Understanding New Zealand: Cannabis Law Reform Voters

With the news that the Greens have more or less adopted the ALCP policy from the 2014 Election, there is a sudden interest in the sort of person who might be attracted to vote Green on the basis of this policy. In this specific instance, there’s one obvious and decent-sized demographic: actual ALCP voters from 2014, who were 10,961 in number.

So who are they? Well, they’re very clearly not the same sort of person who would vote National. The correlation betwen voting ALCP in 2014 and voting National in 2014 is -0.70. This is not at all surprising as the entire point of the war on drugs was to destroy the enemies of the conservative establishment.

Neither are they likely to vote ACT (-0.45) or Conservative (-0.54). These three correlations are fairly hefty, which tells us that the average cannabis law reform voter has a considerable level of apathy for conservatism and for right-wing politics in general.

Naturally, these correlations are the opposite on the left. Voting for the ALCP in 2014 and voting Labour in 2014 had a correlation of 0.38. For Internet MANA it was 0.76 and for the Maori Party it was 0.85.

Two correlations stand out against this easy narrative of ALCP voters primarily being leftists. They are the correlation between voting ALCP in 2014 and voting Green in 2014 (0.02) and with voting New Zealand First in 2014 (0.57).

The lack of a significant correlation with the Green Party vote might surprise many. It seems to be a natural assumption that, because the ALCP policy in 2014 was always more likely to be picked up in the future by the Greens than any other party, that a strong correlation ought to exist. The reality, however, is that the Greens and the ALCP have hitherto appealed to very different demographics.

The Greens have, since at least a decade ago, deprioritised their cannabis policy in favour of all kinds of trendy issues that appeal mostly to middle-class urban elites. This explains why the correlation between voting Green and Net Personal Income is 0.31, so much more positive than the correlation between voting ALCP and Net Personal Income, which is -0.40.

Not only do ALCP voters come from the other side of the socioeconomic spectrum to Green voters, but they are also much browner. The correlation between voting Green in 2014 and being Maori is (an insignificant) -0.09; for voting ALCP in 2014 and being Maori it is a whopping 0.89, one of the strongest correlations in this entire dataset.

This also explains much of the high correlation betwen voting ALCP and voting New Zealand First. The correlation between voting New Zealand First and being Maori is 0.66. Everyone who has ever met more than a few Maoris will have caught on to the popularity of cannabis within Maori culture, and it’s not surprising given the differential in how hard the law hits them that Maori are much more likely to cast a vote for cannabis law reform.

Few will be suprised that voting ALCP has a very strong negative correlation with turnout rate in 2014: -0.68. This is, however, only slightly worse than Labour’s correlation with voting of -0.67. So it’s less to do with lazy stoners and more to do with the general disenfranchisement of those who the system does not represent.

Cannabis voters have a moderate tendency to not be religious: correlations with voting ALCP in 2014 and being Christian, Buddhist or Hindu were -0.41, -0.52 and -0.40 respectively. Mirroring this was a correlation of 0.34 with having no religion. The odd statistic here was the sizable correlation between voting ALCP and having Spiritualism for a religion: this was 0.36.

If cannabis voters are poor, Maori and non-religious, it’s probably not surprising that they’re also young. Voting ALCP in 2014 had a hefty correlation of -0.55 with Median Age, which suggests that most of the people voting on the basis of this policy are young.

Perhaps the most interesting idea from all of these statistics is that the Greens might be winning votes with their new cannabis policy at the expense of New Zealand First voters. It’s apparent that many young Maori vote ALCP out of levity in their first election and then, as they age and become less radical, come to see the merit in voting New Zealand First. The Greens would be chiefly targeting these voters with their new cannabis policy.

If the Greens are making a serious push for cannabis voters again they may find that the demographics have changed since the last time they tried it, in 1999.

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This article is an excerpt from Understanding New Zealand, by Dan McGlashan, published by VJM Publishing in the winter of 2017.

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