Surprisingly for many, TOP went backwards between 2017 and 2020, from 2.4% of the vote (63,261 votes) to 1.5% of the vote (43,449 votes). This was despite the fact that, this time, they had a charming and personable leader in Geoff Simmons.
The major problem facing TOP is that they appear to be a Green Party B team made up of those too weird or too unprofessional to represent a Parliamentary party. As such, they have no real niche.
Their voting bloc is extremely similar to the Green Party voting bloc. Voting Greens in 2020 and voting TOP in 2020 had a correlation of 0.84. This was much stronger than the correlation between voting for any other party in 2020 and voting TOP in 2020.
Significant positive correlations also existed between voting TOP in 2020 and voting Labour in 2020 (0.33) and voting Sustainable NZ in 2020 (0.32). All these results place TOP firmly among the left.
The strongest negative correlations were between voting TOP in 2020 and voting for one of the parties with many poorly-educated brown supporters. The correlation between voting TOP in 2020 and voting for Vision NZ Party in 2020 was -0.38; with voting for Advance NZ in 2020 it was -0.36; with voting for the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party or Maori Party in 2020 it was -0.34.
The correlations between having a university degree and voting either TOP or Greens in 2020 are almost identical – and they are identical in the case of having a doctorate and voting either TOP or Greens in 2020 (0.77). The correlations between having no academic qualifications and voting either TOP or Greens in 2020 were also identical (-0.64).
The largest differences here between TOP and Greens are with those at level 3 and those at level 6. TOP is significantly weaker than the Greens among voters at level 3, and significantly stronger than the Greens among voters at level 6. Voters at level 3 are usually at university, having completed high school and moved on. Voters at level 6 have usually completed a tertiary qualification at polytech level.
This suggests that TOP is more polytech in comparison to the Greens’ university, more working-class to the Greens’ middle-class. This revelation might serve to guide future TOP policy.
TOP is a much whiter party than the Greens. The correlation between being of European descent and voting Greens in 2020 was not significant, but the correlation between being of European descent and voting TOP in 2020 was 0.41.
Maoris and Pacific Islanders, for their part, were both much less likely to vote TOP in 2020 than to vote Greens in 2020. There was a significant negative correlation between being either Maori or Pacific Islander and voting TOP in 2020. This may be because both groups feel like they are already well-represented by the Labour Party. Asians were almost perfectly indifferent to TOP.
TOP voters are strikingly older than Greens voters, especially in the upper age brackets. Although the correlation between voting TOP in 2020 and median age is negative (-0.15), it isn’t significantly negative as it is between voting Greens in 2020 and median age (-0.24).
The main difference is that TOP voters are more equally represented across all age brackets. There are significant positive correlations between voting TOP in 2020 and being in any age bracket under 35, but the correlations between voting Greens in 2020 and being in any of those age brackets are all stronger.
By contrast, the correlations between voting TOP in 2020 and belonging to any age bracket above 69 were all positive (if not significant). These correlations were all negative for voting Greens in 2020. The overall difference in support for TOP and Greens between the various age brackets is probably because TOP has a heavier online presence, especially a FaceBook presence (which appeals to old people), while the Greens have a heavier presence at universities.
Curiously, there was a significant positive correlation between voting TOP in 2020 and being female (0.24). This could be because a majority of elderly people in New Zealand are female.
Although there is a significant negative correlation between having two children and voting Green in 2020 (-0.30), the corresponding correlation with voting TOP in 2020 was much weaker (-0.04). On the other hand, the correlation between having no children and voting Greens in 2020 (0.75) was much stronger than the correlation between having no children and voting TOP in 2020 (0.57).
All of this suggests that TOP voters are generally less exceptional and more representative of the mainstream than Greens voters. This is despite that the correlation between working as a professional and voting TOP in 2020 (0.73) is barely different to the correlation between working as a professional and voting Green in 2020 (0.75).
So the truth is that TOP voters aren’t any less intelligent or competent than Greens voters, but they are more representative of ordinary people. Unsurprisingly, then, there is no significant correlation between being foreign-born and voting for TOP in 2020 (0.19) when there is a significant correlation between being foreign-born and voting Greens in 2020 (0.24).
The most surprising correlation is between owning or part-owning a house and voting TOP in 2020 – this was 0.05, much more positive than the -0.19 between owning or part-owning a house and voting Greens in 2020. This is mostly a function of the fact that TOP voters are significantly older than Greens voters, because homeownership rates increase sharply as age increases.
It’s also a function of another correlation that will surprise many – the negative correlation of -0.15 between living on the North Island and voting TOP in 2020. It’s easier to own a home on the South Island because houses are cheaper, but, despite that the housing crisis is not as desperate there, South Islanders are more willing to vote TOP. This suggests that many TOP voters cast their vote out of concern for the national housing situation, and not out of mere self-interest.
This article is an excerpt from the upcoming 3rd Edition of Understanding New Zealand, by Dan McGlashan and published by VJM Publishing. Understanding New Zealand is the comprehensive guide to the demographics and voting patterns of the New Zealand people.
If you enjoyed reading this essay/article, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2019 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis). A compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2018 and the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 are also available.