By Grant McInman - Manager, Horizon Research
Horizon Research includes questions on voting from time to time in its surveys – for both forthcoming referenda and
For general elections, we have a high interest in switching patterns (party vote in the previous election versus current
intentions) rather than the overall result, and the results from the June 2020 and July 2020 survey were ones we thought
we should comment on.
We had noticed in a survey taken in mid-June 2020, three weeks after Todd Muller had been selected as National Party
leader, that around 11% of National voters in the 2017 general election were now expressing an intention to vote for
ACT. While not all of them were 100% likely to vote, the implication was that a significant number of the party’s 2017
support base were considering switching their allegiance.
Our July 2020 online survey was taken from 14–19 July 2020. Like other political polls, the survey data was weighted to
align with Stats NZ population counts. It was also weighted to align with Elections NZ’s party vote statistics for the
2017 General Election.
Our July 2020 survey started on the same day that Todd Muller resigned as Leader of the National Party. Judith Collins
was selected as Leader that night. We were able to compare the results from 14 July with those from the remaining days.
The comparison indicated that the potential loss to ACT had reached 14% by the time that Mr Muller resigned as leader.
The selection of Ms Collins as leader changed the apparent decline in the National Party’s potential vote, lifting it by
nearly 5% overall and retaining 7% more of National’s 2017 voters. This was primarily by stemming the potential loss to
ACT and some other minor parties and reducing the uncertainty among those who had voted for National in 2017 about which
party they would vote for in 2020.
As this chart shows, between July 14-19 National had potentially lost 11% of its 2017 party voters after the election of
Judith Collins (down from 14% under Todd Muller). It had lost 19% directly to the Labour Party (the same under Muller).
Overall, 56% of National’s 2017 voters were loyal (49% under Muller).
Our overall party vote for National was 25%, the same as Reid Research’s for 3 News/Newshub. The Reid poll started on 16
July, the day after Ms Collins selection as National’s leader (and the third day of the Horizon survey) and ran until 24
July. As noted above, the Horizon Research survey covered the last day of Todd Muller’s leadership and the period when
National Party voters from 2017 were adjusting to the change of leadership.
“A week is a long time in politics”
Attributed to 1960s British Prime Minister Harold Wilson, this comment could definitely apply to the 2020 New Zealand
election. Six days after our July survey closed, Colmar Brunton started its latest poll for 1 News. Results were
released on 30 July.
Their results show that National’s party vote is now 32%, 7% more than Reid Research’s and our own results. Half of that
growth appears to have come from those who had intended to cast their party vote for ACT. Taken together, ACT and
National have 37% of the vote. The parties that form the current Government have 60%.
On Horizon’s results, Labour could possibly govern alone, but not if there is a sizeable “overhang” (an “overhang” occurs when a party wins more electorate seats than the total share of seats it would otherwise be
allocated based on its share of party votes. The overhang seats (the number above the party vote entitlement) are added
to the usual 120 seats until the following general election). If a sizeable overhang does occur, then Labour would need to either form a coalition or a minority government with
support for confidence and supply.
But on Colmar Brunton’s results, taken a week later, Labour would have 67 seats in a 120-seat parliament (i.e. no
“overhang”), and could govern alone.
Will there be an “overhang”?
That depends on the number of electorate seats won by National in comparison with its entitlement when all party votes
are counted – and the party votes of ACT and the Green Party.
In 2017, National won 41 electorate seats out of 71, but was entitled to 56 seats. Labour won 29 electorates but was
entitled to 46. ACT won one electorate seat, and its party vote level restricted it to the one seat in parliament. New
Zealand First and the Green Party did not win any electorate seats but were entitled to 9 and 8 seats respectively.
If National's party vote tally in the 2020 election is at 32% or higher, there is unlikely to be an “overhang”. If
National wins all of the electorate seats it currently holds and wins less than 32% of the party vote, there is likely
to be an overhang. The amount of overhang will depend on how much less than 32% of the party vote National wins.
The selection of Ms Collins has seemingly staunched some of the bleeding from the 2017 National party vote. On the day
that Mr Muller resigned, 76% of the potential 2020 National Party voters had voted for National in 2017. Following Ms
Collins selection as leader, that figure grew to 84%. But will it be enough?
Our data shows a greater loss for National of its 2017 voters than a gain of 2017 voters from other parties or from new
voters. Strategically, National may not be too worried if it shares its 2017 voters with ACT. But it should be concerned
about the potential loss of 2017 votes to Labour. If it is to form the Government after the election, it needs to retain
its 2017 voters and attract others from those who voted for the Labour, Green and New Zealand First parties in 2017. Our
data indicates that, currently, just 4.7% of its intending voters come from those who voted for those three parties.
Will that be enough?