Young voters are looking for substance

Bill English has tried some trivial photo ops, but Geoffrey Miller writes about more substance being important seeking the young vote in  Forget the spaghetti pizzas – it’s substance voters are looking for.

It’s that time again when politicians pull out all the stops to do what they think will make young people vote for them.

At the 2014 election, Kim Dotcom spent some $4m largely targeting the youth vote.

That was an expensive flop.

Both Labour and the Greens were also keen to target young voters, which were given the label of the “missing million” and assumed to be chiefly latent support for left-wing causes. And for the most part, the focus was on “getting out the vote”, rather than changing the substance of the party platforms to offer something non-voters wanted.

They seem to think that all they need to do is advise non-voters and new voters how good they and their policies are and they will get the missing votes.

Of course, it is not just the left which has sought to target younger voters. Ironically, National has probably been more successful at picking up young voters. Many of John Key’s stunts – singing Gangnam Style, planking, making derp faces and so on – reached a much wider audience.

Key’s frequent appearances on non-political media – such as More FM – helped with this, but these only worked because the stunts suited Key’s personality. Bill English’s efforts – such as his spaghetti pizza selfies – look contrived by comparison.

I think that voters are more likely to be deterred rather than attracted by contrivances.

This time around, much of the left’s focus seems to be going on putting forward younger candidates.

Greens have lauded their new young candidates, and Labour had a go at promoting Jacinda Ardern (they seem to have backed off that a bit).

The assumption is that young voters are attracted by young candidates – but is this really true?

Bernie Sanders attracted young voters in the US, Jeremy Corbyn attracted young voters in the UK.

Take Winston Peters, for example. With Peters being 72 and the face of the SuperGold card, most assume New Zealand First has no real hope of attracting a large pool of younger voters. Yet during this year’s Orientation Week at Victoria University, Peters reportedly attracted hundreds of students on a summer weeknight to hear him speak.

I think new voters are looking for something different than the same old National and the same old Labour.

What about the ethnicity of candidates? Corbyn and Sanders are both fabled ‘old white men’, yet have managed to appeal to significant numbers of non-white younger voters. On the other hand, Winston Peters, part-Maori, has traditionally found his biggest voter base in elderly Pakeha New Zealanders.

Another probable fallacy is that more female candidates will automatically attract more female votes.

Substance over style

The lesson from the surge of young voters for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party in the UK is that to get young voters to vote, you need to give them something to vote for. In Corbyn’s case, this was a traditional, ideologically-driven left-wing manifesto which included an end to student fees, nationalisation of railways and increasing taxes on the rich.

Labour’s announcement this week that they will reduce the number of foreign students (who don’t vote anyway) is unlikely to impact on the young vote, except for those who don’t like the anti-immigration message.

Social media was a part of Corbyn’s success – as it was for Bernie Sanders – but only as an adjunct.

Social media campaigning is seen as essential – and it probably is, to an extent. But…

In New Zealand, part of the appeal of Winston Peters has traditionally been the repetition of simple policies against immigration and in favour of elderly voters.

Peters excels at old fashioned person to person public meeting campaigning, and hardly uses social media. But he’s after 10-15% of the vote, not 50%.

All parties will be looking for votes from wherever they think they can get them.

Peters attracts a substantial protest vote who don’t care about his lack of substance or his refusal to say what he might do in coalition negotiations, but he is as old school as a politician can get.

Don’t discount TOP. They have substance in their policies, they have passion and drive in Gareth Morgan, and they have a country that is getting tired of National but hasn’t warmed to Andrew Little and Labour.

And Greens seem to have hit a support ceiling, hence their trying to attract young voters, female voters and Maori voters. But can they offer substance to such a wide range of voters? Where is their substance on the environment? It risks being overwhelmed by all their other targets.

Add the dual leadership of Turei and Shaw and it’s hard to know what the Green substance is supposed to be.

English can do substance if he sticks to his strengths rather than associating himself with slippery spaghetti.

Little promised straight talk but squirms outside his rehearsed lines.

Will anyone step up and demand attention through substance? No matter how old or white they are, or not, they could attract all sorts of voters.

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37 Comments

  1. Agree. English needs to comprehend this and show successes environmentally, our commitment to same, highlight liberal advances and talk issues simply, yet compellingly and without condescension.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  June 14, 2017

      Bill has a dry wit which you see more often at Question Time than in the media, an honest-looking & sounding persona, & outside the House a calm, low key style that must seem quite staid & boring to a lot of younger people. He doesn’t project any passion for anything & doesn’t have the humorously entertaining factor Winston has.

      I don’t think Jacinda is going to pull any extra votes in for Labour. So far she is still a political child, from what I can see, & I don’t think she is even on the radar for most young people – they don’t read Women’s Mags.

      Reply
  2. PDB

     /  June 14, 2017

    PG: “Don’t discount TOP. They have substance in their policies, they have passion and drive in Gareth Morgan, and they have a country that is getting tired of National but hasn’t warmed to Andrew Little and Labour”.

    They also have a nutter running the party. They have extensive policy but that only serves to highlight how bad the majority of them are.

    Taxing the family car that the family paid for with already heavily taxed wages is hardly fair or a vote-winner.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  June 14, 2017

      So he won’t get the votes of those with houses & expensive cars, but he might pick up some from those who don’t have those, & that’ll include a lot of young folk who want them & think they won’t ever be able to afford them, presumably.

      Reply
      • PDB

         /  June 14, 2017

        Under Gareth’s tax plan the young still wont be able to afford a house considering the amount of ‘envy’ tax you’d have to pay on it every year on top of rates, maintenance, insurance etc

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  June 14, 2017

          Wouldn’t matter. They wouldn’t realise that. According to Brown below, they’re thick as pigshit (or words to that general effect).

          Reply
  3. Brown

     /  June 14, 2017

    Many young voters have no idea what substance looks like. They are among the most ignorant people I come across when it comes to discerning reality from virtual reality. That doesn’t excuse English being lame but I’m not sure how you reach out to the ignorant who just have a tanty whenever something doesn’t fit their world view.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  June 14, 2017

      😳

      Reply
    • High Flying Duck

       /  June 14, 2017

      To put it another way, most people would look back on their earlier selves and shudder at some of the views they passionately held.
      There is nothing like life experience to knock some perspective into the idealism of youth.

      Reply
  4. David

     /  June 14, 2017

    If you see how many people viewed English,s videos of his pizza, run/walk I think he got cut through with younger people, most of whom have a Dad or know a Dad that does Dad stuff. Sure the beltway didnt get it but they dont get a lot much of the time and I would suggest it was as effective as Jacinda doing a womans magazine at getting out the vote.

    Reply
  5. Gezza

     /  June 14, 2017

    I think a lot of younger non-voters may just have more of a focus on just getting a blimmin job, going there, mucking about having fun there whenever possible, getting coffees, an iPhone & a Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram account, and then it’s bedtime. When do they even get a chance to think about politics? Poor blighters. They’re exhausted.

    Reply
  6. NOEL

     /  June 14, 2017

    page 14 claiming a third of New Zealand voters are “fence sitters”.
    http://www.psychology.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/72176-NZJP-Vol-44-No-2_Fence-Sitters.pdf

    Reply
  7. Zedd

     /  June 14, 2017

    I wrote something recently about the ‘missing million’ & some twat said ‘if they dont register, they dont deserve to vote’.. but the reality is they are mostly enrolled, they just dont want to choose between coke & pepsi.. they want a fresh perspective or something that matters to them.. I’m guessing this year may see them come out in force ?? look out you tories.. your days are numbered 😦

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  June 14, 2017

      Could be, but what is going to get them out, & who they’ll vote for, that’s what’s intteresting me. I was a bit of an *office hippy* & a lefty at their age & Labour was the obvious party for me. But the young uns of today – do they actually feel passionate or concerned enough about anything to vote? The Brexit decision many were unhappy with finally galvanised them in the UK, it seems. I’m looking forward to seeing what, if anything motivates them this time round. Greens seem woollly to me, but I’m not looking at them thru their eyes.

      Reply
      • Zedd

         /  June 14, 2017

        who cares dood, not i on the loony left

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  June 14, 2017

          Well, I guess maybe those who’re not loonies – on any other part of the left / right scale outside the looney range, dood. Especially those who care.

          Reply
          • Brown

             /  June 14, 2017

            Step daughter was going to vote Greens last time because …? Well, that’s who the teachers at college told the kids to vote for. No idea then and no idea now.

            Reply
  8. Trevors_elbow

     /  June 14, 2017

    A country getting tired of National….. tui ad Pete. What was the last poll number and the one before that and going back over the last 2 odd years…. it’s barely moved…. care to back that up with some facts that show a clear and decisive trend to back you claim??

    Reply
    • High Flying Duck

       /  June 14, 2017

      Yes – an interesting little comment thrown in with no evidence to back it up. National bouncing back to 49% in the last Colmar poll and English increasing his preferred PM numbers would suggest the refresh in National has at the least delayed the staleness factor for now.

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  June 14, 2017

        We don’t even really have any idea what young folk’s political views or interest levels are, do we? There’s virtually nothing available online in the way of regular polls of large enough numbers to sort into age groups & identify the issues for them, what they’re thinking, who they’re supporting or liking the look of, why so many are disengaged.

        Reply
        • Trevors_elbow

           /  June 14, 2017

          Sex is why they are disengaged….. what were you like at 18? 20? It’s was parties and chasing after your taste in men/women….

          It’s not rocket science

          Reply
          • Gezza

             /  June 14, 2017

            Well i was doing sex, drugs – and rock n roll (playing guitar helped with the sex part) – but I still had strong political views & couldn’t wait to vote. So, you, know I dunno. Why don’t they? I knew I was a bloke & liked women. Are they spending more time finding out *who they are* from the wider available options these days maybe? I dunno. It’s a mystery.

            Reply
          • Gezza

             /  June 14, 2017

            Actually, just thinking about that a bit more, when I was 18 there was more discussion of it in the household & neighbour get-togethers, there was more of it on the telly,p – only two channels, & in the media – & reporting tended to be more serious, the party leaders & policies more clearly separate, political views more polarised.

            Maybe rose-coloured glasses & kaleidoscopic memories, but I think there were a lot fewer distractions & trivial pursuits, in life & the media, so more to get the odd little bit of attention from *you young people have no idea* than just the music, the booze, the dope & the breeding urge.

            Reply
            • High Flying Duck

               /  June 14, 2017

              When you’re young you’re bulletproof and can take on the world. Politics is not that important – you (hopefully) don’t need healthcare, retirement is a long way away, student fees are only interesting if they are changed on you.

              Some people get a social conscience or fall into environmentalism and are very vocal, but I would say that is a minority in terms of it being a big issue in their lives.

              Once in the real world there is a bit of WIIFM if they struggle to get a job (but we have high employment rates and unemployment remains under 5% so even that isn’t a major at the current time.

              It is only as you get older that the direction the country is being taken becomes of any significance and the bigger picture takes shape. Even this is waning over time. People are busy and want to get on with their lives.

              I would say few people under the age of 30 are very interested in politics in a meaningful way.

  9. Alan Wilkinson

     /  June 14, 2017

    To get young people interested in politics they have to see a politician doing something they think is so really stupid they want to change it. Otherwise it will only be the inevitable minority who want to run everyone else’s lives.

    Reply
    • Gezza

       /  June 14, 2017

      Young voters are looking for substance

      Back in my day, Sir Alan, quite a number were looking for substances.

      Pathalogically erratically yours, as always
      Sir Geoffrey.

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  June 14, 2017

        * Sir GERALD!
        (It’s the long term effects of the substances possibly – or excessive exposure to the writings of Sir Geoffrey. Can’t be sure – had a few G&Ts. )

        Reply
      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  June 14, 2017

        Alas, Sir Gerald, in those days as a research chemist I spent my time trying not to ingest the many and various substances I worked with, many of which were capable of grevious bodily harm.

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  June 14, 2017

          Fortunately, in my case, Sir Alan, they ddtn covefef me at all
          Aggressively you’rs, as always
          St Bernard.

          Reply
          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  June 14, 2017

            I can see the improvement, Sir G. Your clarity even exceeds your perspicuity.

            Reply
            • Gezza

               /  June 14, 2017

              Only ever used clarity for occasional bouts of hay fever, Sir.
              Perspicuity wasn’t even available back in my day! It’s still hard to find.
              Sir Pius

  10. patupaiarehe

     /  June 14, 2017

    Peters attracts a substantial protest vote who don’t care about his lack of substance or his refusal to say what he might do in coalition negotiations, but he is as old school as a politician can get.

    Let’s think about the bit in bold, Pete. IIRC, he says that he does this, because he can’t predict the outcome of any election, or something like that. How is that dishonest?

    Reply
  1. Young voters are looking for substance – NZ Conservative Coalition

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