New Zealand: Are worms flawed?

A debate on a Prime Ministerial Debate.

David Farrar, a blogger, spotted three Labour-supporting suspects in a vetted panel of 65 supposedly undecided voters monitoring TV3's engaging PM Debate the other day. Were the panel biased, or were they sound? 

Roy Morgan, the polling firm hired by the TV company, states emphatically that no panel members opted consistently for either Phil Goff (Labour) or John Key (National). 

After the Debate, commentators gave judgements which suggested that Goff won the first half, Key the second. I watched the "Reactor" worm as it monitored reaction and Goff did resoundingly well, particularly during the first half of the Debate when he spoke of the dire predicament of the impoverished as they struggle to meet everyday expenditure needs. Key did better in the latter half as he talked up policy and defended growth plans. On balance though, it seemed that Goff's attacks hit home with panelists, but Key's scare tactics were rebuffed. 

The question of bias is important, but if Labour supporters were there posing as uncommitted voters then their small number may, as Roy Morgan maintains, not have affected the outcome. (Another firm was hired to vet potential panelists). 

What I find curious, however, was a subsequent TV interview with a panelist as he walked down a street. He said he was undecided between a series of centre-left parties. No mention of National. And isn't that natural bias? People are bound to have centre-left, left, centre-right or right wing leanings. And if they lean one way, then their worm-monitored reactions to politicians' statements are bound to detect a clear preference for one man's views over another's. In my experience, people are receptive to only those arguments which their personal ideologies enable them to absorb. So, an individual might well be undecided, but are they truly impartial?

And a preference for minor parties (Greens, Mana, NZ First, or whichever) must surely make them unsuitable as panelists, for no minor party leader was present at that Debate to make their case. The Debate was about which major party should form the next government, and which leader would make the better PM. 

The worm was fascinating to watch as it squirmed its way from left to right across the screen, descending into negative then climbing towards positive territory. But was it actually telling viewers anything at all, in reality?

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