The most competitive market for votes in New Zealand is for those aged between 45-49, with National, Labour, the Greens, and the Māori Party all receiving, on average, similar shares of the party vote in electorates with above average shares of people in this age range.
Spurred on by my other recent work looking at voter turnout by age segments and how representative that made electorates, and how those age segments were more, or less likely to vote (indicatively at least), I thought I'd take the plunge and look at each party individually across all the Electoral Commission's age brackets that they collect data on, to see if it revealed any other insights.
What it's revealed is that while National and NZ First, and Labour, the Greens and the Māori Party might be poles apart in terms of their popularity with voters aged 18-34, such a big gap in voter preference based on age doesn't appear to manifest itself beyond 35 years old, starting to converge from its largest difference at 30-34-years-old, bar for the Green Party, Māori Party, and NZ First.
As I said in the introduction, it's interesting how at the 45-49 mark, National, Labour, the Greens and the Māori Party all converge, with all getting more or less similar party votes from electorates with an above average representation from this age bracket as they did on average across all the General Electorates. Though I'd caution here that as this analysis excludes the Māori Electorates (due to their big youth skew and low deviation among the seven electorates), that the Māori Party figures here should be taken with a grain of salt.
Also keep in mind that as you read through the following graphs, they do have different scales on the Y axis, so movements may be more pronounced in these than they are on the top comparitive graph.
National's worst performing age group appears to be the 30-34 bracket, though it under-performed on average in electorates with above average shares of voters under 44 to varying degrees, with it being weighted towards those electorates with above average shares of those aged 34 and under being the least likely to vote National. National also has the second most narrow deviation range in this analysis, with only The Opportunities Party doing better. National's support is weighted towards those aged 45 and over, and peaks at those aged 65-69. In part, this larger likely support from older voters, who both enrol and vote at higher rates and in greater numbers than other age groups, no doubt contributed significantly to National's end result of 44.4%
As you'll see later, with NZ First doing so well with voters aged 55 and over, National can, in the short term at least, reinforce their vote by targeting NZ First's supporters. Longer term however, National will need to find a way to both preserve their strength in covers aged 50 and over, as well as doing a better job of appealing to younger demographics too.
Labour's graph in many ways is the mirror image of National's, albeit slightly more pronounced in its over and under-performance in the age brackets. The 30-34 age bracket is again interesting, as not only was this where National was most likely to perform worst, it's also where Labour performed best. Where National's deviation was relatively narrow, Labour's is much more pronounced, though it ranks in the middle of the six parties we're looking at in this. While Labour's support amongst youth voters is very strong, to offset the advantage that National gets from older voters, they would need much higher enrolment and turnout rates than they got even this election.
In news that will shock no one, New Zealand First's support overwhelmingly comes from those aged 55 and over, but especially those aged 60 and over. Because of this, NZ First has the largest deviation of any of the six parties in this analysis. NZ First and Winston Peters focus heavily on courting this demographic, so it's no surprise that they rely so heavily on support from them. It also begs the question that once NZ First loses its trump card for reaching them - Winston Peters himself - how are they going to manage going forward, as nobody else in the party seems able to capture that audience in the same way that Winston Peters does.
The Green Party have the second biggest deviation for their support after NZ First, and they're very much the opposite story to them too. Massive support across voters aged 39 and under, but this plummets to their average for those 40-44, before briefly rebounding for those aged 45-49, and not recovering beyond those aged 55 and over. Where the Green Party has an opportunity is to stop that leaching of support between people aged 35 years old and 44 years old, though in doing so they're likely to take voters from Labour.
As I wrote earlier, it's important to take these figures for the Māori Party with a grain of salt. This analysis is based off General Electorate votes, and with the Māori Party support coming from the Māori Electorates, which are much more heavily skewed towards younger voters than the General Electorates are, isn't representative of what's going on. That being said, given the skew in Māori Electorates towards younger voters, it probably suggests that this graph might be even more weighted to young voters. If there is one thing the Māori Party could take from this, and my earlier work, is that there's an opportunity with a big cohort of young Māori voters for them to win over between now and 2020.
The Opportunities Party is a bit of an interesting one in that because their vote was so heavily centralised around the Wellington region, it's likely the main influence on how this graph looks. TOP has done well with those aged between 18-29, and to a lesser extend those aged 30-34, and worst with those aged 40-49. National and TOP's support seems to switch at around age 39/40, while they bisect the rest of the parties between 49 and 54. Again, it's hard to read too much into these figures for TOP other than the fact that their deviation was the smallest among all parties.
As I said in looking at the possible influence of age on party voting preferences, it's very tempting to claim that these graphs show the likelihood of different age brackets voting for different parties - e.g. those aged 18-24 are 8% less likely to vote for National than the average New Zealander, and they're 11% more likely to vote for Labour. I think this data hints at that possibility, but without exit polling - which is illegal in New Zealand - it's impossible to know this for sure.
Where I think this data is very useful is using it to frame your thinking about where the parties position themselves in terms of their core support, and where they see the main battlegrounds are in terms of competing for votes from other parties. From around 30-years-old - where most of the parties graph lines start their journey towards converging on their national average - to the 50-54 bracket - where after that they diverge again, demonstrates I think that for the most part, the parties see voters within that 20 year age group - 30-years-old to 54-years-old - as the swing voters they need to target.
NZ First is the only really noticeable exception to this rule, but that's largely because Winston Peters has progressively clawed out those on NZ Super as his target voter base.
If you think generally about people in that 30 to 54 age range (and I'm talking very generally here) they're buying houses, getting married, having kids, they're likely to hit their career peak around between 40 to 49 (there's some US data around this, and sadly it has women's pay peaking at 40, and men's 49, highlighting again the gender pay gap). Retirement, while we're being constantly reminded about saving for it, is still a long way off, and the more immediate concerns are paying the mortgage or rent, affording school, doctors visits, dealing with health issues that become more and more likely to crop up, having a job, getting pay rises and getting ahead in life, and so on. Most have either finished up their travelling plans, or are about to, and are probably focused more on things like family or careers.
If you keep all this in mind, it starts to give you a bit of a picture of how and why political parties position themselves the way they do. In many respects they have to ensure their base votes for them, but they also have to reach out to that big segment of 30-to-54-year-olds to win their votes too.
Not only was Gareth Morgan's The Opportunities Party heavily dependent on their 10 most valuable electorates to record their 2.4% party vote total, but they were hugely dependent on the Wellington region, with it providing 15.77% of their party vote tally (I've excluded Ōtaki and Wairarapa from that definition of Wellington).
TOP's issues somewhat mirror those of the Green Party. Gareth Morgan enjoys plenty of name recognition in Wellington thanks to him living here, being an owner of the Hurricanes and Phoenix, as well as his other philanthropic endeavours around the city, and his now famous investment in his son's venture of Trade Me, but outside of Wellington, and other urban centres, TOP's support rapidly drops off.
Especially damning for Gareth Morgan and TOP is that they grossly under-performed in Auckland, with only Auckland Central, Mt Albert, and Epsom winning a higher share of the party vote than their 2.4% final result (North Shore was right on the cusp).
Given the 5% threshold, you either have to perform at, or above that, across most of the country to get in or, like the Green Party, absolutely outperform your national result in a handful of high turnout seats.
The problem for TOP is that they weren't able to do either, and they probably weren't helped by the dithering approach taken by Gareth Morgan as to whether he'd stand in an electorate or not. Off the top of my head, Morgan publicly mused that he'd stand as a candidate in Epsom, Wellington Central, and Ōhāriu, but ended up standing nowhere.
As I suggested when reviewing New Zealand First's results, there appear to be clear benefits for your party vote results if you do stand either a competent or high profile candidate in an electorate. And when you're trying to get a fledgling political party like TOP off the ground, they probably needed Gareth Morgan to descend from his ivory tower of pontification and do just that.
Ōhāriu, Rongotai, or Wellington Central were probably the most logical choices for Gareth Morgan to do this. If, as TOP would have us believe, they had the best policies and people who value good policy would vote for them, then surely the three electorates that are saturated with public servants who live and breathe policy, would be the ideal place to maximise your support. They're also three electorates with high turnout, which in turn helps to maximise the impact of your party vote in those electorates, just as the Green Party has demonstrated.
As I mentioned earlier, TOP simply didn't register as an option for voters in most of Auckland with only Auckland Central, Mt Albert, and Epsom recording a higher share of party vote in their electorates than TOP achieved across the country. With such a Wellington centric focus to the party both in terms of the personalities running it, and the almost technocratic devotion to policy, it's hardly surprising that they bottomed out in our biggest city.
I'm not sure that Gareth Morgan running in an Auckland electorate could have solved this. Auckland Central could have seen him play as a spoiler against Nikki Kaye, but given Gareth Morgan's ability to put his foot in his mouth when it came to women this campaign, it may have hurt him more than it helped him. Mt Albert would have seen Gareth Morgan come up against Jacinda Ardern and Julie Anne Genter, which wouldn't have been much better than him.
All of that leaves Epsom as a possible option for him. The race would have enjoyed a high profile thanks to David Seymour and the deal between National and him, and while Epsom sits near to the average of turnout, it could have been a good base for Morgan to lift TOP's vote in neighbouring electorates too. I suspect though that, like the Greens, the technocratic nature of TOP would have hindered these efforts, meaning a much lower return on effort than had Gareth Morgan run in Wellington.
If TOP is to build on its 2.4% from this election, they have two choices:
- Move the party away from being quite so technocratically policy driven to something that's a bit more tangible brand-wise for voters
- Accept that they are going to be a technocratic party and set out to ruthlessly maximise their vote in key electorates to offset their under-performance around the country. This will involve Gareth Morgan picking an electorate and running in it. Though at 64, unless Gareth Morgan is planning to do a Winston Peters and stick around in politics well past the age of super, though could be in trouble unless they're able to find a personality as big as Gareth Morgan's to fill his void once he steps aside.
Taking a quick look at the headline Facebook statistics for this week it looks like Bill English might have gotten some of his groove back. While Jacinda Ardern is still trucking along at roughly the same clip as she was the previous week in terms of Facebook growth, Whereas last week the growth gap between the two was approximately 3,200, this week it's halved to about 1,550.
Looking back through Bill English's Facebook page last week, I can't see anything that particularly stood out in terms of performance, though my guess is that he benefitted from the relatively positive economic outlook in the PREFU. There were a few good posts, like his Facebook live and a couple of other out and about posts, but nothing that I'd describe as a runaway success. Though I think Bill did miss a trick when visiting Le Cordon Bleu culinary school in Wellington not to ram home the point that under Labour's proposed international student crackdown, Le Cordon Bleu would cease to exist as upwards of 90% of its students are overseas students who wouldn't qualify under Labour's policy.
Looking at the raw numbers you can see that while Jacinda is closing the gap on Bill English, with four weeks to go he likely has a big enough of a lead, and enough fan growth of his own to maintain a lead. That is unless Jacinda has an absolutely blinder in the debates. It's also worth noting that while not registering the thousands of new page likes that Jacinda or Bill are managing, David Seymour is doing very well over the longer term, which I believe was driven by his attacks on Meteria Turei earlier this month.
The party page side of things paints a much different picture. Labour's growth lead over National only shrunk slightly to around 2,000 likes (versus 2,200 for the previous week), and The "We don't want to do political advertising" Opportunities Party continues to binge, ironically, on Facebook advertising to drive their growth as demonstrated it the table below.
National's growth did double week on week, and like Bill English's seemed to peak over the middle of the week. National did manage a few very good posts about the positive economic growth prospects, very much playing to their base, mid-week which appear to have driven their success. As is often put, any day talking about the economy is a good day for National and this definitely seems to be the case last week with the PREFU.
Looking at interaction rates per post, nothing much has changed in terms of the leaders or parties relative to each other, rather the rates have edged back from the previous week as the campaign entered into a bit of a phoney war period prior to this sprint in the final four weeks.
If you're going to say you'd rather donate $1 million to charity than spend it on political advertising you'd think that's a pretty easy thing to stick to, wouldn't you? Not for Gareth Morgan's The Opportunities Party (TOP) it seems.
TOP got a lot of attention last month for announcing that, in protest over the advertising money allocated to political parties, that it would donate $1 million to charity because they'd rather do that than spend it on political advertising. Rightly, they received a reasonable amount of press coverage for it and while many saw it as a cynical ploy for Gareth Morgan to get himself back in the news, it was at least going to do some good.
So far, so good. Except you'd think if you've just announced you'd rather donate to charity rather than pay for political advertising then you'd not run paid advertisements. Seems pretty simple?
Except that it's not that simple for TOP. To be fair, you can almost forgive them for spending money on promoting their ads about how they don't want to spend money on ads and donate it to charity. The net effect of it all is that some very worth charities are going to get badly needed funds.
The problem is, TOP has now gone on something of a political advertising spree including with print and Facebook ads.
The above are all clearly examples of political advertising. The first one teasing the release of TOP's health policy, the next on meeting the leader of TOP, another on their deputy leader on what can be done to bring down grocery prices, and the final one on water policy. They're all examples of paid political advertising. So what happened when I challenged TOP on this blindingly obvious hypocrisy on their part?
This is where TOP is really getting disingenuous about their advertising. Being very familiar with Facebook's advertising platform, and given the frequency that I've seen their ads, they're clearly putting a significant amount of funding behind them to get that type of frequency that I've been seeing. So it's not just $100 on a single Facebook promotion, but a very broad and well backed political advertising campaign across a range of content and channels, including that ad in the Dominion Post too.
I'd also wager that TOP simply doesn't care about their hypocrisy either. If you've ever witnessed either their leader or deputy leader on Twitter, they both appear, in my opinion, to be rather immune to any criticism or contrary views whatsoever.
UPDATE 5 July 2017 10:40am: Contrary to TOP's Facebook comment posted above, apparently they do have a billboard on the corner of Willis and Boulcott Streets in Wellington. Gareth Morgan's left and right hands evidently aren't talking to each other, or they just don't care...
UPDATE 5 July 2017 3:55pm: Have now been supplied a photo of the billboard. Looks like TOP is treating everyone as fools.