Missing million and Corbyn fantasies

There are some on the left who seem to think that a magical transformation in popularity when hundreds of thousands of people who have no interest in politics or voting suddenly choose to support one party, and Andrew little suddenly transforms into Andrew Corbyn and changes all Labour’s policies.

Not having anything solid to pin their hope on fantasies are about all they have.

Danyl Mclauchlan:  The myth of the missing million

I used to believe in the missing million – the idea, if not the exact number. Voter turnout in New Zealand used to be around 90%. In 2011 it was 74.21%. Almost eight hundred thousand registered voters failed to vote. Obviously, I felt, these were people who agreed with my political beliefs but refused to vote because none of the choices presented a genuine alternative to the status quo.

I did have a few doubts about the missing million theory. Like:

If turnout is low because people don’t feel the existing parties represent real choice, why was it really high under FPP, when there were only two parties in Parliament and the only votes that really counted were a handful of swing votes in marginal electorates?

If non-voters wanted a radical change to the status quo why didn’t they vote for the Progressive Party or Mana or the Greens, who all, over the years, denounced neoliberalism and campaigned on platforms of radical change to the status quo?

In 2014 the Department of Statistics published a report on non-voters in the 2008 and 2011 general elections based on their General Social Survey – a study of 8,795 residents from randomly selected households. They found that a very high proportion of non-voters were neither woke-but-alienated radicals nor shiftless sexting millennial deadbeats. Instead the single highest predictor of being a non-voter was identifying as a recent migrant to New Zealand.

It is likely that recent migrants don’t know enough about the candidates and parties to make a decision on election  day.

Is Metiria Turei trying to target them with her attacks on Winston’ Peters’ ‘racism’ and her veiled attack in Labour for the same?

“All right,” you might say. “But what about what Jeremy Corbyn has just done in Britain?” Under Corbyn, British Labour openly embraced socialism and rejected the neoliberal status quo. The youth vote surged and he almost won the election! We know that some non-voters are young non-migrant New Zealanders. Why can’t Labour do the same thing here?

This is the argument that left-wing commentators and Young Labour activists have been blogging and tweeting and Facebooking about, and maybe even talking about verbally ever since Corbyn’s near-victory. They might be right! They’re definitely indulging in the Pundit’s Fallacy, in which commentators insist that a political party can win votes by doing whatever it is the commentator desperately wants them to do anyway, and cherry-picking data points to prove it.

Cherry-picking datapoints to support what one desperately wants seems to be common.

But when you look at the political attitudes of non-voters in the New Zealand Electoral Survey, a longitudinal study of voting attitudes and behaviour, the results are not wildly encouraging for the left. When non-voters in the 2014 NZES were asked to rate the National government’s performance, over 70% thought that the government was doing a good job. This doesn’t mean they’d all vote National – 43% of Labour voters also thought the government were doing a good job. But it doesn’t point to the simmering discontent we’ve seen in the British and US elections.

Maybe things have changed since the last election? Maybe there is something in the air? According to Roy Morgan the percentage of people who ‘think the country is heading in the right direction’, is at 62%, almost exactly what it was before the 2014 election. Prior to the recent British election the government’s ‘right direction’ rating was literally half that.

The political situation in New Zealand is very different to that in the UK.

Labour’s strategists seem to feel that they tried the Corbyn route last election, under Cunliffe, who embraced socialist rhetoric and led them to an historic defeat.

NZ Labour seems to be caught between wariness over past failures and the sort of success of Corbyn and Labour in the UK (except they failed).

They are probably closer to Hillary Clinton’s campaign where she should have won easily but stuffed up badly.


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  1. UK V NZ – The last UK election was an outlier. The anti Brexit vote in play was 48% and that was in play, esp when it came to Hard Brexit. Where do you put your vote if you’re a floater? If you want to throw a cat among the pigeons your choices were limited. The imploding Lib/Dems? Not likely.

    NZ It was so much simpler under FPP for the missing million. No “will they get over the threshold and will my vote be wasted” to worry about. I think that it is hard to get out of bed to vote if you’re a relatively pragmatic (oxymoron) fringe voter. Not much point voting when polls show your lot unlikely to make the grade. Cant bring yourself to vote the others? Don’t.

    The 625 vote is the one the left need to worry about. It’s the status quo figure. Only thing for Labour is to hope 15% of them are cat among the pigeons types, Labour loyalists or stay away.

  2. 62% not 625

  3. sorethumb

     /  11th July 2017

    The question: “is the country headed in the right direction?” is pointless unless broadcasters are prepared to give alternative voices a fair go. It begs the question “compared to what?”
    For example, the Savings Working Group asked:
    “Clearly, there are serious questions to be asked about New Zealand’s economic policy and how we got into this mess. Why was it not better designed and managed, and more focussed, coordinated and strategic? Did the electorate simply get what it voted for, without realising what was really happening, or have New Zealanders not been well served over the years?”

    • There’s a big part of me that’d like t mix things up a bit st.

      I think there’s a fair few Nat voters who’ll vote Winnie in the hope he’ll go with them and shake up Maori representation council directives, water ownership etc.

      Should Peters go with the Nats, they’ll drag them right on issues treaty and up the skilled migration criteria, reduce the right to work post “degree”. As we know that’s pretty well a return to White New Zealand policy.

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  11th July 2017

      Yes, it’s a poor question. It implies: “Is the country heading in the right direction or should it throw more money in my direction?” and gets the expected answer.

  4. sorethumb

     /  11th July 2017

    Stephanie Rodgers speech to the Fabians:
    “Donald Trump is populist because he raves about immigrants and Muslims and building walls, and we all feel a bit smug because we’re not stupid and thoughtless like those people who vote for him.”
    “The question I ponder when polls show people are anxious about immigration is, what’s behind it? Immigration in of itself is just the movement of people across borders. Are they worried about wages? Job losses? Housing pressure? Rents? Traffic? Crime? A loss of our national identity? All those things immigrants get blamed for.
    What Corbyn did as well as play strongly to progressive values, is offer solutions to all those underlying anxieties which feed anti-migrant sentiment. You don’t need to fear newcomers if housing and transport and industry and pay and corporate greed are getting sorted. You don’t need to fear losing your identity if your identity is founded on community and collectivism.”
    Chinese see the white-left in an othering and pejorative way as “baizou”
    Muslims see them as dog tucker.

    • The immigration issue is becoming more and more about not wanting “us” to be like Europe and “overrun” with Muslims in particular, or people who, it is perceived, prefer ethnic or religious law over state law.

      People don’t object to migration in as much as infrastructure keeps up and their services are not impacted. Their objections are to “ghettos of jobless/criminal, abaya wearing people who won’t assimilate” Put all the labels you want or resile from them, but it is the NATURE of the immigrants that bother people, not immigration per se. If a group of Kiwis and Aussie move into a Sussex or Florida community, our impact is negligible. We share more in common than we differ on. When a group of Afghans move in the other hand….

      All the Stephanie Rodgers of this world are every bit as tribal as those they rail against. I’d argue they’re more so, of you look to the Dems raging against the Trump machine. Take Grey Lynn, one of the most liberal espousing, matcha eating, bamboo nappied areas in NZ. They all marry who? Not Afghan immigrants for sure. Each other is who they marry. Largely white, largely middle class, other insufferably liberal issues based political animals. Jessie Mulligan and his mates. Aren’t we lovely, aren’t we broad minded, we hate isolationists, but we breed and mix with our white tribe.

      • sorethumb

         /  11th July 2017

        I see migration as spoiling opportunity. if you go back in time progress was breaking up the large estates so the small family farm could be established. Christchurch is described in Kenneth Cumberland’s series Landmarks as a distribution center for the farmland on the Canterbury Plain. Try now to find those plums and relate them to the number of people we are giving residency rights to. Yesterday David Farrar raved about job creation; job creation is meaningless unless you take wages and the cost of living into account.

        • sorethumb

           /  11th July 2017

          Would love to know the counter argument. Yes, I know migration fuels our construction sector (and other non-tradeables).

        • Brown

           /  11th July 2017

          Yep. Thousands more working poor people are not what is needed. The govt thinks it can fix this by subsidising some workers with money from other workers but that just lets employers and consumers off the hook. I tend to a view we are becoming a relatively low wage economy when I look at the jobs on SEEK. Somewhere the wheels will fall off.

    • Kevin

       /  11th July 2017

      Ah yes. Stephanie Rodgers, NZ’s dumbest blogger. And I base that opinion solely on the blog post quoted.

  5. David

     /  11th July 2017

    “Almost eight hundred thousand registered voters failed to vote.”

    This is not true, they did vote. They voted to accept the outcome pf the election.

  6. sorethumb

     /  11th July 2017

    I feel sorry for Gareth Morgan as he is trying to use logic against tribalism. Compare that to something like Winston telling Susan Devoy where to get off.

  7. Zedd

     /  11th July 2017

    OR they may attract about 5-10% more to vote & tip the balance from the Tories ? (fingers crossed) 🙂

  8. John Schmidt

     /  11th July 2017

    People will vote if they think there is a need or that a change is required. Not voting for many is them saying they are happy with the status quo.


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