Jacinda Ardern last week marked six months as prime minister. Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images
Jacinda Ardern last week marked six months as prime minister. Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

PoliticsApril 30, 2018

New poll reveals the post-election political battleground

Jacinda Ardern last week marked six months as prime minister. Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images
Jacinda Ardern last week marked six months as prime minister. Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

UMR survey shows National largely resistant to the Labour surge, though Jacinda Ardern’s party has made inroads among centre voters, writes Stephen Mills

Between June 2017 and February 2018 Jacinda Ardern has made Labour the dominant force on the left and much more competitive among centrist voters.

National, however, has remained largely resistant to the Labour surge. Labour’s improved positioning is mostly at the expense of those backing New Zealand First and Green in June last year.

In a UMR February 2018 online survey of a representative sample of 1,000 New Zealanders 18 years plus, respondents were asked to define themselves on a 0-10, left to right scale based on degree of support or opposition for government provision of services, the need for governments to intervene in the economy and a progressive tax system. Thirty-eight percent of New Zealanders were clearly left (0-3) on the scale, 30% in the centre (4-6) and 27% clearly right (7 – 10). The centrist voters were almost evenly balanced with 9% leaning left nominating the 4-point on the scale and 8% leaning right nominating the 6-point.

The equivalent figures in June 2017 were 41% clearly left; 30% centre and 24% clearly right. That suggests a slight shift to the right, but these movements are not statistically significant.

Among the left voters, Labour was the dominant party leading the Greens by 65% to 14%. This was up from a 47% to 24% lead over the Greens in June last year. National’s vote share was pushed back a little from 14% to 11%.

Among centre voters National had the lead over Labour by 48% to 35%. National’s lead in June last year over Labour was 52% to 21%. New Zealand First’s share of this group was down from 16% to 8%.

Among the right voters National remained utterly dominant with an 80% to 9% lead over Labour compared to a 74% to 7% lead in June last year.

Another way of looking at this analysis, which highlights National party’s continued strength, is the degree of reliance on a base vote or alternatively how much vote is being won in neutral and at least seemingly hostile territory.

Some 53% of National’s vote came from the right, 35% from the centre and 11% from the left.

Labour was more reliant on the base with 64% of its vote coming from the left, 26% from the centre and 6% from the right.

There is some hope for the left in the analysis of vote by age, unless the old adage of people’s votes becoming more conservative as they age holds true.

Among under 30-year-olds 42% were left, 32% centre and a statistically significant low 16% right. By age group, the number who identified as right steadily grew – 16% of 18 to 29-year-olds; 24% of 30 to 44-year-olds; 31% of 45 to 59-year-olds and 34% of those aged 60 and over.

There were sharp differences by gender with males statistically more likely to be right and less likely to be left and females the opposite.  Males broke 31% left, 34% centre and 31% right. Females broke 45% left, 27% centre and 22% right.

Of other demographics tested, homeownership had some impact (more than household income). Those renting were statistically more likely to be left and less likely to be right and those who own their own home freehold were less likely to be left.

Looking towards the 2020 election there could be some votes for Labour in pushing National’s vote share among left voters down, but they will also need to get closer to parity with National among centrist voters.  National has a lock on right voters. It will be looking to push Labour back in the centre.

Stephen Mills is executive director of UMR Research, whose clients include the NZ Labour Party

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