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Stark differences between how Ardern and Collins make people feel

12 Sep 20

Stark differences between how Ardern and Collins make people feel
Hope pride and excitement are important: Ardern leads

One poll question might indicate who wins the general election.

It is about how leaders are making New Zealanders feel.

It is well proven in the United States that perceived positive traits influence voters’ choice of leaders.

Evoking feelings of hope, pride and excitement are particularly influential.

The latest Horizon Research study on how Labour leader Jacinda Ardern and National leader Judith Collins are making adults feel produces some starkly contrasting results.

  • Ms Ardern makes significantly more people feel hopeful, proud, comfortable and pleased than Ms Collins

  • Ms Collins makes significantly more people feel angry, afraid, nervous, disappointed, and disgusted than Ms Ardern.

The results, from a nationwide survey of 1,294 adults representing the 18+ population at the 2018 census, finds Ardern making

  • 46% hopeful, compared with 24% for Collins
  • 43% proud (6% Collins)
  • 13% excited (9% Collins)
  • 43% comfortable (15% Collins)
  • 34% pleased (10% Collins).

What definite voters are feeling:

Among those who are both registered and 100% likely to vote, Ms Collins evokes more negative feelings:  angry, afraid, nervous, concerned and disgusted.  25% are disappointed by Ms Collins.

She makes 27% feel “hopeful”: primarily those who intend to vote for the National Party, New Conservative Party and ACT New Zealand in the upcoming election.  She makes 5% of intending Labour Party voters and 1% of Intending Green Party voters feel “hopeful”.

Ms Ardern evokes more positive than negative feelings among those who are registered and 100% likely to vote.  She makes nearly half the country feel “hopeful” – nearly double the level evoked by Ms Collins.  Interestingly, this includes 12% of those intending to vote for the National Party in the upcoming election, and 13% of those who intend to vote for ACT New Zealand or the New Conservative Party. 

Collins compared to Bridges:

Compared with a January 2020 study by Horizon, Ms Collins is also not performing as well as former Leader Simon Bridges. Overall, among all respondents

  • Mr Bridges made more feel “hopeful”, “proud”, “comfortable” and “pleased” than Ms Collins
  • Ms Collins makes more respondents feel “concerned”, “nervous”, “angry”, afraid” and “disgusted” than Mr Bridges.

Ms Ardern’s performance compared with January 2020:

Compared with January 2020, Ms Ardern scores:

  • Lower on “Disappointed”
  • Higher on “Hopeful”
  • Higher on “Proud”
  • Higher on “Comfortable”
  • Higher on “Pleased”.

The overseas findings:

Non-partisan research in the United States, from at least 1979, has established that positive traits predict voting preference more powerfully than negative traits, often despite people’s partisan views.

Which are the more powerful emotions: negative or positive?

Noted US political scientist Professor Drew Weston argues emotion is driving more decision making than factual policy analysis.

Using data from the 2008 American National Election Studies, Christopher Finn and Jack Glaser of the University of California, Berkeley, Goldman School of Public Policy, found in a 2010 study that self-reported emotional responses to President Obama and Senator McCain, specifically hope, pride, and fear, predicted reported vote choice above and beyond party identification, ideology, and other predictors.

They said that “all in all, emotions can shape whether, and how, we decide to become active politically”.

The non-partisan work of the American National Centre for Election Studies has extensively tracked voters’ feelings towards presidential and congressional candidates.

American National Election Studies' 2008 national survey data were used to explore the effects of pre-election emotional responses to candidates on presidential vote. Consistent with decades of election study findings, party identification was the most influential predictor of vote choice. Nevertheless, self-reported emotional responses to Barack Obama and his main opponent John McCain, specifically hope, pride, and fear, predicted reported vote choice above and beyond party identification, ideology, and other predictors. In particular, the extent to which respondents reported that Obama made them feel hopeful served as a strong and reliable predictor of voting for Obama.

In a January 2011 election study,Horizon found then National leader John Key was making 25% of adults feel hopeful, compared with 18% for then Labour leader Phil Goff . At that time Key was well ahead in making people feel proud, excited and comfortable, though making slightly more people angrier and afraid than Goff was.


The August 2020 findings are from a poll of 1,294 respondents, taken between August 20 and 25, while Auckland was in COVID-19 Level 3 lockdown and the rest of the country was under Level 2 restrictions.

In separate questions, Horizon asked people to rate the feelings evoked by both leaders and the order of the questions was randomised to produce 50% of respondents seeing the Judith Collins feelings question first, followed by that for Jacinda Ardern, and 50% seeing the Jacinda Ardern question first, followed by that for Judith Collins.  In addition, the list of feelings in each question was presented in a random order.

The online survey’s weighting factors included Party Vote at the 2017 election – a crucial factor when calculating the overall scores from all respondents.  This weighting ensured that the views of people were taken into account in proportion to their political views.  

Overall, the poll is weighted by age, gender, personal income, highest education level, employment status and party vote at the 2017 election to ensure it represents the New Zealand adult population at the last census and general election. At a 95% confidence level, the maximum margin of error for the decided voter sample is +/- 2.7%.

For further information:

Please contact Grant McInman, Manager, Horizon Research, email, telephone 021 076 2040.