Concern Over Election Polls


Federated Farmers is concerned about the publication of council ‘exit polls’ in Auckland and Christchurch before the 2010 local elections close.

It says it may distort results and has Federated Farmers calling for reform.

“Is Federated Farmers the only organisation troubled by ‘exit polls’ that are so categorical about the outcome, when voting is still underway and doesn’t close until midday Saturday?” asks Don Nicolson, Federated Farmers President.

Federated Farmers is  raise with the Minister of Local Government possible measures, such as truncating the three-week local voting period and applying a General Election day like ban over that shorter period.

“According to a Phoenix Research poll in Auckland, Len Brown has more or less ‘won’ Auckland over John Banks, while a UMR poll in Christchurch, has Bob Parker a dead-cert for Christchurch over Jim Anderton.

“There will be hell to pay on Sunday if the pollsters have gotten it wrong and there’s a chance they have.

“In 2007, voter turnout nationally was just 44 percent, but the average for Mayoral contests in the Auckland region as a whole was 38 percent, while in Christchurch City, it was just 42 percent.

“There’s a huge margin for error because pollsters have to trust the word of those who respond. Even if voting surges to 50 percent, then half of all eligible voters will not have voted by the close of polling. How can pollsters have the confidence they are correct?

“The bigger question you have to ask is this, why are our local elections treated differently from a general election? I think it’s time to look at reforming the time period voters have to return their papers in.

“The Electoral Act, for example, prohibits the publication or broadcast of election related material after 6pm on the day before a general election up until booths close. It includes a complete ban on Election Day opinion polling for the simple reason it could influence voters.

“So releasing what to all intents and purposes are ‘exit polls’, could skew local council voting because it may lead to people choosing not to vote on the basis their favoured candidate is either in pole position or an also-ran.

“We are concerned the current local election voting window is open to such manipulation and I think the publication of ‘exit polls’ in Auckland and Christchurch, confirms my fear,” Mr Nicolson concluded.




  1. karl says:

    While I often disagree with FF, I think they do have a point here. Campaigning should obviously be allowed (it would be ridiculous to expect the canidates to stay mum for three weeks and argue that they weren’t campaigning whenever they said anything!) - but publishing surveys should not.

  2. Matt says:

    Agreed, Karl. As one who wants to see the back of Banks, it worries me that these polls could influence voting for him rather than leaving things to play out according to how people really feel: mostly apathetic, it seems.
    I also agree with Banks that it would be worthwhile investigating conducting local body elections in the same way as we conduct national elections, but being wary of a) the cost and b) election fatigue in the same way that some US states have elections every year, and all states have elections every other year (all of the House of Representatives is elected every two years), with the accordant impact on voter interest and turnout.

  3. Nick R says:

    I agree, regardless of my personal political orientation I don’t think it is consistent with free, fair, unbiased and anonymous voting.

  4. Richard says:

    I believe the whole postal voting system is wrong in its present form. How does the electoral office know that it was the voter who completed the form?

    Also, STV for the Hospital Boards I found a nonsense too. This vote was for candidates least known by the voters. At least with the councillors many are already on boards and information regularly in the media so we know their tack. The Hospital Boards are “behind the curtain” and members often unknown. Therefore it’s very hard to give a preference 1-7!

    I am concerned about the first point knowing there have been misappropriated votes. My son lives in Germany and there when there is a vote for many candidates the voting papers are posted to you and you complete them, take them to a polling station, get your name ticked off and place the paper in the box. Votes can not then be misappropriated.

  5. Good bye Banksie says:

    I do agree with FF on this issue.

  6. karl says:

    “and there when there is a vote for many candidates the voting papers are posted to you and you complete them, take them to a polling station, get your name ticked off and place the paper in the box.”

    Richard, that is not quite right. Germany does allow postal voting and it works pretty exactly they same way it does here. However the postal votes are NOT opened in advance, as all elections in Germany also have a set election day walk-in vote (final day) and if you had chosen to have voting papers posted to you, you CAN take them into the polling station on the day to vote normally (but you have to have your postal voting papers with you - because otherwise you’d be able to vote twice).

    All votes are also counted by citizens, not Council staff, even the postal votes.

  7. Richard says:

    Karl, thank you
    Since writing my post I have realised I misinterpreted my Son’s advice and how you describe the German system is correct.

    Our system is seriously flawed and I have evidence it has been abused and I am sure this election would have had many more fraudulent votes. The news tonight quoted an arrest for electoral fraud.

    I am going to write to the Chief Electoral Officer about my concerns and ask for a return to polling stations.

  8. GJA says:

    Richard, I agree with you, the Hospital Boards is a mess. How do you vote for people (and rank them) if you’v never heard of them and what do they really do? Can they not be appointed by the council/mayor - whatever the structure is?

    I just left that section blank, since I’m not going to vote based on a short paragraph.

  9. Matt says:

    GJA, surely the Minister of Health would be the better person to appoint people to DHBs? Or just do away with the lay member positions entirely, though that would have some other negative effects when the MoH is a penny-pincher like Ryall.

    On the fraud in the election, the only way to avoid it is a full return to polling stations. Given that it costs millions of dollars to run a general election, it’d cost rather more to run a multi-format local body election. We’d also get generally lower turnouts to BOTH elections, since people would have to turn out to vote in consecutive (or potentially the same if a snap election was called) years. I don’t think that’s a good solution.

  10. GJA says:

    I believe that we have far too many elections and we should move to a 4 or 5 year cycle for both national and local bodies. This should enable the politicians to get on with their jobs. Look at National, it took them a year to come up to speed and come next year they will start promising thing but not do anything. The government of the day cannot make bold changes that will benefit the country in the long term, that will cause pain in the short term since the next election is too close.

    Also limit the PM and Mayors to two terms, since we need fresh blood at the different levels. Barry Curtis and Helen Clark were far too long in their positions and became ineffective in leading. Labour might have been able to stay in power for another term if somebody was groomed to be the next leader while they were in government. (Not sure who though, lol)

    The money we save doing that can then be used to have polling stations for local elections.


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