Nau mai haere mai.

To borrow a phrase from Chris Hipkins, opinion polls can be the bread and butter of political journalism, especially in an election year. Even an unsurprising poll, largely unchanged since the previous one, can generate breathless headlines and coverage. Brace for plenty of that as the election date draws nearer.

But all polls should be approached with some degree of caution. As Grant Duncan wrote earlier this year, the record of political polling leading up to the 2020 election was hardly stellar, with a considerable gap between poll results and the eventual outcome.

Today’s guide to reading the polls should help put some of this in perspective. For starters, polls are snapshots of the period in which they were taken, not predictors of an election result. Of course they are a guide to the way public opinion is trending, but using them to project seats in parliament and the likely shape of the next government is to ascribe them too much power.

Staying with the election, Tim Welch has looked at the National Party’s just-released transport policy and found what the pollsters might call a potential margin of error. The projected cost of National’s new roads, he writes, looks on the light side when compared to the costs (and cost overruns) of recent big projects.

Furthermore, the plan looks very much like the kind of road-centric policies that for the past 70 years have been contributing to the very problems the world is now trying to solve: “In hindsight, massive roading infrastructure projects weren’t the solution they might have seemed 70 years ago. But they have at least provided a lesson in what not to do today.”

Stay tuned for more election coverage as the party campaigns get properly under way. Thanks for reading, until next week, mā te wā.

Finlay Macdonald

New Zealand Editor

How to read the political polls: 10 things you need to know ahead of the NZ election

Nicole Satherley, University of Auckland; Andrew Sporle, University of Auckland; Lara Greaves, Te Herenga Waka — Victoria University of Wellington

Political polls can make for dramatic headlines. But they are a snapshot of when they were taken, not a predictor of election outcomes. Follow these expert tips to make sense of the stats.

70 years of road-based policies created today’s problems – does National’s transport plan add up?

Timothy Welch, University of Auckland

The National Party’s transport policy risks locking the country into a car-dependent, high-carbon future.

What does ‘infanticide’ mean in NZ law? And what must the jury decide in Lauren Dickason’s trial?

Kris Gledhill, Auckland University of Technology

The term ‘infanticide’ has specific meanings in a courtroom and is related to the separate defence of ‘insanity’. But legal language is contestable and can be archaic – adding to a jury’s burden.

Oppenheimer’s warning lives on: international laws and treaties are failing to stop a new arms race

Alexander Gillespie, University of Waikato

Lack of effective regulation means the risk of nuclear war is greater than at any time since the end of the Cold War. Other potentially existential military threats remain similarly uncontrolled.

Failed NZ businesses leave a trail of destruction. Here are 3 things Inland Revenue could do to minimise damage

Lisa Marriott, Te Herenga Waka — Victoria University of Wellington

A more proactive Inland Revenue could learn from overseas experience and help reduce the devastation caused by failing businesses.

Cutting-edge new aircraft have increased NZ’s surveillance capacity – but are they enough in a changing world?

John Moremon, Massey University

The last of four new Boeing P-8A Poseidon aircraft has landed, substantially increasing New Zealand’s surveillance – and military – capacity. But how they are best deployed is open to debate.

From our foreign editions

Ukraine war: after two months of slow progress the long-awaited counteroffensive is picking up speed. Why has it taken so long?

Christopher Morris, University of Portsmouth

Ukraine’s summer push is now showing signs of real progress, but don’t expect an end to the war anytime soon.

Hiroshima attack marks its 78th anniversary – its lessons of unnecessary mass destruction could help guide future nuclear arms talks

Tara Sonenshine, Tufts University

The United States and Russia, the two biggest nuclear powers, have no imminent plans for talks on a nuclear deal. That should change, writes a former US diplomat.

Tourists search for Mount Sinai in Saudi Arabia – but does a geographical location for pivotal Bible event even exist?

Jacob F. Love, University of Tennessee

A scholar of the Hebrew Bible argues that very little is known about the location of Mount Sinai, and it is likely that it was once part of a foundational legend.

A drink each day or just on the weekends? Here’s why alcohol-free days are important

Megan Lee, Bond University; Emily Roberts, Bond University

Even drinking in moderation – one or two drinks each day over the week – is risky. Here are some tips for incorporating alcohol-free days into your routine.

Antarctica is missing a chunk of sea ice bigger than Greenland – what’s going on?

Ella Gilbert, British Antarctic Survey; Caroline Holmes, The Open University

Sea ice extent in July 2023 has been around 10% below last year’s record low for the month.

The oil industry has succumbed to a dangerous new climate denialism

Adi Imsirovic, University of Surrey

Oil producers behave as if heatwaves, forest fires and rising sea levels were happening on another planet.

The shift from owning to renting goods is ushering in a new era of consumerism

Seung Hwan (Mark) Lee, Toronto Metropolitan University; Omar H. Fares, Toronto Metropolitan University

These days people prefer to simply have access to goods and services, rather than outright owning them. But what does this mean for the future of consumerism?

What caused the coup in Niger? An expert outlines three driving factors

Olayinka Ajala, Leeds Beckett University

Ethnic politics, the presence of foreign troops and the weaknesses of past responses to coups encouraged Niger’s recent military takeover.