New Zealanders differentiate the public from the private lives of politicians

There has been a bit of commentary about whether Len Brown should resign following his confirmation that he had an affair. Although there has been a very unscientific poll on this topic, at this point there have been no random polls released to show what the general public think. I’d say there’s a fair chance one may pop up soon (please note that at this point I have no direct or indirect knowledge of the existence of such a poll). In the meantime, I did some digging.

Back in September 2006, TVNZ commissioned a ONE News Colmar Brunton poll to find out whether eligible New Zealand voters thought Don Brash should resign following an alleged affair. The question wording and results were as follows:

Don Brash is taking time off from Parliament to spend time with his family after accusations that he has been having an affair. Do you think that he should resign as leader of the National Party as a result of this?

  • Yes – 23%
  • No – 70% (84% among National Party supporters and 66% among Labour Party supporters)
  • Don’t know – 8%

Based on the results of the above poll I’d say that, to a point, New Zealanders will generally differentiate a politician’s ability to do their job from what they get up to in their private life. The situation for Len Brown is a bit different though, as his affair can be interpreted to be an abuse of his position.

I suggest taking the unscientific Herald poll with a pinch of salt at this point, as self-selecting polls can be quite misleading as a measure of public opinion.

UPDATE (19/10/13):

The Herald commissioned DigiPoll to carry out a proper random poll of 500 Aucklanders on Wednesday and Thursday. Some of the key results were:

  • 51% think Len Brown should remain mayor and 40% think he should stand down (assume the rest are unsure). Note how different this result is to the one from the unscientific poll, where 57% said he should stand down.
  • Among those who voted for Len Brown in the election, just under 70% said they would vote for him again if a new election were held.
  • Based on the poll result, the Herald says Len Brown would win a new election on 34% support, with John Palino gaining 20% and other candidates gaining 32%.

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