Polling advice for National MPs

The National party

Earlier this morning I wrote about ‘Sick’ Todd McClay’s poll presentation to National’s caucus.

This post is dedicated to the 50 National MPs that don’t have access to the weekly polling information as it comes through on email. Whaleoil readers should send a link to their local National MP (including “fucking useless” Maureen Pugh) so they are forearmed for caucus today.

Polling, for very good reasons, is kept close. Only the most senior MPs and staff get a look at Farrar’s numbers. Other than ‘Sick’ Todd, only Bridges, Bennett, Adams, and Collins get the polling. Add on a few staff and consultants, and that’s the tight group. Not even the wider front bench are trusted with the full report containing raw numbers.

‘Sick’ Todd’s presentation will be slick, abbreviated, and only touch on the things he needs to share to give MPs the feeling they’re being kept in the loop. Share too much and he risks the caucus asking too many questions.

Here are 5 things MPs should be thinking and asking about when they sit in today’s caucus meeting:

1. When the headline poll number is in the mid-30s, it will be confirmation by a second poll after UMR that National’s support has slumped. Bridges and Bennett are known to widely blame the Jami-Lee Ross saga on this slump. But how much of this polling hit should be attributed to the political management of their leadership? The net impact of Simon Bridges’ leadership is a poll hit of about 10 points post-election. Will he take responsibility?

2. Every week Farrar polls on an important metric: likability. Bridges became leader on 27 February. The next weekly poll on 6 March had Bridges with a net-favourability of positive 11% – so more people liked him than disliked him. Come November, after the “get to know me” roadshow, and Bridges now has a net-favourability number south of negative 30%. Caucus members should ask how Bridges ended up with a damaging 40% shift in favourability in such a short space of time. More importantly though, why has this never been shared with the caucus? Turns out the public did get to know him after all. For comparison, Jacinda is net positive 45/50%. Paula Bennett polls better than Bridges too, but when you are at -30% likability even that “fucken useless” Maureen Pugh would poll better than you.

3. The Colmar Brunton poll had Bridges with a preferred PM number of 7%. That was painful in and of itself, but Judith Collins not far behind on 5% became the headline. ‘Sick’ Todd’s presentation tomorrow will have Bridges roughly two to three times higher than Colmar Brunton. But what about the rest – why doesn’t the National poll include Collins and Peters? Or Bennett and Adams for that matter? Is that information just too painful to share for a leader barely hanging on?

Everyone remembers what happened when the extremely unpopular Andrew Little was replaced by the extremely popular Jacinda Ardern. National Caucus members need to ask themselves if their careers are on the line because they have a leader who introduced himself to the New Zealand public and the New Zealand public said: “We don’t like you”.

4. Bridges prides himself on being a strong and decisive leader. Give him a microphone and he will tell you just how strong his leadership is but does the polling match his rhetoric? National MPs wouldn’t know, because they have never been shown that number. Here’s a hint: John Key used to regularly lead Labour on the “providing strong and decisive leadership” question by a whopping 40-50 points (although his best result was September 2011 when he had a 70% lead over Goff). Are any brave National MPs willing to ask just how far behind Labour the Bridges-led National Party now sits, having fallen dramatically in the last 9 months?

5. Following the Colmar Brunton poll a month ago Bridges was set an ultimatum on his leadership by none other than himself. He told media he would soon be back ahead of Labour. He went as far as to say “you give it a few weeks, someone will do another poll and you’ll see the National Party ahead of Labour”. Well, it’s been a few weeks now. Has Simon Bridges met the polling test laid out by Simon Bridges?

National’s polling is a closely guarded set of information. The caucus only gets a sneak peek about 10 times a year. Today MPs will be confronted with the first poll since the Jami-Lee Ross saga.

Bridges’ problem is that caucus can clearly see the voters really, really don’t like him. As much as ‘Sick’ Todd will spin the polls the actual message is that Bridges is the kind of failing leader Goff, Shearer, Cunliffe and Little were, or English was in 2002. National MPs should look in the mirror and ask themselves if they support a failing leader like Bridges enough to lose their seat or to spend another three years on the opposition benches.

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Simon has had an interest in campaigning since the 1980 Presidential Campaign, and has followed campaigns closely since then. His first campaign was getting a 4th former successfully elected to a school Board of Trustees. He was harassed by people who thought it should have been a 7th former and learned that campaigners need thick skins.


In 2000 & 2001 Simon completed a Master of Arts in Politics through Otago University, with Prof Bob Catley, a former ALP Member of Parliament, as his supervisor. Bob’s direct approach to campaigns taught Simon a huge amount about professionalism, staying focused and winning.

Simon has been involved in a large number of campaigns for selection, general elections, local body elections, ending monopolies and opposing public projects. He does not comment on specific campaigns other than to use anecdotes to illustrate points.

Simon works with a small number of campaign professionals and outsources work where others have a superior skill set in specific areas.

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