Depending on how you write a question in a poll, you can get any result you want. So if someone refuses to release the question asked in a poll, even if it's from a reputable polling company, then you (and the media) should probably just ignore it.
I've written about devious polls on this blog already, and Colin Craig, the new leader of the Conservative Party, was one of the culprits then:
The poll was commissioned by Colin Craig and, as mentioned earlier that shouldn't in and of itself disqualify the poll, however it is a bit suspicious when the person who commissioned the poll is also the one who 'leaked' it to the media, as admitted by Fran O'Sullivan. The poll was by Research First who have a reasonable reputation, however, the question that was asked was still not released.
So it's really no surprise to find that he's up to it again:
Mr Craig said he was attracted to the challenge of taking on Mr Banks but had "followed his heart" to stand in Rodney. "I've lived in Rodney, and my business involvement here has spanned more than 20 years. Many of my family live here, and I'm passionate about getting things moving for everyone in the region," he said. Mr Craig would campaign on action on the Penlink road between the Whangaparaoa Peninsula and central Auckland, and delivering two integrated family health centres to the district. He said polling showed 47 percent of people would vote for him, compared with 36.3 percent for the National candidate, Rodney electorate MP and Speaker Lockwood Smith.
Now, let's put aside the fact that Craig has realised he would get trounced by Banks in Epsom if he stood there and let's ignore his ridiculously optimistic poll results with him easily winning one of the safest National seats in the country, because there's actually a much bigger (and hilarious) problem with Colin Craig's poll.
Lockwood Smith isn't standing in Rodney at the 2011 election
Now, Colin Craig might argue that the fact that he's not going against the incumbent is actually good for him. But if he's so stupid as to decide which electorate to run in based on a poll that compared him to the wrong candidate, then I don't hold out much hope of him running much of a campaign.
Finally, there is one other possibility, that Craig did run a poll comparing himself to Mark Mitchell, and that he either got that mixed up in his press release. or the media got it mixed up when writing their stories. But still, what a mess, and if Craig released the original poll question it couldn't have happened.
Either way, the media have really failed on this one. If they've written down the wrong National candidate, or if they've been given the wrong National candidate, the fact that no-one involved in writing, editing and posting that article had any idea that Lockwood Smith wasn't National's Rodney candidate is a poor indictment on the state of our journalists, the fledgling APNZ, and all the media who copied the story to their papers.