Understanding New Zealand 3: Who Voted Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party in 2020

Many thought that holding a cannabis referendum at the same time as a General Election would lead to a surge in support for the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party. In the end, they only got 13,329 votes, or around 0.5% of the party vote. This chapter explain why a hundred times more people voted for cannabis law reform than for the cannabis party.

It will be surprising for many to hear that there wasn’t much overlap between those who voted ALCP in 2020 and those who cast a special vote for Yes in the cannabis referendum- the correlation between the two groups was 0.23. This was statistically significant, but only barely so, and is much weaker than many other correlations with voting ALCP in 2020.

VariableVoting ALCP in 2020
No qualifications0.55
Level 1 certificate0.55
Level 2 certificate0.64
Level 3 certificate0.37
Level 4 certificate0.53
Level 5 diploma0.36
Level 6 diploma-0.56
Bachelor’s degree-0.56
Honours degree-0.55
Master’s degree-0.53

The trend here is obvious: the better-educated a person is, the less likely they were to vote ALCP in 2020. This is similar to previous elections. What this trend reveals is that the ALCP is seen as a joke party by the vast majority of the electorate, and people only vote for them if they feel that their vote doesn’t matter.

In this regard, a vote for the ALCP is similar to not voting, in that it follows the General Disenfranchisement Rule. The ALCP is something of a joke party and so, like not voting, it tends to appeal to those who feel that their vote doesn’t matter anyway. We can predict from this that the demographics of ALCP voters are very similar to the demographics of non-voters.

VariableVoting ALCP in 2020
Pacific Islander-0.05

Indeed, we can see an extremely strong correlation of 0.88 between being Maori and voting ALCP in 2020. Kiwis of European descent and Pacific Islanders were generally neutral about voting ALCP, and Asians were strongly against it. These patterns mirror the numbers of poorly-educated and disenfranchised people among those racial groups.

For many Maori people, the Establishment is implacably opposed to them and so it doesn’t matter who they vote for. This is why so many of them either don’t vote or vote for protest parties like the ALCP. Their high levels of support for the ALCP could be considered a consequence of general disenfranchisement.

VariableVoting ALCP in 2020
ACC or private work insurance0.70
NZ Super or Veteran’s pension-0.19
Jobseeker support0.77
Sole parent support0.77
Supported living payment0.55
Student allowance0.03

There are very strong correlations between voting ALCP in 2020 and being on most of the main benefits. This, like the categories mentioned above, reflects the disenfranchisement of beneficiaries. The really disenfranchised beneficiaries are those on jobseeker support, sole parent support and the supported living payment. The correlation between being on any of these benefits and voting ALCP in 2020 was at least 0.55.

The two least disenfranchised categories of benefit recipients are pensioners and students. This is because pensioners usually own their own homes, and students are usually middle-class and only temporarily poor while they are young. Following from this, neither of the correlations between being either on a pension or on a student allowance and voting ALCP in 2020 were statistically significant.

VariableVoting ALCP in 2020

Fitting with the general theme of disenfranchisement, ALCP voters are considerably poorer than the average voter. The correlation between voting ALCP in 2020 and median income was -0.28. This is actually wealthier than would be predicted from their education level.

The most positive correlation between voting ALCP and belonging to a particular income bracket was the $10,000-$20,000 “beneficiary” bracket, which was 0.58. The most negative correlation between voting ALCP and belonging to a particular income bracket was the $70,000+ bracket, which was -0.51.

VariableVoting ALCP in 2020
New Zealand-born0.69

Disenfranchisement is only very rarely imported to New Zealand. The vast majority of people at the bottom of our society are home grown. This may sound strange, especially to those who follow the narrative that being an immigrant automatically makes a person a member of an oppressed group.

The reality is that New Zealand-born people make up the vast bulk of those doing bad, and ALCP voters are often among those.

On the surface, it seems paradoxical to have a situation where highly-educated people voted in favour of cannabis law reform in the referendum, but mostly poorly-educated people voted in favour of the cannabis law reform party at the 2020 General Election.

The explanation is that the ALCP is something of a joke vote for people who aren’t serious. Many people feel that their party vote is worthless anyway, on account of that the Establishment will always win, so they protest by casting a vote for the ALCP. These sentiments did not apply to the cannabis referendum, where many people felt that they had an opportunity to stick it to the Establishment by voting for freedom.


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.


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