Cognito: Around the margins

21 September 2017

Non tamen sunt ibi *

Last night’s opinion poll underscored what an extraordinary election campaign this has been.

The campaign has been like those of old, not only for the unexpected excitement and energy, but also how much of a two party race it is.

Remember Andrew Little?  Just seven weeks ago, it was looking like a lay down misère for National. Since then, Jacinda Ardern has led a back-from-the-dead performance that’s given Labour a realistic shot at controlling the Treasury benches.

Like previous Prime Minister John Key, Ms Ardern has the strength of personality in her arsenal.  But, as the campaign nears the end, we’ve seen the debate focus on policy positions, which is playing on the minds of undecided voters.

There is an irony that polls trying to predict an outcome have only served to increase uncertainty and last night’s 1 News Colmar Brunton Poll continued the see-sawing of the lead.  There is one more poll tonight but don’t expect any more clarity. The only poll that matters is on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Cognito is focused on the overall trend of the polls – a historically good indicator of election outcomes. The trend shows National slightly ahead.

The trend also shows smaller parties being squeezed as concerned voters return to the major parties.  While we’ve seen the emergence of TOP, this election could be marked by the demise of the Greens – there’s a chance it won’t make the threshold which will radically change the dynamics of the post-election negotiations.

Other key results include whether Winston Peters holds Northland, an essential for his party’s survival if it slips below the five per cent threshold which is now also a possibility.

The polarising policy divide between town and country is also reminiscent of elections past and the galvanising of the rural/provincial support for National seems to have cost both Labour and New Zealand First.

There’s no evidence of the predicted ‘youth quake’ with enrolments of under 30s below levels at the last election.  Even many of those who are enrolled traditionally don’t vote, so only a high turnout in this demographic would see them influence the outcome.

Advance voting is well ahead of last year and those results will be known just after polls close which will be an early indicator. But a final result will have to wait on post-election negotiations, and if it’s really close, even special votes could play a role, especially around the margins.

* They are not there yet

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