It's less about the flag and more about John Key. That's the conclusion from UMR Research's poll this week. The flags aren't driving the choice: politics is.

The two stand-out poll winners are the two Kyle Lockwood Silver Ferns. Thirty-six per cent of those sampled chose his red and blue Silver Fern and 33 per cent his black and blue one. Only 18 per cent ticked Red Peak.

But what is interesting - and a little disturbing - is the political breakdown of those supporting change when red and blue is run against our present flag.

The poll shows National voters evenly split. Only a very slight margin favoured keeping the present flag.

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It is surprising that nearly 50 per cent of National supporters - more conservative than other voters - want change. That's Key's leadership and direction carrying their vote. Key said he wants change and that's good enough for them.

But three-quarters of Labour voters are against change. Only a quarter back swapping our flag with the red and blue.

That is astonishing. It's Labour Party policy to change the flag.

It appears Labour voters' antipathy to Key is driving them to support the present flag. It's Key's idea to change so we are voting to stick with the status quo.

The same for Green voters. Two-thirds would stick with our present flag.

The referendum on our flag is a rare and historic opportunity. It is disturbing that the decision is being driven by here-and-now politics.

But it is understandable. The Prime Minister has been the champion of change. He led the debate. In doing so he has carried half his supporters but turned off his opponents.

Key had to step up because of the Flag Consideration Panel's abject failure. The panel was utterly unable to engage the public.

No groups formed to publicly back this or that option or even to stick up for the status quo. The referendum is proving a damp squib.

The only bit of excitement was the push for Red Peak but that fizzled once it went on the ballot. Red Peak is now only ranking third.

The only bit of excitement was the push for Red Peak but that fizzled once it went on the ballot. Red Peak is now only ranking third. Photo / Supplied
The only bit of excitement was the push for Red Peak but that fizzled once it went on the ballot. Red Peak is now only ranking third. Photo / Supplied

The panel also didn't help the cause. Its flags look like tea towels Nana got years ago in Rotorua. They just aren't that exciting.

The debate has been left to the Prime Minister.

It's his baby and he has had to pump life into his project. He has done that at the expense of turning his opponents off change.

Key may well go down in history for having saved our flag. But that leaves him with a problem. A vote against change is a vote against him. No politician likes voters doing that: it can become a habit.

Full disclosure: I am a Key supporter. I favour the present flag. My second choice is Red Peak. Go figure.

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