Gareth Morgan’s project The Opportunities Party (TOP) ultimately fell short of the Parliamentary threshold, but there is already enough data for us to know who voted for them in last night’s election. Dan McGlashan, author of Understanding New Zealand, has a look at the demographics of TOP voters in this article.
The most striking statistics are that TOP took a small number of votes off both the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party and the Maori Party, and a huge number of votes off the Greens.
The correlation between voting TOP in 2017 and voting Greens in 2014 was an extremely strong 0.81, which tells us that the vast bulk of TOP voters came from there. Most correlations between voting TOP in 2017 and voting for other parties in 2014 were not significant: 0.16 for the ALCP, 0.15 for the Maori Party, -0.13 for Labour, -0.14 for National and -0.17 for New Zealand First.
Only two significantly negative correlations existed here. These were -0.28 between voting TOP in 2017 and voting ACT in 2014, and -0.36 between voting TOP in 2017 and voting Conservative in 2014. The reason for this is probably because these are the two parties who most conspicuously lack the social conscience that TOP campaigned on.
Crudely speaking, that suggests that TOP voters came from two main groups of roughly equal size. The first were disaffected Green voters, and the second were disaffected voters from all over the rest of the political spectrum.
In what is perhaps a function of the degree of social media saturation they achieved, TOP did the best among the technophilic segment of society. The correlation between voting TOP in 2017 and working as a professional was 0.64. The correlation between working as a professional and voting Greens in 2014 was 0.73, and this had collapsed to -0.10 by 2017, so it seems that the professional class almost wholesale shifted their loyalties from the Greens to TOP.
This is further underlined by the fact that there were moderately strong positive correlations between voting TOP in 2017 and having any university degree: 0.40 for having a Bachelor’s, 0.63 for having an Honours, 0.45 for having a Master’s and 0.58 for having a doctorate. These were all much more positive for TOP than for the Greens.
It was mostly white people who supported TOP. The correlation between voting TOP in 2017 and being of European descent was 0.37, compared to 0.05 for being Maori, -0.25 for being Asian and -0.40 for being a Pacific Islander. Although Asians usually have better educations than Kiwis of European descent, professional Asians tend towards ACT and, increasingly, National.
Perhaps the most striking correlation was the 0.60 between having no religion and voting TOP in 2014. This may the natural result of appealing to people on the basis of evidence, which is another way of saying that they want people who can think for themselves, and people like this are the group that rejects religious dogma the most strenuously.
It follows from these numbers that the average TOP voter would be fairly young, and indeed they are. The correlation between median age and voting TOP in 2017 was -0.14, compared to 0.11 with voting Greens in 2017. Considering that the correlation between median age and voting Greens in 2014 was -0.17, this suggests that TOP took much of the student/university vote from the Greens.
Indeed, we can see that the correlation between voting TOP in 2017 and being on the student allowance was a moderately strong 0.45. Considering that the correlations between being on the student allowance and voting Green collapsed from 0.55 in 2014 to -0.10 in 2017, we can guess that this shift was largely due to the influence of TOP.
Related to this is the fact that the strongest correlation between voting TOP and being in any age bracket is 0.36 with being aged between 20 and 29. The next strongest were the two neighbouring brackets of 15-19 and 30-49, all of which reflects that young people tend to have more active online social lives, where TOP did most of its advertising.
There were also very strong positive correlations between voting TOP in 2017 and working in arts and recreation (0.70), public administration and safety (0.66), education and training (0.52) and professional, scientific and technical services (0.50). These are the same industries that are most likely to employ the forward-thinking, educated young professional that used to call the Greens home.
The negative correlations with voting TOP in 2017 and working in a specific industry came with those whose workers do not tend to spend a lot of time online: manufacturing (-0.38), wholesale trade (-0.35), transport, postal and warehousing (-0.19) and agriculture, forestry and fishing (-0.11).
TOP voters were also significantly more likely to be born in New Zealand. The correlation between voting TOP in 2017 and being born in New Zealand was 0.26. Following naturally from the absence of sharp gender-based roles among the young professional class, the correlation between voting TOP and being male was only -0.02.
Going against the easy trend of a young elite is the correlation between voting TOP in 2014 and being a regular smoker, which was -0.05. One would expect it to be much more strongly negative considering the educational achievements of the average TOP voter (educated people smoke significantly less), but this weak correlation can be explained by the sizable number of cannabis law reform supporters who voted TOP, something also suggested by the collapse of the ALCP vote in the presence of another party who offered full legalisation.
Voting for TOP in 2017 had the same correlation with family income as voting National in 2017 did – 0.39 – which tells us that the average TOP voter is doing quite well. A picture starts to emerge of the average TOP voter as a person of either gender in their mid 20s to late 30s, university educated, probably with foreign experience and ambition, who is very rejecting of dogma and hierarchical thought and wants to make a clean break with the past, but who is also well-to-do in measures of social and mental health.
Some might say that this was the best sort of person that New Zealand has to offer, which is something for Gareth Morgan to consider if he wants to run again in 2020.
This article is an excerpt from the 2nd Edition of Understanding New Zealand, which Dan McGlashan and VJM Publishing will have ready for sale at the end of October 2017. This will contain statistics calculated according to the official final vote counts and will be freshly updated with data from the 2017 General Election.