Hard News by Russell Brown


A call from Curia

The phone rang last night and when I picked it up, a young woman said "Hi, is Russell there please?" It turned out that we didn't know each other. She was working the phones for Curia Research, the National Party's polling company, which is owned by David Farrar. She didn't say who the client was, but I wouldn't expect her to.

Curia's work for National -- like UMR's work for Labour -- is internal polling and as such its style and content is different from that of public polling by firms like Colmar Brunton and Reid Research. The latter are looking for discrete, publishable results, while party pollsters are seeking not just to determine a party's position with voters, but what to say to voters. The call had elements of the dreaded brand perception surveys, but was shorter and far less annoying than most of those.

I was asked first how likely I was to vote (I wasn't given a list of options, and the caller wrote down "certain" when I said that); where I'd direct my party vote; how likely I was to change my mind on my party vote; where my vote would go if it did change; who I thought would win the election; who I voted for last time.

Then it was into issues: did I think the country was "generally going" in the right or wrong direction and the "most important issue" to me, before were got into brand perceptions and I was asked to rate, from 1 to 5, and in this order, Russel Norman, Winston Peters, John Key, Bill English and David Cunliffe. Curia's practice here is flexible: I was able to award half-points.

Then we moved on to a Key vs Cunliffe head-to-head: Who would make the better Prime Minister?

And then this series of questions:

• Is it more important for political leaders in NZ to be "strong and decisive" or "in touch and listening"?

• Which political party has the best approach to that description?

• Which party believes in doing what's right for New Zealand?

• Is best to manage New Zealand's economy?

• Is best to make improvements to the health system?

• Will help families?

• Is providing strong and decisive leadership?

• Is in touch with the majority?

• Is able to keep mortgage interest rates low?

• Is able to keep prices and the cost of living down?

• Is best able to manage the welfare system

• Will crack down on crime?

• Will make sure that the tax system is fair?

• Are basically honest and trustworthy?

• Has the best approach on climate change?

• Is able to support jobs and keep unemployment low?

• Knows the pressures that households are under?

• Has the best team behind the leader?

• Has the best approach to foreign investment in New Zealand?

• Has the best overall position on asset sales and ownership?

• Has views closest to yours on the issue of immigration?

By their nature, these questions aren't really geared towards firmly decided voters, if only because they tend to push the respondent towards the choice they've already made. I kept wanting to discuss each question, which of course isn't what the poll is there for.

After three demographic questions (dependent children under 18; employment status, self-employed, full-time, part-time; and "which ethnicity you most identify with") we were done and I was asked whether I was prepared to be called next week for a post-election follow-up, which I guess might not come now.

I should emphasise that my caller was polite and patient and of course had no idea that I might record and report her questions. I'd be interested to know how they associated my name and my (VOIP) landline number but apart from that, that was my call from Curia.

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