Understanding New Zealand: Voting Greens

Long stereotyped as a fringe movement for harmless eccentrics, the New Zealand Green Party appears to be following the general upward trend for environmentalist parties in the West as the social democrats continue to fragment into special interest groups. The Greens in New Zealand are large and established enough to be a political force in their own right and ought not to be considered an adjunct to the Labour Party.

Despite a nominal adherence to the left wing of Parliament, the Greens have a number of striking differences with the Labour Party to whom they appear shackled.

The most notable is that the Greens are a party for comfortably wealthy people, but not the ones creaming it. This might surprise many who still consider the Greens to be a party for students and semi-employed Golden Bay hippies. The correlation between voting Green in 2014 and Personal Income is 0.31, which is not as strong as National’s 0.53 but is much closer to that than to Labour’s -0.51.

Voting for the Greens in 2014 may have had a negative correlation with Median Age, but it was not significant at -0.17. This belies the image of the Greens as a student’s party, especially if one compares to the correlations between Median Age and voting Cannabis Party in 2014 (-0.55) and voting Labour (-0.70). This suggests that the average Green voter is significantly older than the average Labour voter.

The average Green voter was the best educated of those of all the parties, with a correlation between voting Green in 2014 and having a Master’s degree of 0.64. The only party to come close to this is ACT with 0.57 – National is the closest major party, with a not significant 0.20.

Also, the average Green voter was about as likely as the average National voter to have no qualifications. The correlation between having no qualifications and voting Greens in 2014 was -0.49, for National -0.43, for Labour 0.34 and for New Zealand First 0.79.

One factor that correlates highly with support for the Greens is not being religious. Not being religious and voting Green in 2014 had a correlation of 0.56, which was much higher than for any other major party (National 0.10, New Zealand First 0.12, Labour -0.50). Only the Cannabis Party was close: voting for them in 2014 had a correlation of 0.34 with being religious.

Unsurprisingly, Green voters are very unlikely to be Christians. Voting Green in 2014 and being Christian had a correlation of -0.57. This was at variance with all other parties except Internet MANA (-0.40) and Cannabis Party (-0.41). None of the other major parties are so antichristian. Being Christian and voting National had a correlation of 0.29, with voting Labour it was 0.10 and with voting New Zealand First it was -0.11.

Perhaps the oddest correlation is the one between voting Green in 2014 and having spiritualism as a religion. This is a fairly significant 0.52. This was shared with the Cannabis Party, who had a correlation with being a spiritualist of 0.36, and is a notable point of difference with the ACT Party, with who the correlation with being a spiritualist was -0.43.

Perhaps these points can be explained by the fact that cannabis use tends to turn people strongly away from the exoteric side of religion and strongly towards the esoteric side, an interest they will share with the spiritualists.

Although the Greens are mostly a white person’s party, there is just barely a signification correlation between being of European descent and voting Green in 2014 – this is 0.24. There was also a barely significant correlation in the other direction (-0.27) between being of Pacific Islander descent and voting Green in 2014. For being of Maori descent it was a not significant -0.09, and for being of Asian descent it was perfectly uncorrelated.

So the Greens are an odd mix – like Labour when it comes to taxes, like National when it comes to personal income, like the ACT party when it comes to education and like the Cannabis Party when it comes to religion. The only party they are really opposed to seems to be New Zealand First. Probably the bulk of their voters come from people who are educated in the hard sciences in particular and the humanities to a lesser extent.


This article is an excerpt from Understanding New Zealand, by Dan McGlashan, published by VJM Publishing in the winter of 2017.

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