Complexities of left, right and centre

UMR Research has done a poll to determine whether people are left, right or centre, and which parties they vote for. It shows that political leanings and party support are far more spread and complex than some seem to think.

For most people (excluding hard leaning political activists) politics is far from black and white, left and right. Their support is more issue based and how policies affect them personally rather than hard line either way.

It’s often claimed that the centre vote decides elections. Others claim there is no centre, everyone must be either left or right – but often those claiming this seem to paint anyone they disagree with as being wrong so must be on the other side.

Political activists seem to have difficulty understanding that people could judge issues on their merits rather than on ideology, and can subsequently can lean one way on some things and they other way on others.

Hard leaning activists seem particularly perplexed that some people can agree with some parts of a policy and reject others, and can like and respect leaders and MPs from both sides of the spectrum.

UMR polled on political leanings and party support in an omnibus survey. This is reported by Stuff in The future for Labour.

As is often observed the centre is the battleground in New Zealand politics.

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…

  • Clearly left (0-3 on the scale) – 30%
  • In the centre (4-6 on the scale) – 42%
  • Clearly right (7-10 on the scale) – 26%

This shows the ‘centre’ as substantially larger than the left or right, with only three points on the scale compared to four for each of ‘clearly left’ and ‘clearly right’.

They also show the centre breakdown:

  • Left centre (4 on the scale) – 12%
  • Centre centre (5 on the scale) – 20%
  • Right centre (6 on the scale) – 10%

It would be interesting to see the left and right breakdowns too to see how much extreme leanings there are. The average for the four left points is 7.5% and for the three right points it’s nearly 9%.

‘Clearly left’ support:

  • Labour 42%
  • Greens 25%
  • National 19%
  • NZ First 9%

‘Clearly right’ support:

  • National 76%
  • Labour 13%
  • NZ First 4%
  • Greens 1%

Significant numbers of clearly left or clearly right voters support parties on the other side of the scale, dispelling the notion of a clear left/right divide.

National support:

  • ‘Clearly right’ 39%
  • ‘Centre’ 46%
  • ‘Clearly left’ 12%

Labour support:

  • ‘Clearly left’ 54%
  • ‘Centre’ 31%
  • ‘Clearly right’ 14%

Green support:

  • Clearly left’ 59%
  • ‘Centre’ 38%
  • ‘Clearly right’ 1%

John Key’s support:

  • ‘Clearly left’ 31% positive, 64% negative
  • ‘Centre’ 67% positive, 30% negative

They haven’t reported any breakdown of non-voters – it would be very interesting to see their political leanings.

Political leanings and party support are more spread and complex than some on the left and right of politics seem to think. The centre is substantial, and it is the most important voter bloc in elections. Helen Clark understood this and appealed the centre, as does John Key. They haven’t succeed by appealing to the hard left or hard right.

Those who consider themselves LEFT and those who consider themselves RIGHT will probably refuse to accept the complexities of party support but most voters don’t think of political sides, they think of their own interests – which are often far from political and ideological.

“UMR: This is a survey of a nationally representative sample of 750 New Zealanders 18 years plus. Field work was from 16- 26 October 2014”.

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1 Comment

  1. The left-right political divide is pretty much just a sideshow. The democrat vs socialist political split is way more interesting IMO.

    For example, if you asked any politician to chose between democracy and socialism, I’d expect that that they would go with democracy, since NZ’s body politic is supposed to be a representative democracy. And yet if you consider how the the rule of law should be applied in NZ, the actions of the politicians tend to favour socialism rather than democracy as it existed when the NZ state was established.


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