Sunday, 17 July 2005

MMP vs the Media

The Herald on Sunday have published a poll, which shows ACT party leader Rodney Hide currently running third in the electorate of Epsom (although an apparently unpublished question has him winning if Epsom voters believe that this win will ensure a centre-right government).

Epsom's currently held by National's Richard Worth, who at #16 on the National Party List is safe as houses, whether or not he wins Epsom. Meanwhile, ACT are keen to pick up an electorate seat, to act as an MMP insurance policy if they somehow fail make 5% this election.

More important though is the way minor parties are look at by the New Zealand media, if they do hold an electorate seat. It is common for minor parties to poll below the 5% threshold outside of an election campaign. However, in the monthly opinion polls, parties that don't currently hold a seat are discounted in the final seat breakdown... which can eventually turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy when inexperienced party members start agreeing with inexperienced members of the media.

(Most journalists have little understanding of economics or math (just ask your average journo to explain what they mean when they say the phrase "margin of error" ;-) Another concept the bulk of the media are failing to comprehend is that of "overhang"... Rather than the 120 MPs we now have, September 17th's General Election will likely return at least 126 MPs (largely thanks to the Maori Party, although even Labour could contribute to this). That increases the likelihood of 3 or 4 way coalition or support deal to form a government).

Former ACT Party leader, Richard Prebble secured Wellington Central in the first MMP election, only to lose it '99 when Labour persuaded the Alliance and the Greens not to stand candidates in the seat, allowing Ms Marion Hobbs to steal it.

In reality, the Greens are just as likely to be left out of the next Parliament, after Jeanette Fitzsimons lost Coromandel last election. Last time around they had the GE-free campaign momentum... the Zimbabwe Cricket debate may have come in the nick of time to save them, giving the Greens an issue that can bring them a wider base of support.

However, the ACT Party are good election campaigners, and should succeed easily in nailing the 5% threshold this election. However, the party needs to also succeed in bringing home Epsom if they're to have a secure stepping stone with which to build the party's support above the current 10% or so that are currently leaning in their direction.

* Epsom Poll: Rodney Hide's take
* Epsom Poll: Aaron Bhatnagar's take

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