Who Voted For the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party in 2017?

The Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party may have have won 3,000 fewer votes in the 2017 Election than the 2014 one, but they won more votes than the Conservative Party, four times as many votes as United Future and over half as many votes as the ACT Party. That’s quite a few considering the minimal campaign expenditure. So who voted for the ALCP in 2017, and how were they different to 2014?

The average ALCP voter was fairly hard done by in 2017, slightly worse than in 2014. The correlation between voting ALCP and median personal income was -0.48 in 2017, strengthening from -0.40 in 2014. Also, the correlations between voting ALCP and being in any income band below $50K were all more strongly positive in 2017 than 2014, and were all more strongly negative in 2017 than 2014 for all income bands above $70K.

Part of the reason for this is that many of the voters the ALCP lost from 2014 were the educated, middle-class white ones who ended up voting for TOP. Indeed, it can be seen that this year’s crop of ALCP voters were more poorly educated than last time. All of the correlations with having a university degree and voting ALCP were less strongly negative in 2014 than by 2017 (-0.46 had become -0.51 for a Bachelor’s degree, -0.42 had become -0.49 for an Honours degree, -0.46 had become -0.51 for a Master’s degree, and -0.38 had become -0.45 for a doctorate).

It would seem that the group of ALCP voters that left for TOP between 2014 and 2017 were mostly the same university educated young professionals or students that left the Greens for TOP between 2014 and 2017. This might be little more than 0.1% of voters in the case of shifting from the ALCP, but for a party that small losing them has a big effect.

This means that the ALCP had become a bit less white by 2017. The correlation between being a Kiwi of European descent and voting ALCP fell from -0.15 in 2014 to -0.23 in 2017, while the correlation between being a Pacific Islander and voting ALCP flattened out, from -0.10 in 2014 to -0.00 in 2017. It was even more strongly Maori in 2017 than in 2014: the correlation between being Maori and voting ALCP in the former was 0.91, compared to 0.89 in the latter.

Although there was still a significant correlation between voting ALCP in 2017 and having no religion (0.24), it was a fair bit weaker than the same correlation in 2014 (0.34). This is a fairly distinctive change and gives an idea of the sort of person who switched to the TOP party from 2014.

The ALCP also lost voters in the 30-49 age group. Here the correlation between being of this age group and voting ALCP became more strongly negative: from -0.39 in 2014 to -0.43 in 2017. The ALCP vote fell across the board but even more sharply in this age group than the others. In the 20-29 age group the vote held relatively firm, telling us that what was already a young voting cohort in 2014 got even younger.

All of this explains why there was a strong negative correlation of -0.70 between voting ALCP in 2017 and voting for National in 2017. The ALCP continued to get support from the young, the Maori and the poor – in other words, from those mostly acutely affected by cannabis prohibition, who are entirely different demographics to those who regularly vote National.

The high amount of Maori support was also reflected in the high correlations between voting ALCP and voting for other parties that have a high level of Maori support. The correlation between voting ALCP in 2017 and voting Maori Party in 2017 was 0.80; with voting MANA in 2017 it was 0.65; with voting Labour in 2017 it was 0.56 and with New Zealand First in 2017 it was 0.40.

Reflecting this, voting for the ALCP had strong negative correlations with voting for parties generally supported by wealthy or old white people. The correlation between voting ALCP in 2017 and voting Conservative in 2017 was -0.40, compared to -0.51 for voting United Future and -0.52 for voting ACT.

Fittingly for a banned substance with immense medicinal value, there are very strong correlations between voting ALCP in 2017 and being on the invalid’s benefit (0.79) and the unemployment benefit (0.82). These were both a little stronger than in 2014, which might suggest that the cannabis law reformers that switched to TOP were more likely to be employed white professionals primarily interested in recreational cannabis, whereas those who remained with the ALCP tended to be on sickness or invalid’s benefits and mostly interested in medicinal cannabis.


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.

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