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Nov 05, 2004



I hesitate to dignify something as shonky as the NBR survey with any sort of statistical interpretation whatever but both you and they appear to fall into the trap of thinking that the terms left and right have some sort of objective quantitive meaning. A poll to consider whether people considered themselves tall or short would not necessarily rank themselves in orer correctly. A 170cm netball player (who mostly hung out with other netball players) might consider herself quite short. Left and right is even more difficult since we have neither standard scale nor origin against on which to measure it, other people's political views are not directly visible to us and we do not even have any agreement on precisely what the terms should measure (big/small government, generous/parsimonious welfare, high/low tax, social liberalism/conservatism, etc). Let's accept for argument's sake that everyone is using the 0-10 scale calibrated against "dead centre" = 5.0. In that case we have 22% < 4.5, 33% between 4.5 and 5.5, 34% > 5.5 and 11% non-respondents. The median will be greater than 5 to reflect the difference in "right" and "left" numbers but only very slightly (5.17). If we assume people vote for the closest of the two parties to their own poistion then which ever party is perceived to be closest to the median will win. If a Labour/Green/Progressive bloc is perceived as taking a 4 while the National/Act/? block is perceived as taking a 7 the left grouping would get 55% (22+33) to 34% for the Right grouping.

Of course if the NBR really wanted to shed light on people's views the question would have been something like -

Which of the following best describes your position?

(a) Taxes should be cut even if it means a reduction in state health, education and welfare funding;

(b) The present balance between tax rates and state health, education and welfare funding is about right;

(c) State health, education and welfare funding should be increased even if it means an increase in Taxes


greyshade. I thought you were a centrist at first but you seem to have jumped to the misleading left. Your maths is ridiculous. assigning the left a score 1 to the left of a mean and the right 3 to the right of the mean will bias the score. Just irrelevant semantics.

If you were to read my earlier post more closely you would not have combined health, education and welfare in your equally misleading choice for the voter. National policies meant approximately the same share of GDP on health and education as Labour despite whatever misleading statistics Labour come up with. shifting people off a waiting list is not shortening the waiting list. it is classic lying. To suggest the right want to cut education and health is ridiculous. They want to offer choice and are willing to change the means of delivery to achieve the most effective use of resources.

The real problem with New Zeaalnd is with welfare. It is a fundamental refusal to deal with the wilfully idle and the reality that young people and those with young children have very little money. they should work hard and change their position. That is what drives a state forward. The reason I despise Maharery the plonker so much is his continuous assertions that welfare in the form of state subsidised idleness is a right. A society may choose to help those on the lower rungs improve themselves but it is under no obligation to do so.


My example was purely hypothetical. I am not saying National is further from the center than Labour just pointing out that the mere fact that we have an assymetric distribution with more people on the right end of the spectrum than the left is no reason why we can't have a Labour government. My sample question was also only an example. I combined Health, Education and Welfare as they represent the bulk of total governmnt expenditure.

I also specified "State" health education and welfare spending not total. Funding tertiary education by student loans or health by private insurance usually means reducing "State funding" of these areas if the total funding remains the same.

I have no problem with restricting the question to welfare and tax (assuming no change in state health and education spending). The point I was making was that the questions are only useful when they address actual policy or philosophical questions rather than an ill-defined left-right position against an arbitrary and undefined center.

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