The South Island is sterotyped as big, cold, old and white. And it is – but there’s more to it than just that. The voting patterns of South Islanders do not fit any neat and obvious pattern.
The most favoured political party by South Islanders were the Greens. The correlation between living on the South Island and voting Green in 2014 was 0.21. The next most favoured party was National. The correlation between living on the South Island and voting National was 0.13.
Some will find this very odd, but it might not be properly appreciated on the North Island the degree to which environmentalism is important to South Islanders, especially those in the North and West.
The correlation between living on the South Island and voting Labour in 2014 was -0.13. This is to be expected given that there is a stronger than average level of National support there. Considering that many young South Islanders vote for the Greens, it is striking that this correlation is not even more strongly negative.
Many will be surprised that the correlation between voting New Zealand First in 2014 and living on the South Island was -0.15. This surprise is because the party is inaccurately stereotyped as a party for old white bigots, whereas in reality most New Zealand First voters are Maori, and there are relatively few Maori on the South Island.
This lack of a strong Maori presence explains the negative correlations between living on the South Island and voting Maori Party in 2014 (-0.15) and with voting Internet MANA in 2014 (-0.17).
There is not, however, a negative correlation between living on the South Island and voting Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party in 2014 – this was 0.03. Even though a disproportionate number of ALCP voters are Maoris, and that disproportionately few South Islanders are Maoris, cannabis culture is extremely strong in the North and West of the South Island and very strong elsewhere.
It is true that the South Island is particularly European – the correlation between living there and being European is a moderately strong 0.51. For being Maori it was -0.26, for being a Pacific Islander it was -0.29 and for being Asian it was -0.30.
The staid, dour dependability of South Islanders might be a consequence of the heavy Scottish influence there. This is reflected by the moderately strong correlation of 0.56 between living on the South Island and being Presbytarian.
It may also be that the religious are more well-to-do on the South Island and as a result they do not have the tendency to join those movements who appeal more to the hard done by. The correlations between living on the South Island and having a particular religion was -0.39 for Mormonism, -0.34 for Ratana, -0.33 for Jehovah’s Witness, -0.33 for Pentecostal, -0.31 for Maori Christian, and -0.25 for Methodist. These were all significant.
There was also a significant positive correlation between living on the South Island and having no religion. Considering that South Islanders tend to be older and old people tend to be religious, this is a curiosity. It is best explained by the large numbers of highly religious Pacific Islanders who live on the North Island, especially Auckland.
The correlation between living on the South Island and median age was 0.27. This was significant, and probably so because the bulk of immigrants who move to New Zealand are young and they tend to move to Auckland.
This latter point was evidenced by the sharp distance between the correlation between living on the South Island and being aged 30-49 (-0.07) and the correlation between living on the South Island and being aged 50-64 (0.33).
Curiously, the correlation between living on the South Island and having a Master’s degree (-0.15) was much more negative than the correalation between living on the South Island and having a doctorate (0.10).
This is probably a consequence of the fact that most people with Master’s degrees gravitate towards the power hierarchy, which is mostly established in Wellington and Auckland, whereas people with doctorates gravitate towards where sick people are, and most sick people are elderly and more elderly live on the South Island.
South Islanders are significantly less likely to be on the unemployment benefit. The correlation between living on the South Island and being on the unemployment benefit was -0.30. Probably the main reason for this is that there are fewer South Islanders in the low-skill demographics.
South Islanders’ choice of industry reflect that the South Island is large and sparsely populated.
The correlations between living on the South Island and working in a particular industry were -0.32 for administrative and support services and -0.29 for financial and insurance services, which reflects that the former industry is primarily based in Wellington whereas the latter is primarily based in Auckland.
These correlations were 0.43 for construction, 0.32 for retail trade and 0.23 for hospitality. The first of these reflects the Christchurch rebuild sending demand for construction workers through the roof, and the third reflects the strong tourism industry on the South Island.
Another reflection of the weight that Christchurch has in the South Island is that South Islanders love biking to work, on account of Christchurch being flat. The correlation between living on the South Island and biking to work was a moderately strong 0.54, which could reflect many things, foremost of which might be flatter land, less vehicle traffic, healthier cultural attitudes to exercise etc.
Perhaps the most definitive characteristic of people on the South Island is that they are decidely more middle to upper-middle class than the average Kiwi. This is evinced in three major ways.
The first is that there is a positive correlation between living on the South Island and being in any income band from $15-70K, and a negative correlation between living on the South Island and being in any income band from $0-15K or $70K+.
This means that, although there are more truly highpowered jobs in Auckland and Wellington than on the South Island, there are also considerably more truly broke people.
The second way is the significant positive correlation between living on the South Island and living on freehold land (0.46) and the significant negative correlation between living on the South Island and living on rented land (-0.31).
The third is the significant positive correlation between living on the South Island and being self-employed with employees (0.28). This suggests that South Islanders are more likely to start and to successfully operate a business than North Islanders.
This suggests that South Islanders have a different approach to wealth generation to North Islanders. Whereas North Islanders are more likely to become professionals and work a highly paid job without caring too much about the size of their expenses, South Islanders are more likely to work to minimise expenses first and to invest the resulting surplus.
This article is an excerpt from Understanding New Zealand, by Dan McGlashan, published by VJM Publishing in the winter of 2017.