Fossicking in election statistics

Well, that was a fascinating election outcome.

Listening to the coverage on Saturday night, I was interested in comments about how strong National’s performance was vying for a fourth term in government.  There didn’t seem to be many statistics behind the talk.

But it is worth bearing in mind that since 1935 –  when the domination of New Zealand politics by our  current two main parties really began – we’ve had 10 governments.  Two have lasted a single term, one two terms, four completed governments last three terms, and two governments lasted four terms. It seems to be an open question whether National will now be able to lead a fourth term government.  That means there really isn’t much data.  And, to some extent, MMP changes things –  minor parties are more important, and MMP governments have so far always involved multiple parties.

There has been talk that National’s (provisional) vote share this time (46.0 per cent) is higher than it was when they first took office in 2008 (44.93 per cent).   But ACT has never had anywhere to go but National, and never had any desire to go elsewhere anyway.  So at very least one should aggregate the National and ACT votes to look at the centre-right performance.

But I’d argue one should really go a bit beyond that.  The Conservative Party has come, came close in 2014 to entering Parliament, and then has largely gone again.  Not only did the Conservative Party campaign in 2014 as another potential support party for National, but realistically most of their voters in 2011 and 2014 are people (in many case conservative Christians) who would have otherwise, naturally or reluctantly, have voted for one of the other centre-right parties.

In this chart, I’ve shown three different ways of looking at how the centre-right vote has changed:

  • National + ACT party votes as a share of the total vote,
  • National+ ACT party votes as a share of the “used” vote (ie excluding the “wasted” party votes for parties that didn’t get into Parliament), and
  • National + ACT + Conservative party votes as a share of the total vote.

centre right 2

On each of those lines, the centre-right vote share has fallen quite a bit.  If anything, what the chart highlights is how well the centre-right did (and, I guess, how disastrously the left did) at the 2014 election.  In this election, the centre-right vote share –  the grey line –  has (on the provisional results) fallen by a full 5 percentage points.

And then I wondered how it had been in the 1960s.  The 1969 election was the last time a a party secured a fourth term.

national 60s

Now that looks more like a genuinely impressive performance – the governing party lifting its vote share in the election in which it gained a fourth term.   There had been industrial action at the time of the election which had hurt the Labour Party, but the previous three years had been a very tough time to govern.   Wool prices had collapsed (and with them the overall terms of trade), the New Zealand government had been forced into a devaluation in late 1967, and had borrowed from the IMF under a pretty stringent domestic austerity programme.  Things here had been tough enough that over the three calendar years 1967 to 1969 there was a small overall net migration outflow (the first such outflows since the end of World War Two). People can counter that the third party – Social Credit –  saw its vote share fall away, and both National and Labour gained. But in a sense that is the point: tough times like that are often when third parties, and main Opposition parties do well.  But National increased its vote share.

The other fourth term victory since 1935 was in 1946, when Labour secured a fourth term.  And here is how Labour’s vote share changed over its time in government.

Labour 1946

Again, going for a fourth term Labour managed to increase its vote share.   They’d seen off John A Lee’s rebel party in the 1943 election, and no doubt won back most of that vote, but again…that is the point.  Going for a fourth term after crises, war, and post-war controls and inflation, Labour increased it vote share (to 51.3 per cent).

I was also playing around with some other of the provisional results.  For all that the Greens have done pretty badly nationwide, it was striking how strongly they poll in the neighbourhoods I live and move in.    In (booths in) Island Bay itself 16 per cent, and in next door Berhampore 26 per cent (no wonder the new local Labour MP, and current Wellington deputy mayor, avoided answering questions about his approach to the cycleway).   In the whole Rongotai electorate  the Greens scored 17 per cent, and in next door Wellington Central (where James Shaw ran) 20.8 per cent.    Both those percentages are lower than in 2014 ( 26.2 in Rongotai and 29.5 in Wellington Central) but are still huge –  and conventional wisdom seems to be that the Green vote share will rise on special votes.  No wonder that, despite the fact that 70-80 per cent of submissions from residents favour scrapping the dreaded Island Bay cycleway (and certainly don’t want to spend millions more on it), the Wellington City Council seems set to pursue its green agenda anyway.

Finally, I was interested in whether there were any material differences in the party vote shares between advanced votes and those on the day.  I only looked at two electorates (again, Rongotai and Wellington Central) but this is what I found.



And Wellington Central

wgtn central

The differences aren’t huge, but they are there – at least in these two electorates, and in particular between the Greens and National shares. Given that advanced votes of those who enrolled at the same time as they voted still haven’t been counted, it would presumably offer some encouragement to the Greens.

27 thoughts on “Fossicking in election statistics

  1. I think Bernard Hickey and Donal Curtin were right that there were a lot of people quietly happy to sit on large capital gains on their houses. But I thought Phil Quinn’s take on voting demographics in Newsroom was very interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Back to Labour’s slogan now for 9 years. “Vote for me and I will tax you more and more and more because poor planning and laziness is a a birth defect.”


  2. I’m more sceptical of that story (the capital gains – after all no one was willing to talk about lowering house prices during the campaign) as an explanation of the result, and suspect that if (a) Labour had got their act together a year ago, and (b) if the Greens hadn’t had the self-inflicted Turei disaster, the fall in the centre-right vote share would have been even greater.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Labour and Greens were just swapping votes. But Labour did take votes from NZF and thats why Winston is not too happy with the press with all this spotlight on Jacinda and driving votes from the minor parties. I think he thought that he could get to at least 20% and perhaps even pass Labour to be in a position to be alternative large party. With Andrew Little polling 24%. At 22% Labour would not have a leader back in parliament. Thats why Winston appointed a migrant chinese to look mainstream and to attract migrant voters. He was stuck at 13% when Labour was at 24%.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. 70/80% of submissions indicated they wanted to scrap the IB cycle way, but something like 80% of residents didn’t bother to submit at all. So I think it’s more accurate to say that most people don’t care either way, rather than characterise it as running roughshod with a “green agenda.”


  4. The proportion of the public who will take the steps to make a submission on any issue proposed by central or local government is small. I’m struck rather by the large share of people who did make a submission. Add in the reasonably well-done residents’ poll last year and I don’t think my comment is inaccurate.

    Consistent with that, I emailed Paul Eagle 10 days or so ago noting that I was open to voting for him as constituency MP, but wanted to know his stance on the cycleway. He didn’t reply, even to offer a fob-off, and saved his expression of view until the Stuff article this morning, when he is safely beyond any possible accountability (given that he is planning to shortly resign as a councillor)..


  5. If Winston Peters goes with Labour/Greens coalition then he would have handed his leverage across to every single one of the 7 parliamentary members of the Green Party, every Labour party parliamentary member and every 7 radical Maori and also everyone of his own 9 parliamentary members. He is not just negotiating with 2 leaders because they only have a 1 seat majority which means all it takes is one disgruntled parlimentary member to bring down the government. Labour’s party whip is totally inneffective against even their own 7 Maori seats especially with a radical Willie Jackson within the ranks. All 7 Maori seats are a independent voting block in their own right and can act independently of Labour.

    Labour has to hope the special votes deliver another 1 or 2 votes to Labour and not the Greens otherwise it is an extremely unstable government. But usually it swings to Greens which means that James Shaw gets to open his mouth and sit next to Winston with equal voice.


    • Thats why John Key took the Maori Party into coalition. National did not want to be beholden to David Seymour or Peter Dunne with only a 1 seat majority. With the Maori Party John key basically controlled all the cards.


      • And look at how little useful and positive his government accomplised in that nine years…….

        To be honest, one of the few satisfactions I take from the election results is the demise of the parliamentary Maori Party. I don’t like identity politics or identity-based parties, on principle. That isn’t to say that there are not some issues on which Maori might tend to have similar preferences. That might be true of Catholics, and I’d be similarly regretful if a Catholic party had appeared.

        Liked by 1 person

      • 3% growth is much much better than a recession brought on by our own RB governor. National under John Key had to deal with Labour Party budget deficits in Helen Clarkes election bribery to stay in government. After decades of high interest rates and high exchange rates brought on by successive trigger happy RB governors, NZ industries and manufacturing has been relegated to milking cows. National under John Key moved very swiftly towards diversifying the industry with the fastest economic turnaround, appointing himself Tourism minister.

        If it wasn’t for diversifying into Tourists and international students we will still be struggling with a recession with the 50% drop in milk prices. Think Venezuela with only one major industry product, Oil.

        Yes houses were plentiful and lots of vacant and cheap affordable properties but no one was interested in even buying.; I recall my mates laughing when I said I had bought investment properties. Shamubeel Eaqub did the maths and publicly declared property investment was a wasted effort. Again another example of how economists can’t do maths.


  6. This business of ‘conservative christians’ intrigues me.
    The National Party used to be Conservative.Did that include many ‘christian conservatives’?
    Cory Bernadi in Australia is a Conservative but is it fair to link him with christians?
    While the Conservative Party in this election is a shadow of 2014 are they largely christian?

    I never used to link ‘conservative’ with ‘christians’ and feel in more recent years the term conservative has been attacked by more left wing political movements and people are afraid to admit to being a Conservative .
    I guess there are no statistics indicating the number of christians voting for the various parties.


  7. I am one (“conservative Christian”), so here’s my take. (On statistics, the NZ Election Study done every three years probably does have analysis by religion, but the site was down when I just tried to get on.)

    Plenty of Christians would vote for parties across the political spectrum (eg i have evangelical Christian friends who vote Green, despite the Greens’ hardline abortion policy, presumably because they prioritise environment or social justice themes). But people who vote for distinctively Christian parties (Christian Heritage and Christian Coalition in the past) would mostly be (a) Christians, (b) Christians from the more conservative Protestant churches, and (c) people who would put a high priority on issues like abortion, same-sex “marriage”, the rise of welfarism and the decline of two parent stable family. Even tho Colin Craig did not sell the Conservative Party as a “Christian” party – which was smart of him – I’m pretty sure the market he tapped was much the same sort of people (and I do again speak personally). Such parties tend to have pretty mixed up economic policies – my impression is not always dissimilar to some of the NZF themes – but then most of their voters don’t prioritise those issues to anything like the same extent.

    In the US, the “conservative Christian” vote is still largely captured by the Republican Party candidates (extensive poll data is clear on that), not so much because the party does much for them, but simply from a sense that the alternative is even more threatening to the things they value.


    • A Capital Gains tax on all property, all businesses, all shares, holiday homes. Own home not excluded from the tax. Also the tax is an annual tax on unrealised capital gains. People that can’t pay the tax has to borrow against their property or business and to be paid on the eventual sale or the eventual death. It is a wealth and inheritance tax.


    • They did better than I had expected (from months back). Gareth is their biggest asset (not just financially) and their biggest liability. Personality matters – whether it should or not – and his turns most people off, epitomised in his speech on Saturday night. It is also hard to persuade people that granny should have to pay $10000 a year in land tax when she has very little cash income, or should either move out of an established neighbourhood or run up a big mortgage with the Crown. Pervasive wealth taxes don’t resonate, and despite what most economists think, people’s home is in some inchoate sense “different”.

      Liked by 1 person

      • He has thrown in $3 million but have already made it known he will not stand himself personally in any electorate and he will not act as the leader in any active capacity. Its like saying “Vote for me but don’t expect me to be available to you and this is my hand. Talk to it.


      • Personality matters …..

        What Saturdays great-big-poll demonstrated is the voting populace prefer being lied to, rather than straight-talking straight-shooters such as Winston Peters and Gareth Morgan, while the populace are in their own turn willing to lie

        One month before the election Ardern said they would introduce an Auckland specific petrol tax to deal with congestion. Labours popularity rose. Instead, come the final election stats Auckland’s National share of the votes went up – see New Lynn and Te Atatu – In other words Auckland voters don’t want their grid-locked transport concerns addressed – they prefer to stick with the current situation which can only get worse – in future I will no longer express any sympathy for the long suffering Auckland commuter stuck on the motorway network

        Guess what – they lied
        In pre-election polling 75% wanted a tax on bottled water and 89% wanted clean rivers

        Well – they lied coz 47% voted against it in Saturday’s great-big-poll


      • Not that I’m any kind of political strategist, but FWIW, I thought from the beginning TOP should have stuck to a single issue: reform of the tax/welfare state – just as the Big Kahuna proposed. Hence when they sought support for their registration as a political party, I joined as I thought the conversation worth having regardless of what my eventual vote might have been. But I was expecting a single issue party with the full monty UBI (just as the Big Kahuna proposed) fully costed (having settled firm on both the level of the UBI and the deemed rate of return) and with a lot more in depth economic analysis on the long term, likely outcomes of such a radical overhaul of our welfare state.

        They also needed to develop a sophisticated personal input calculator so individuals/families could accurately work out their own circumstances under such a proposal (just as they had done for the Big Kahuna). They should have stood no list MPs (other than Gareth and Geoff) – entering one well chosen (i.e., receptive to intellectual ideas) electorate race (Oharui was my initial pick) and concentrating on securing an entry to Parliament, but with a national media campaign (TV commercials to point folks to their website and the calculator).

        To my mind in MMP, no party starting out should have a strategy to be in a position to be in a governing coalition first time around – what they need is a seat! Just get in there and agitate from the cross benches – and build a reputation and a profile with the wider public.

        The Big Kahuna was to my mind a simple opening for a conversation about the future – not the here and now. Everything else they took the time to develop policy on was aimed at matters other parties were addressing.

        You might be interested in this statistical analysis of their voters;

        Not that I know where the author draws on data to produce these statistics.

        Liked by 1 person

      • My beef with Gareth Morgan is that he does not come across as genuine. When he lost he said he was embarrassed and disappointed with New Zealanders that voted for self interest. He is the very epitome of greed and self interest. Making hundreds of millions from his investment in Trademe and not a single cent paid in tax. He also claims he has investment properties that he leaves vacant because he does not like his carpets being soiled.

        If he was genuine he would have voluntarily donated 33% of his annual capital profits to the tax department on his investment properties and on his home in accordance with TOPP policy. I challenge every TOPP candidate to demonstrate the same principle. Walk the walk and not just talk the talk.


  8. Thanks. The article at the link is fascinating. At a personal level I noted this

    “Perhaps the most striking correlation was the 0.60 between having no religion and voting TOP in 2014. This may the natural result of appealing to people on the basis of evidence, which is another way of saying that they want people who can think for themselves, and people like this are the group that rejects religious dogma the most strenuously.”

    Perhaps but I came across a surprising number of younger evangelical Christians who were voting TOP (actually I voted for their local candidate, as the rest of the choice was gruesome – Finlayson (see my posts), Eagle – and the TOP candidate livened up the candidate meeting with an opening speech in iambic pentameter.) Then again, i guess it is a Wellington sort of party (geeky public policy stuff) and Wgtn is probably also the least religious part of the country, so i suspect that particular correlation is spurious.


    • Yes, I’d say spurious as well – evidence is (to my mind) agnostic – what we do (i.e., the actions we take) when faced with that evidence is where morals/values and faith comes in.


  9. Personally I prefer MMP but am no in support of it’s current setup. It should be modified:

    1) So that the 5% threshold is removed. (The threshold would effectively be roughly 1/120*100% in a 120 seat parliament). The current system favors the existing parties and makes it harder for smaller parties & innovation to occur in our democratic system. It is also constitutionally anti-democratic is that the voters true distribution of votes is not represented in parliament. It’s worth a constitutional challenge to the supreme court.

    2) So that the electoral seats are retained. I have seen comment from some commentators would like to see them removed. If a specific electorate wants to vote for Peter Dunne etc their democratic views should part of the system.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agreed. When I went to vote I eliminated TOP from my consideration because it would be a wasted vote. If the 5% threshold had been removed then their vote might have been higher and of course they would have had MPs.


      • If you believe in TOP then you should set aside 33% of your unrealised capital gains on your home each year and pay that voluntarily to the tax department. Be genuine and practice TOP guiding principle. Or is TOP is just another little hobby for someone that has too much money and too much spare time and just for the heck of it stir the political landscape, stand back and laugh.


  10. NZFirst Immigration policy

    – Attract highly skilled migrants by reducing numbers to around 10,000 per annum. Increase, the Permanent Residency qualification period from the current two-years.

    Currently there are no jobs for highly skilled migrants so I think you will likely attract less than 2000 a year which means all the immigration consultants will need to find alternative jobs.

    – Ensure immigration under ‘family reunion’ is strictly controlled.

    It is rather difficult to tell New Zealanders they can’t bring in their families from overseas. I think human rights issues arise. National already restricts new migrants from bringing in family.

    – Make sure effective measures are put in place to stop the exploitation of migrant workers with respect to wages, safety and work conditions. In Christchurch and elsewhere there is evidence of exploitation of migrant workers.

    Policing requires trampling on individuals rights to privacy. When no one talks it is rather difficult to detect.

    – Develop strategies to encourage the regional dispersion of immigration to places other than Auckland and the main centres.

    Rural drift and individual rights make it difficult to force people to stay in the regions for longer than is necessary to get permanent residency.

    – Substantially increase the minimum English requirement.

    As it is the english is too hard for even an english speaker to get in. Thats why Chinese and Indians do better than english speakers because they actually study and get professional coaching on speaking, reading and written skills which natural english speakers who not think that they would need to go through the and bother and are usually therefore unprepared and fail english.


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