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Strategic voting risk shows flag process flaw: Pollster

Still flying high in the polls.

Opponents of a flag change could sabotage the referendum process by voting strategically, pollster Alex Kravchenko says.

He made the comments after a survey found only a small minority of people would vote for the least liked of the five short-listed designs in a run-off with the current flag.

"The fact it is possible to do that just shows the system isn't set up properly," Kravchenko said.

"It's a pretty major loophole that could be exploited."

Regardless of the possibility of strategic voting, the latest survey by Kravchenko's Aardwolf Research Consulting continues to show support for the current flag to be well above any of the five alternatives. 

The flag project involves two referendums.

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In the first over three weeks in November and December, voters will be able to rank the five short-listed designs.

The design that comes top in that process will be pitted against the current flag in a second referendum in March.

Kravchenko said his third flag survey had received 2624 valid completed responses by 9am on Thursday.

Respondents were recruited through paid adverts on Facebook and steps were taken to exclude multiple submissions from the same respondent. 

When respondents were asked to rank the five short-listed designs, findings were in line with previous Aardwolf polls, he said.

Of the 1434 who ranked the five alternatives:

* 1190 did not vote in that part of the survey 

* The black/blue silver fern design was chosen as the top option 610 times and had an average rank of 1.99.

* The red/blue silver fern was top 429 times, with a 2.27 average, the black/white fern was top 56 times and had a 3.24 average, red peak was top 272 times but its average was only 3.58, and the koru was top 67 times, with an average of 3.91.

READ MORE: 
* The flag debate: Full coverage
Red Peak will cost $380,000 to go on ballot
* Low support for New Zealand flag change
Koru flag designer calls for unity with new flag

When given a choice between  each of the alternatives and the current flag, the blue/black fern did best with 32 per cent support, followed by the red/blue fern with 30 per cent, then the black/white fern with 17 per cent, red peak with 16 per cent and the koru with just 10 per cent.

"Whatever flag design wins in the first part of the referendum, the way the public opinion is at this stage, it will lose against the current flag," Kravchenko said.

"While there are definitely some people who would vote for any (short-listed) flag, the results show that the blue/black fern has the highest support whereas if koru was chosen, the vast majority would not want it to be the new national flag."

Potential strategic voting could already be seen in the poll, given that red peak was the third-placed choice for top alternative - well ahead of the bottom two - but had only the fourth-highest average ranking.

Notably, among respondents who supported the top alternative blue/black fern, red peak had the lowest average rank.

Including the relatively unpopular koru design in the short list could be used by supporters of the current flag to sabotage the whole process, Kravchenko said.

"If current flag supporters vote for koru in the first referendum, they could carry through this design to the second round when the vast majority would not vote for it. This is a major oversight in the design of the process."

The latest poll is at: http://poll.aardwolfresearch.co.nz/?ref=stuff

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