Values at core of predictive polling system

Dr Damien Mather and Dr Mathew Parackal. PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
Dr Damien Mather and Dr Mathew Parackal. PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
Researchers who developed a new predictive polling system focused on values are trying to drum up support within the media industry - and say their research could signal a move away from "mud-slinging" at election time.

University of Otago department of marketing researchers Dr Mathew Parackal, Dr Damien Mather and Dr David Holdsworth crafted a system ahead of the 2014 General Election using a sample from a panel involving 858 people.

Their work was recently featured in the International Journal of Market Research.

Dr Parackal said the researchers were now seeking support before the next New Zealand election in 2020.

At election time there were "a lot of things that distract" from the campaign, moving from the political to the personal and to "mudslinging".

The election of Donald Trump two years ago suggested, rather than a left-wing, right-wing dichotomy in the US, there was a shift towards the particular values of a group, Dr Parackal said.

Rather than simply asking people who they planned to vote for, the researchers' methodology involved open-ended questions, asking respondents which issues mattered to them in the election, what things that made them happy - and what made them proud as a New Zealand citizen, Dr Parackal said.

The responses were analysed using a natural language processing technique to identify the values relevant to the election.

The data collected allowed the researchers to identify themes in what people were concerned about, and how they influenced their voting behaviour.

"For example, voters who scored one on a scale ranging from zero to two for the value of respect, e.g. child safety, equality and injustices, were substantially less likely to vote National than any other party," Dr Parackal said.

The software was used in the Dunedin local body elections in 2016, analysing respondents' voting patterns and showing where candidates struggled.

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