Understanding New Zealand: Voting Patterns of High-Skill Occupations

The demographic of high-skill occupations breaks down into managers and professionals. The general rule, put crudely, is that managers like to vote National whereas professionals like to vote Green.

Working as a manager had a correlation of 0.56 with voting National in 2014, which was moderately strong and in line with what most people probably could have guessed.

The National Party exists to bring in laws that weaken the position of workers and make them easier to control, and this directly benefits the sort of person who works as a manager.

Predictably, then, there was a very strong negative correlation with being a manager and voting for the Labour Party – this was -0.75. After all, the Labour Party exists to oppose the National Party.

The only party apart from National to have a positive correlation with being a manager was the Conservatives. The correlation between voting Conservative in 2014 and being a manager was 0.31.

Even though it is also a right-wing party, the correlation betwen voting ACT in 2014 and being a manager was not significant, at 0.06. This may be because their love of neoliberalism is too radical for the average manager – who is fairly elderly – to handle.

Some might be surprised that the correlations between being a manager and voting for the Maori-heavy parties are not negatively significant. The correlation between being a manager and voting New Zealand First in 2014 was -0.06; with voting Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party it was -0.05; with voting Internet MANA it was -0.17 and with voting Maori Party it was -0.14.

The reason for this surprising set of correlations is that Maoris who live to be in the age bracket from which most managers come are not significantly less likely to become one than a European New Zealander who lives to the same age. But because the bulk of Maoris are much younger than non-Maoris, proportionately fewer of them are in that age bracket, and the young ones like to vote Labour.

Working in a professional occupation had a correlation of 0.73 with voting Green in 2014. This fits with the fact that highly educated people in general like to vote Green.

The party that the professional class was most opposed to was not Labour but New Zealand First. The correlation between working as a professional and voting New Zealand First was -0.58.

This was in striking contrast to the other Maori-heavy parties. The correlation between working as a professional and voting for the Maori Party was -0.12; with voting for Internet MANA it was -0.07; and even with voting for the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party – hardly a favoured cause of the sort of person driven enough to become a professional – it was only -0.25.

There exists a genuine antipathy between Green and New Zealand First voters, and this is exposed most evidently when the voting patterns of professionals are examined.

For the sort of person who becomes a professional, things like freedom of movement are paramount (as they often are for people with higher levels of human capital than financial capital). This means that their values naturally align with the Green Party.

The average New Zealand First voter is characterised by their low level of education, and consequently their low level of human capital. For a person with a low level of human capital, who usually ends up a member of the low-skilled occupations, freedom of movement is a danger because it exposes their low-skilled niche in the market to greater competition.

Green voters have this problem less often because people with professional educations do not have to compete for employment opportunities as a general rule. In fact, professional occupations are almost permanently on the New Zealand skilled shortages list and consequently people with professional educations can go straight into the immigration fast lane.

Freedom of movement is an opportunity for these people because it broadens the potential employer pool.

Both managers and professionals had a significantly higher turnout rate. For managers the correlation with turnout rate in the 2014 General Election was 0.38 and for professionals it was 0.28. These correlations reflect that fact that people in highly skilled occupations tend to be strongly enfranchised and engaged with the system.

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This article is an excerpt from Understanding New Zealand, by Dan McGlashan, due to be published by VJM Publishing this winter.

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