Understanding New Zealand: Voting Patterns of Beneficiaries

If the general disenfranchisement rule has applied so far in this study, it could be confidently predicted that the turnout rate of beneficiaries would be considerably lower than average. As it turns out, this is only part of the truth. It turns out that some beneficiaries are much less disenfranchised than others.

Pensioners, for example, are generally very happy to turn out and cast a vote for National. The correlation between receiving a pension and turnout rate in 2014 was 0.51, and between receiving a person and voting National in 2014 it was 0.50. Pensioners were even more likely to vote Conservative in 2014 – the correlation there was a very strong 0.64.

Both of these correlations were much stronger than the correlation between claiming a pension and voting New Zealand First, which was 0.33. Many will find this surprising as New Zealand First is often pigeonholed as the pensioners’ party.

The voting patterns of pensioners reflect genuine old-school conservatism, which is why National, Conservatives and the former National MP Winston Peters do so well among them. This is also reflected in the significant negative correlations between both being a pensioner and voting Green in 2014 (-0.24) and between being a pensioner and voting ACT in 2014 (-0.30).

Perhaps oddly, the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party does better among pensioners than any of the Maori-heavy parties or Labour. The correlation between claiming a pension and voting ALCP was -0.19, which, although negative, is not significant. The reason for this probably is because once a person is of pensionable age they are more likely to suffer the kind of health ailments that could be ameliorated by cannabis, and and therefore more likely to have become aware of its medicinal properties and the benefits of law reform.

The strongest negative correlation with being a pensioner was with voting Labour in 2014, which was -0.53. With voting Maori Party in 2014 it was -0.34 and with voting Internet MANA it was -0.36.

The second least disenfranchised group of beneficiaries were students. Although students are typically stereotyped as disinterested in voting, the correlation between claiming a student allowance and turnout rate in 2014 was only -0.33. Although this is significant, it is much weaker than the correlations for the unemployment and invalid’s benefits.

Above anyone else, Kiwi students love to vote Green. The correlation between claiming a student allowance and voting Green in 2014 was 0.55. This probably reflects the degree of leftist sentiment among middle-class students. The next highest was the correlation between claiming a student allowance and voting Labour in 2014, which was 0.34.

To a major extent, the patterns for the rest of the parties mirrored the fact that students are virtually always on the opposite end of the age spectrum to pensioners.

Thus, there were moderately strong correlations between being a student and voting for any of the Maori-heavy parties, except for New Zealand First. Betwen being a student and voting Maori Party in 2014 the correlation was 0.26, with voting Internet MANA it was 0.29 and with voting ALCP it was 0.17.

New Zealand First was disfavoured by students, but not significantly so – the correlation between claiming a student allowance and voting New Zealand First in 2014 was -0.18.

The two most disfavoured parties by students were, of course, National and the Conservatives. The correlation between claiming a student allowance and voting for the former in 2014 was -0.46 and with voting for the latter it was -0.51.

If students and pensioners can be generally considered middle-class beneficiaries, then invalids and the unemployed can be considered the lower-class ones.

The correlation between turnout rate in 2014 and being an invalid’s beneficiary was -0.53, and between turnout rate in 2014 and being an unemployment beneficiary it was a very strong -0.76. Considering that people in both of these groups have the time to vote, these figures speak of an immense disenfranchisement.

Predictably, then, when they did vote it was not for right-wing parties. If a Kiwi is on the invalid’s benefit, the correlation with them voting National in 2014 was -0.65, and if they were on the unemployment benefit it was a whopping -0.85.

Being on the invalid’s benefit had a correlation of -0.35 with voting for the Conservative Party in 2014 and one of -0.59 with voting for ACT in 2014. Being on the unemployment benefit was almost the precise opposite: a correlation of -0.60 with voting for the Conservative Party in 2014 and one of -0.38 with voting for ACT in 2014.

The party that lower-class beneficiaries like to vote for more than any other is the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party. The correlation between voting ALCP in 2014 and being an unemployment beneficiary is a very strong 0.79, and with being an invalid’s beneficiary it is almost as strong, at 0.76.

The reason for this is that New Zealand’s cannabis laws are little more than a kick in the guts to the already poor, sick and disenfranchised.

The two next favoured parties for lower-class beneficiaries were New Zealand First and Labour. The correlation between being an invalid’s beneficiary and voting New Zealand First in 2014 was 0.69, and with voting Labour it was 0.44. They were slightly stronger for unemployment beneficiaries: between being an unemployment beneficiary and voting New Zealand First the correlation was 0.57, and with voting Labour it was 0.62.

Unemployment beneficiaries and invalid’s beneficiaries were both indifferent to the Greens, further underlying the specific appeal of that party to the middle class. The correlations between being on either benefit and voting Green in 2014 were almost perfectly uncorrelated.

The correlations between being on the unemployment benefit and voting Maori Party in 2014 (0.79) and with voting Internet MANA in 2014 (0.76) were about as strong as for voting for the ALCP. The correlations between being on the invalid’s benefit and voting for these parties was slightly weaker: for the Maori Party it was 0.59 and for Internet MANA it was 0.56.

This reflects the large numbers of Maoris on these two benefits, as well as the fact that invalid’s beneficiaries, who want cannabis for medicine, have a greater interest in cannabis law reform than the unemployed, who often want it as a recreational alternative to alcohol.

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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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