rigged. Not that  this seems to be of concern to the media cabal watching the race from the grandstand. Who cares about the unrepresentative nature of representative democracy when you can speculate about Judith toppling Simon?

A keen eyed observer will also notice that the grandstand is half empty. While The Commentariat might be all agog about the race, a great many New Zealanders couldn't care less. They know the race is rigged and that's why something close to a million folk no longer bother to vote. But you won't find any mention of that in the opinion polls, even the 'doozy' ones.









This post first appeared on AGAINST THE CURRENT, please read the originial post: here

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STATISTICAL NOISE

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