Friday, 4 March 2016

Old Glory: Latest UMR Research Flag Poll

                      UMR Research   (Late Feb 2016)            
                                      Which Flag ?                              
                                    New        Current       Unsure      
   Entire Sample             32               59                9           
   Labour Supporters      19               73                 8          
   NZF Supporters          24               73                 3          
   Green Supporters        28               60                12         
   National Supporters    45               45                10         
   Female                         29               61                10        
   Male                             36               56                 8         
   Age 18-29                    33               60                  7        
   Age 30-44                    29               64                  7        
   Age 45-59                    32               55                 13       
   Age 60 +                      35               57                   8       
   Attitudes to Flag by Certainty to Vote                           
   Almost Certain             32               62                   6       
   Very Likely                  33               59                   8       
   Fairly/Not Likely         39               45                  16       

In the report accompanying their just-released Flag Poll (conducted over
the final week of February), UMR Research suggest their latest result:
"possibly represents a very modest gain for the change campaign as most previous polls have shown a 2:1 margin for retention of the current flag."

True. In fact, if anything, even a slightly greater margin in most recent public polls.

But, then again, it's best to compare apples with apples: in other words - you really want to compare this latest UMR Research Poll with the previous (early February) one from the same pollster. Do that and you find that, in fact, the New/Current preference ratios are precisely the same. Unlike the present poll, UMR excluded the Don't Knows from their presentation of the early Feb poll findings (1) - which recorded a 35/65 split in favour of retaining the current flag. Exclude the 9% Unsure in this latest poll and you get precisely the same 35/65 split. So, in the specific context of UMR polls on the topic, there really hasn't been any closing of the gap at all.

The UMR commentary also highlights what it implies is a critically important group of voters: those who, in principle, would be more than happy to change the flag but just don't like the alternative on offer (comprising almost 20% in the early February UMR and 16% in the early February Newshub Reid Research Polls).

UMR may well be right to argue that:
Neither "those voting for a new flag to remove the symbolic colonial yoke" nor those voting against change "because our soldiers died under the current flag" are likely to change their minds on the matter . But that the group voting for retention purely or largely because they don't much care for the Lockwood design just might. UMR suggests that this group tends to be younger and much more likely to support Labour and the Greens than the population as a whole.

All I can say is: I'm a middle-aged member of this 16-20% (2) and I've just cast my vote (albeit somewhat reluctantly) for the current flag - "Old Glory" as I like to call it. And I suspect most of my fellow Pragmatic Opponents of the Lockwood alternative will do the same. After all, not only are people relatively unlikely to suddenly alter their views on the quality of the Lockwood design (unless those views are weakly held), but also, as UMR itself has shown, younger Labour and Green voters are particularly responsive to the political motive: agreeing in overwhelming numbers that "New Zealanders should send John Key a message" in this referendum by "voting for the current flag."

Then again, it's also true that, for the first time, the Under 30s in this latest UMR are no longer the generation most opposed to change. They've been replaced by the young-middle aged 30-44 year olds.

Finally, as in the previous UMR, the current flag's margin over the Lockwood alternative increases slightly when you focus solely on those most likely to vote.


(1) Well, that was my assumption last night. But I've since discovered that in fact the early Feb UMR was conducted online and forced respondents into just the two choices: keep the flag or change it. The latest UMR is a phone poll which allowed an Unsure option. None of which alters the conclusion that, among those who have made up their mind, the 35/65 split is precisely the same in both polls.

(2) There's probably a spectrum of Pragmatic Opponents and I'm likely to be at the more conservative end. While I'd quite like to move to a fresh new flag and be rid of the colonial symbolism - the alternative design would really need to be a significant improvement on the current one. Some of us are, you know, just a little bit discriminating. I had little regard for any of the initial 40 designs, let alone the final five. Compromise is one thing, you're never likely to get precisely what you want, but that doesn't mean you just casually vote for any old dross. One thing I'll say for the current ensign: at least it exudes a certain sense of dignity and gravitas. Which is more than you can say for the something for everyone Lockwood design.

[As always, the tables are best viewed via laptop - otherwise they're apt to look just a tad messy]