What do voters in different electorates care about most? Data from Policy.nz reveals some interesting trends, report Chris McIntyre and Stella Blake-Kelly.
In our last article, we broke down the Policy.nz data to look at our readers’ favourite policies, to read the tea leaves on the differences between the interests of likely voters for different parties. Today, we look at the issues and topics most preferred by our readers.
Of the 425,000 Policy.nz readers, nearly half entered an address to compare candidates in their specific electorate. Looking at the policies those readers favourited provides a sense of which issues are important to readers in different areas. (Note: all data is collected anonymously, and we can’t link readers’ policy preferences to any identifying information.)
Our data is not perfect: around two-thirds of Policy.nz readers browse the site without favouriting policies, and of the readers who do save policies, not all enter an address. But, the 100,000-plus readers who did favourite policies tell some interesting stories.
Was there any difference in readers’ preferences between different cities?
Readers across all our cities preferred pretty similar topics – environment, economy, community and inclusion – and issues – emissions reductions, energy, schools, government revenue and finance, and jobs and employment.
But we did find that readers in Auckland, our largest and most congested city, had an outsized preference for transport policies relative to readers in other cities.
Readers in Wellington, our second-largest and best city, had an outsized focus on law and government policies. This was particularly pronounced among readers in Ōhāriu, an electorate home to many public servants.
Was there any difference in readers’ preferences between rural and urban electorates?
Readers in cities were slightly more likely to favourite criminal justice policies, while readers outside cities were more likely to favourite policies about wages and working conditions.
We also didn’t see any differences between North and South Island electorates.
Was there any difference in readers’ preferences between Māori and general electorates?
Readers in general electorates were more likely to favourite policies about the environment, while readers in Māori electorates tended to favourite policies on incomes and employment.
At the more granular issue level, readers in Māori electorates were more focused on land and resources policies, an issue in the Te Ao Māori topic, while readers in general electorates were more focused on policies about government revenue and finance.
What were the most popular policies in my electorate?
Setting aside the popularity of emissions reductions policies, we saw some interesting trends in specific electorates.
In electorates with larger Māori and Pacific populations, like Māngere, Manurewa and the Māori electorates, many readers favourited policies about social and public housing, and family justice and safety, and mental health.
In Invercargill, policies for women were the most favourited – in no other electorate did the women policy issue break the top three.
Policies on criminal justice were favoured in Remutaka and Whanganui — both electorates where prisons are located – as well as the East Coast and Ōtaki.
Schools policies were particularly important to readers in Māngere, Panmure-Ōtāhuhu and Takanini, as well as in Taupō and Waimakariri.
Other local interests include energy policies in Nelson, business support policies in Whangaparāoa; housing quality policies in Taranaki-King Country, oceans policies in Kelston, and public transport, cycling and walking policies in Panmure-Ōtāhuhu
We’ve prepared some maps for you to see the top three issues in your electorate.
What does it all mean?
By and large, our readers’ policy preferences were fairly homogenous across the country. What might explain this? As we’ve seen in the debates, there is not much daylight between the major parties: only half of people can tell the difference between campaign messages used by Labour in 2020 and those used by the National Party in past elections. Proportional allocation under MMP means parties tend to campaign on national issues to win the party vote, rather than local issues. And the sad, slow demise of local media may also play a role here, with many people following the election from national news sources focused on national issues.
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