Rising Support for New Zealand Labour Party, NZ First as Kingmaker: Polls 2023

New Zealand

Political polls since late August have shown a reverse trend towards the right, with the left and right blocs now polling closely. The emergence of NZ First as a potential kingmaker has led to warnings from the National Party about an indecisive result and the possibility of a second election if coalition negotiations break down.

The final picture will be clearer once polling booths close at 7 pm AEDT on Saturday when all ordinary votes cast at early voting centres or on election day will begin to be counted. Special votes, usually cast by voters outside their home electorate, have historically benefited left parties.

Election night will be available until official results are released on November 3. If NZ First is just above or below the 5% threshold on election night, it will take three weeks to determine its entry into parliament and its impact on the balance of power.

The right coalition, including National and ACT, and the left, including Labour, the Greens, and Te Pāti Māori/the Māori party, are analyzed in this analysis. NZ First, which has sided with both left and right in the past, is not counted with either left or right.

Te Pāti Māori is expected to win single-member seats on the Māori electoral roll, potentially benefiting from an “overhang.” Recent polls show a clear trend of a fall in the right’s lead over the left, with Essential and Reid Research leading the left. However, NZ First, which is between 6% and 8% in all recent polls, is expected to be the kingmaker, as neither right nor left is likely to have a majority.

Two graphs illustrate these trends: one shows all polls conducted since March, suggesting the right is gaining, and the other shows a clear trend to the left in all but the Talbot Mills poll. Fieldwork for the Verian and Reid Research polls ended four days before the election, and voting intentions can still change in these final days.

In the 2020 New Zealand election, the left party was understated and left parties in 2023 hope for more favourable results than polls imply. In New Zealand’s mixed member proportional (MMP) system, an “overhang” occurs when a party wins more single-member seats than its total seat entitlement would be on the party vote alone. If this happens, the party can retain its extra seats and the size of Parliament can be increased.

There are seven Māori-roll single-member seats, with Labour winning six and Te Pāti Māori one. However, Labour’s vote has crashed since 2020, so it’s plausible that Te Pāti Māori could win more single-member seats. In 2020, the party won 1.2% of the party vote, but its one electorate victory entitled it to two of parliament’s 120 total seats. If it picked up five single-member electorates and less than 2% of the party vote, it would result in a three-seat overhang, expanding parliament to 123 seats, with Te Pāti Māori holding five.

The November 25 by-election in Port Waikato, following the death of an ACT candidate, will determine the electorate candidate, expanding parliament to 121 seats, with the winner taking the additional 121st seat.

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