Recent opinion polls in New Zealand suggest that the Sixth Labour Government is utterly triumphant. Labour’s polling dominance is such that it has led directly to a change in Leader of the Opposition. However, as this article will show, Labour’s high polling numbers need to be taken with a massive pinch of salt.
Labour supporters have been effusive in their praise for Ardern, claiming that her excellent crisis leadership has been the reason for the polling rise. She has been the very model of calm, collected control, and her high polling is simply because people have come to realise how great she is. She has communicated clearly, listened to the scientists and oh isn’t she marvellous.
The reality is that sitting governments everywhere have received a significant polling boost in recent months as their populace has swung in behind them out of a wartime mindset.
The Social Democrats in Sweden, who had recently suffered the humiliation of falling behind the neo-Nazi Sweden Democrats in the polls, have now leapt back into the lead. Since the coronavirus pandemic began in earnest, they have increased their share of expected voters from 23% to 31%. In other words, the sitting government’s vote share increased by about a third – as it did in New Zealand.
It’s worth noting here that the Swedish approach to the pandemic was almost the opposite of New Zealand’s. Sweden did not have lockdowns, choosing to rely on the inevitable herd immunity of the population. So it’s not simply a matter of sitting governments being rewarded for making the right move. No-one knows yet what the right move was.
A Labour supporter might interject here. They might claim that the Swedish Social Democrats are also a centre-left party, and so their success combined with New Zealand Labour’s success shows that the time has come for the politics of kindness. Regardless of how the coronavirus should have been dealt with, many voters now agree that the time of miserliness and keeping other people down is over.
These are lovely sentiments, but the reigning Union Government in Germany is conservative, and they have also seen a poll boost since the coronavirus pandemic started – in their case of some 12% (see image at top of page). So the populations of Western countries have fallen in behind centre-right governments as well as centre-left ones.
Final proof comes from the fact that the Scott Morrison Government in Australia, despite being mired in scandal and accusations of incompetence, has also climbed some 6-7% since the pandemic hit. Morrison had fallen behind Leader of the Opposition Anthony Albanese on the Preferred Prime Minister polls, but has now regained his lead.
There’s an obvious conclusion to draw from all this data. It’s apparent that the public of every Western nation has fallen in behind their leadership on account of anxiety from the coronavirus pandemic. This is clear from the fact that, despite handling the pandemic in very different ways, all sitting governments have seen massive boosts to their polling.
Kings have long known that their underlings plot and scheme against them less when the castle is under siege. Dictators have also long known that their position is never more secure than when the nation is under threat from an outside enemy. In fact, it’s a law of social psychology that group cohesion is a function of the group’s anxiety about external threats.
This is why criticising Jacinda Ardern has become a social misdemeanour. At a time of great need, such as this coronavirus pandemic, it’s almost seen as treason to criticise the leader. This is an emergency, and that demands that everyone put their grievances aside and work together for a greater goal.
The true measure of Labour’s polling will come after the siege mentality brought on by the coronavirus pandemic is lifted. There’s good reason to expect that Labour will fall back to within 5% of their pre-COVID mark of around 42%. If they do, and given that the ACT Party is now polling at 3.5%, then this September’s election could still be very close, despite how high Labour and Ardern are currently riding.
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