Who Voted Greens in 2017

The Green Party tore itself to pieces during this year’s electoral campaign, but a hard core of voters stayed with the party

The Green Party vote collapsed from 2014, as a previous article has examined, with much of it going to The Opportunities Party. Although the special votes helped them out since the time that linked article was written, they still fell to 6.27% in 2017 from 10.70% in 2014. This article looks at who voted for them.

The major curiosity about the Greens and their movement is that, although they are on the left, they are comprised of people who do not immediately benefit from increased resource distribution (i.e. the wealthy). The correlation between voting Greens in 2017 and median personal income was 0.36, which was up from 0.31 in 2014, and not a whole lot weaker than the correlation of 0.49 between median personal income and voting National in 2017.

All of the correlations between voting Green and being in one of the income bands below $70K were weak no matter if they were positive or negative. But above this point, the correlations were strong. Between voting Green in 2017 and earning $70-100K the correlation was 0.49, with earning $100-150K it was 0.56, and with earning $150K+ it was 0.51.

However, much like 2014, the average Green voter in 2017 was a bit younger than the average Kiwi. The correlation between voting Green in 2017 and median age was -0.18. This is mostly because of a very strong correlation of 0.60 between being aged 20-29 and voting Green in 2017.

The Greens lost ground with Kiwis of European descent. By 2017 the correlation between voting Green and being a Kiwi of European descent was 0.17, down from 0.24 in 2014, which meant that although it was still positive it was no longer significantly so. They also lost ground with Maoris. The correlation between being Maori and voting Green was -0.09 in 2014 but -0.14 by 2017.

By 2014, the Greens were already much better educated than the average Kiwi, and by 2017 this distinction had only strengthened. The correlation between voting Green in 2017 and having a university degree was 0.64 for having a Bachelor’s, 0.81 for having an Honours, 0.71 for having a Master’s and 0.68 for having a doctorate. This higher general education explains why Green voters can be above average in income despite being below average in age.

The Greens maintained their core, urban elite vote despite the losses from 2014, and this is evident from looking at the voting patterns of certain industries. The correlation between voting Green and working in information media and telecommunications was 0.75, with working in professional and scientific services it was 0.70, and with working in arts and recreation services it was 0.69. All three of those correlations were as strong or stronger in 2017 than they were in 2014.

Things were much different for voters in working-class industries. In 2017 the negative correlations between voting Green and working in a particular industry included -0.02 in retail trade (down from 0.09), -0.20 in construction (down from -0.09), -0.29 in agriculture, forestry and fishing (down from -0.24), -0.32 in transport, postal and warehousing (down from -0.29) and -0.56 in manufacturing (down from 0.49).

A couple of correlations that Green Party thinkers won’t be at all happy about, given their pretensions to being a party that represents the poor and downtrodden, are the moderate negative ones between voting Green in 2017 and being a machinery operator and driver (-0.47), labourer (-0.31) or as a technician or trades workers (-0.25). These occupations are dominated by Maoris who tend to have pro-Labour and pro-New Zealand First sentiments.

Green voters had little in common with the voters of any other party except for The Opportunities Party. Lending further evidence to the suggestion that TOP primarily took votes away from the Greens is the fact that the correlation between voting TOP in 2017 and voting Greens in 2017 was 0.77.

None of the correlations between voting Green in 2017 and voting for the parties that did get into Parliament were significant, except for the case of New Zealand First, which was significantly negative. These were 0.17 with ACT, 0.11 with Labour, -0.25 with National and -0.48 with New Zealand First.

It might seem strange that Green Party voters have a stronger correlation with ACT Party voters than with Labour Party ones. That’s not really so strange if one considers that on measures such as age, education, income and ethnicity, the two parties are reasonably similar (i.e. young, well-educated, rich, white and urban).

In a sense, it can be said that the Labour-National dichotomy is the dilemma the average Kiwi voter is faced with, but the ACT-Green dilemma is the one that the average ambitious, professional young Kiwi voter is faced with.


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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