The Conservatives are a strange sort of movement. In many ways they appear to be some kind of rump movement of people who didn’t like it when National decided to move into the 21st century.
The strongest correlation between voting Conservative in 2014 and voting for another party in 2014 was with National – this was 0.77. This is strong enough to suggest that many Conservative voters would have been former National voters, or would have been severely tempted to vote National in 2014.
National was the only party to have a significant positive correlation with voting Conservative in 2014.
There were two parties that were close to uncorrelated. The correlation between voting Conservative in 2014 and voting New Zealand First in 2014 was 0.01, and with voting ACT it was 0.13.
The former of these is probably because both movements compete for the angry, scared old person vote, and the latter is probably because both movements share an indifference towards the poor.
Voting for any of the left-wing parties had significant negative correlations with voting for the Conservative Party in 2014, further emphasising the degree to which the Conservative movement appeals (and is intended to appeal) to disaffected National voters.
The correlation between voting Conservative in 2014 and voting Greens in 2014 was -0.42, and with voting Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party it was -0.54. This pair involved slightly weaker correlations than for the other three parties, primarily because Green and ALCP voters are closer to middle aged.
The correlation between voting Conservative in 2014 and voting for the Labour, Maori or Internet MANA parties were -0.63, -0.64 and -0.64 respectively.
Age is the main reason for the strong negative correlations between voting Conservative and any of these parties. The correlation between voting Conservative in 2014 and median age was 0.75, which means Conservative voters are almost as old as National voters.
Conservative voters are even more likely to be on the pension though. The correlation between voting Conservative in 2014 and being on the pension was 0.64, compared to a correlation of 0.50 between voting National in 2014 and being on the pension.
Conservatives are also less educated than average. Whereas the correlations for voting National in 2014 and having any of the university degrees were all positive and either significant or bordering on it, the correlations for voting Conservative in 2014 and having any of the university degrees were all negative and bordering on significant.
Females are less unlikely to vote Conservative than they are to vote National. The correlation between being female and voting Conservative in 2014 was -0.19, compared to a correlation of -0.35 between being female and voting National in 2014.
One major way the two differ is with respect to wealth. The average National voter is much wealthier than the average Conservative one. The correlation between net median income and voting Conservative in 2014 was only 0.06, compared to National’s 0.53.
In fact, looking at the correlations with income bands tells us that wealth is the major differentiator between Conservative and National voters.
The income band that had the strongest positive correlation with voting Conservative in 2014 was the $20-25K band, which was 0.17. All of the correlations between voting Conservative in 2014 and any income band above $25K were negative (although they were all very weakly correlated; not close to significant).
By contrast, all of the correlations between voting National in 2014 and any income band above $60K were positive and significant.
One of the largest differences was that with median family income. The correlation between median family income and voting National in 2014 was 0.42; for voting Conservative it was -0.08.
Oddly, although the average Conservative was more likely than the average National voter to be a Christian, these tended to belong to denominations that were less part of the establishment than the National voters.
The correlation between being a Christian and voting Conservative in 2014 was 0.37, compared to 0.29 for voting National in 2014.
Conservatives, though, were much more likely to belong to the Brethrens. The correlation between being a Brethren and voting Conservative in 2014 was 0.54, compared to 0.25 with voting National in 2014.
Conservatives were also much more likely to be Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Ratana, Pentecostalists or “Christian not otherwise defined” than National voters, who were more likely to be Anglicans, Presbytarians or Catholics.
Also, the average National voter is slightly less likely to be religious, whereas the average Conservative is slightly more likely to be religious.
The average Conservative is also less likely than the average National voter to be a Kiwi of European descent. The correlation between being of European descent and voting Conservative in 2014 was 0.46, compared to 0.60 between being of European descent and voting National in 2014.
All of this suggests that the main Conservative constituency is those who are like National Party voters in many demographic ways, but who do not have the same level of wealth or social status. It could even be that there is a degree of resentment among them because they are often both old and poor.
This article is an excerpt from Understanding New Zealand, by Dan McGlashan, published by VJM Publishing in the winter of 2017.