The missing million myth

Danyl McL writes at The Spin Off:

A few days before the 2014 election I ran into the leader of a political party who shall remain nameless. They weren’t doing well in the polls but were still optimistic. “Apparently ten percent of all voters make their minds up on election day – so anything could happen!” They said this while bouncing up and down on their toes, eyes gleaming, obviously deeply lost in the fantasy that a hundred percent of this vacillating ten percent might swing behind their struggling party and sweep them to power.

Sounds like either the Labour leader or a Green co-leader.

In 2014 the Department of Statistics published a report on non-voters in the 2008 and 2011 general elections based on their General Social Survey – a study of 8,795 residents from randomly selected households. They found that a very high proportion of non-voters were neither woke-but-alienated radicals nor shiftless sexting millennial deadbeats. Instead the single highest predictor of being a non-voter was identifying as a recent migrant to New Zealand.

So Labour’s strategy of getting the missing million to vote by attacking migration to NZ may be somewhat flawed!

But when you look at the political attitudes of non-voters in the New Zealand Electoral Survey, a longitudinal study of voting attitudes and behaviour, the results are not wildly encouraging for the left. When non-voters in the 2014 NZES were asked to rate the National government’s performance, over 70% thought that the government was doing a good job. 

So National might benefit the most from the missing million!

This doesn’t mean they’d all vote National – 43% of Labour voters also thought the government were doing a good job. 

Nearly a majority!

But it doesn’t point to the simmering discontent we’ve seen in the British and US elections.

Maybe things have changed since the last election? Maybe there is something in the air? According to Roy Morgan the percentage of people who ‘think the country is heading in the right direction’, is at 62%, almost exactly what it was before the 2014 election. Prior to the recent British election the government’s ‘right direction’ rating was literally half that.

And in the US the right direction has been under 30% for around 15 years!

But over the next ten years, Asian New Zealanders are projected to overtake Māori  as the second-largest ethnic group in New Zealand (although “Asian” is not so much an ethnic group as a vague and convenient category). If the findings in the GSS survey are correct, those who were recent migrants will become much more engaged with the political process. If so it will be increasingly difficult for major political parties to win elections without the support of those voters. Tricky decisions ahead for Labour, but I don’t think the hypothesised missing million desperate for radical change will be a huge factor in them.

Not even if those nice unpaid US interns ask them to vote please.

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