Political left/right identification and liberal versus conservative

People with strong political alignment to either the left or the right seem perplexed that some people don’t have fixed political views, but open minded ‘floating’ voters are a big chunk of the voting numbers that generally decide elections.

And there could be many voters with a similar lack of attachment to a party or to the left or the right.

On Twitter @rustie5555 posted some interesting analysis of 2017 election data that shows that in self identification 20-30% of don’t self identify strongly left or right.

More say they lean right than left, but on policies they tend more liberal than conservative.

Interesting data tidbit I found rooting around in the NZ Electoral Survey data: on the whole New Zealanders identify as pretty conservative, and moreso during the Key/English administration.

Breaking it down on the 11-point (0-10) scale NZES uses, it’s a pretty stable pattern, with a lot more people on the centre and even extreme right than on the left

So those leaning hard left  are really quite a small minority, and those leaning hard right are less than a quarter of voters.

Meddling with some of the summary data, once you start looking issue by issue, we’re less conservative than we think we are. Except for on welfare and law and order.

So people tend conservative unless they want things from the Government, although there’s a large soft centre.

Also true across a range of other issues, not just expenditure questions…

Voters lean liberal on most issues.

This doesn’t examine preferences on competence and leadership.

The big swing towards Labour when Jacinda Ardern took over leadership less than two months before the 2017 election suggests that leadership is seen as very important in deciding who to vote for.

The slump in support for National under Simon Bridges’ leadership and surge towards Jacinda Ardern was largely due her leadership over Covid plus people were possibly giving up on Bridges looking like a viable leader.

It’s too soon to tell but there also seems to be a swing back to National since Judith Collins took over just a few days ago.

There’s a perception that Collins is a no-nonsense right wing politician but she is actually quite liberal on a number of social issues.

The above charts are based on 2017 data. Things are quite different this year with concerns over Covid a big issue to the extent that Ardern seems to be basing her election campaign almost solely on her management of the pandemic. Concerns about the economy and jobs may figure more than usual, especially if National efforts to argue on those issues get some traction.

It’s still two months until the election so there could be a lot of movement in support before the undecided and swinging voters make up their minds.


I have always been am undecided or floating voter. I wait until I vote before deciding which party to vote for, and I have voted for parties across the political spectrum. I decide on competence and on policy packages rather than on political alignment. I could vote for any of four parties this election and at this stage have no idea who will get my vote.

I don’t see myself as a ‘centrist’. My views on issues and policies are based on the merits as I see them. I’m happy with probably the majority of policies presented by both National and Labour (in reality there’s a lot more common ground with them than differences), I support quite a bit of what the Greens advocate for  but have more moderate views than them, especially on their social policies. And I support some of what ACT push as well.

 

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40 Comments

  1. John J Harrison

     /  19th July 2020

    Particularly interested in the first 2 items on your last graph.
    Work for the dole – absolutely.
    Instead of being a safety net, as was intended, it has become a very comfortable hammock.
    Stay in bed all day or on the couch and under the COL, zero sanctions.
    Thus the need for RSE workers and backpackers to pick our fruit and trim the vines.
    Personal responsibility appears applicable for only the suckers in N Z.
    Maori say in decisions – absolutely not.
    Fact, there are no Maori living in NZ, only part- Maori.
    There is no “ partnership “ on the TOW.
    We ALL should enjoy the same rights and privileges as anyone else who is a citizen or permanent resident.
    Clearly, the [deleted, use proper names for parties or the Government] have the intention of creating a state of apartheid in our once united country.
    Like South Africa it will end in mayhem , death , economic ruin and rivers of tears.

    Reply
    • Ray

       /  19th July 2020

      Regarding your last point it was particularly obvious in the debate about the lack of Māori in National’s front bench.
      First there were no brownie points when there were two and definitely no voter support.
      And no one asked why the Māori Party didn’t have any sign of diversity in their party let alone on their front bench

      Reply
    • Patzcuaro

       /  19th July 2020

      Was our country “united” because European dominance was not questioned? Now that European dominance is being questioned it is no longer “united”. European culture should be able to adapt to the new environment, trees that don’t bend in the wind tend blow over if the wind gets too strong. Better to loose a few branches than blow over.

      People identify as Maori, I don’t think running the line that there are no 100% Maori is very productive. NZ as a country and people is evolving with time and there is no turning the clock back.

      Reply
      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  19th July 2020

        People can call themselves whatever they like but it shouldn’t earn them a pedestal or privilege.

        Reply
      • Corky

         /  19th July 2020

        ”People identify as Maori, I don’t think running the line that there are no 100% Maori is very productive. NZ as a country and people is evolving with time and there is no turning the clock back.”

        I see European changing; accepting change for them is inevitable, but I don’t see Maori coming to the table. In fact I see Maoridom trying its best to drag us back. They need to do that because only in history can they find relevance.

        If you watch One News ( 99% of Maori don’t 😏), you will see a pathetic display of presenters interjecting with Maori phrases to appease what I don’t know?

        We have science curriculum for school and universities that demand a Maori perspective. Say, what? I’m sure Griff may have something to say about that unless the culture vultures
        have got to him and he’s now traded Planck’s Law for bone carving.

        There’s an endless loop happening here and it doesn’t all involve Maori. Those graphs above show a major problem…the big mush in the middle. About the only thing that is clear cut is
        the graph showing National has a divine RIGHT to rule.

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  19th July 2020

          We sure get some strange results from the token Maori phrases that are becoming common in tv media. Jack Tame likes to introduce Q&A segments – and sometimes the news segments – on TV1 with “Kia ora e te whanau”. I assume that means something roughly like ” Greetings to the family” – which is an odd thing for a news presenter to say, but I have no idea if it can also mean something else. Te Reo is often very contextual as to meaning.

          The other night, after doing a live cross to an Australian tv reporter about the Covid-19 new lockdown in Victoria, he ended with “Nga mihi, David” (or whatever the guy’s name was). I remember thinking I wonder if that guy has any idea what he meant?

          Not too long ago I read a Stuff article on a Maori astronomer, which had an embedded video in which a student of Maori astronomy explained that Maori astronomy is a valid science because it enables you to make predictions – such as when to prepare the ground & when to plant.

          When the interviewer, also Maori, asked him to explain a little more about other predictions I was gobsmacked when this student said well, for example, it’s useful for astrology. When one of his recent ancestors observed Matariki & several planets visible in a particular pattern in the sky, he foretold other skywatchers in the whanau that this particular alignment meant there was going to be a world war. And 3 years later World War 1 began.

          Reply
          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  19th July 2020

            Should be useful for climate science.

            Reply
            • Gezza

               /  19th July 2020

              It brought home to me how there’s definitely been practical value in naked-eye astronomy for Maori – from navigation to horticulture. Just as there has been to every ancient culture that observed the regular apparent rotation & movements of the heavenly bodies & related them to seasonal changes & markers for locations. Look at Stonehenge & other ancient constructions that appear to have been astronomically aligned with such things as solstices.

              But to me this isn’t a separate Maori science, just a usage of the same science of naked eye astronomy.

              And that Maori student appears to have completely misunderstood the concept of the proof of scientific theory being that observations are consistent with predictions.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  19th July 2020

              Yes, we can select our preferred forecasts before they prove successful we will be onto something.

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  19th July 2020

              *Where did that “when” go?

          • Corky

             /  19th July 2020

            To be fair, whatever this process is that injects Maori culture into inappropriate places, I have to admit it does have a funny side. The astronomy to astrology story is funny. On another level, it’s not funny. That type of ignorance is being accepted right now, in schools and universities. And it isn’t being questioned. To do otherwise is racist.

            The story I remember best is Pita Sharples at a Team NZ yacht launch telling a reporter that Maori have much knowledge they can impart to the Team NZ syndicate. The reporter forgot to ask what that may be.

            Reply
            • Gezza

               /  19th July 2020

              Well, that was an oversight, because he may well have been talking about traditional knowledge of local sea & weather/wind or other conditions. The problem would then be explaining to Pita how the usefulness of such knowledge might be very limited & has been supplanted by better, more immediate, more localised, technological methods of analysing & predicting sea, weather, & sailing conditions minute by minute.

              Also, it’s a little hard to see how any traditional waka would have got anywhere remotely near the turbocharged design, speeds & performance of modern day Americas Cup sailing craft.

              Bit you’re right. He should have been asked. He might just have had something else to contribute. He was a nice guy – he may even have just had a joke or a prayer in mind.

            • Gezza

               /  19th July 2020

              Pita Sharples IS a nice guy. He’s still alive & kicking, so to speak. I meant I liked him as a Maori politician. He treated everyone with respect.

            • I have heard him described as the thinking woman’s bit of rough. 🙂

          • Gezza, one would need some sort of proof about the WWI prediction.

            It was increasingly obvious in Europe that it was coming in some form.

            Reply
            • Gezza

               /  19th July 2020

              Well, exactly. But as nothing was written down, it seems, who can attest to the veracity of that claim? And as the prediction didn’t indicate any specific date it’s in the realm of a fantasy notion that subsequently happened, eventually.

              Astrologers make all sorts of vague claims they later take credit for. Comets regularly portended great battles & catastrophes, merely because they memorably appeared sometime around then.

              The issue was more that the young guy was clearly misunderstanding scientific prediction.

            • Psychics used to predict that this and that was going to happen this year, usually in an imprecise way (a sex scandal in Hollywood) or a natural disaster somewhere.

              The Sensing Murder ones were an obvious have. They were brought from Australia and taken to cold case sites. It wouldn’t be too difficult to work out that the cases chosen were likely to be young women, and it wouldn’t take too much effort to swot these up; there are not that many !

            • oldlaker

               /  19th July 2020

              The Jehovah’s Witnesses predicted WW1 too as happening in 1914. Followers thought it was the beginning of Christ’s millennial rule on earth. Some sold their possession in anticipation of not needing material goods in the revived Garden of Eden.

  2. Alan Wilkinson

     /  19th July 2020

    It’s weird how the word liberal has been abused to mean left wing.

    Reply
    • Left versus right is a hopelessly simplistic political separation.

      Reply
      • Jack

         /  19th July 2020

        “… policies presented by both National and Labour (in reality there’s a lot more common ground with them than differences.)”
        That’s what my beloved Dad used to say, and he always voted National. With those two parties it does seem to come down to religion. A pity. Religion always messes things up. We need our middle ground to be comfortable for all, not a battlefield. I have proved a way how.

        Reply
        • I think that one of the many positives of new Zealand is that religion plays at the most a minor part in politics and in our work and social lives – here people often co-exists without even knowing what the religious views of workmates or team mates is, and if they do know it largely doesn’t matter.

          I’m not religious at all but I strongly support the right for people to have whatever beliefs they like without prejudice on a personal level.

          Reply
          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  19th July 2020

            It has got better. Labour used to have a strong Catholic faction. Don’t know about National but I suspect it probably did too. Now the Left’s factions seem to have become racial and sexual.

            Reply
    • Gezza

       /  19th July 2020

      Not entirely. When you read NOEL’s linked article below, although it seems to mostly discuss America’s political & cultural divide, that appears to me to suggest liberal is associated with left wing.

      Personally I see “liberal” as being one of those now rather amorphous terms that means different things to different people, depending on context & viewpoint.

      So, some folk with US-style conservative views, e.g. on small government, may consider themselves liberal because they believe everybody should be as free from governmental & other constraints as possible to do what they like.

      While others with US-style progressive views, e.g. on more government regulation & “positive” intervention, believe that small government conservatives are – basically – too self-centred to care about others who are different or less fortunate, which – in their mind – is what liberals do.

      But even that’s just one explanation. One could spend a whole day or more finding different – even opposite ones – from what I can see from a quick google on “liberal”.

      Reply
  3. NOEL

     /  19th July 2020

    I wonder if those who call themselves liberal/conservative have headaches?

    Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  19th July 2020

      As I’ve said before, I believe in social and economic freedom so in my dictionary that makes me liberal. Those who believe in removing freedoms think it makes me conservative.

      Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  19th July 2020

      That they even use the terms indicates they are woolly thinkers and probably pseudo-scientists. The article is full of sweeping claims with no data.

      Reply
    • Jack

       /  19th July 2020

      I think that Pete doesn’t know what he is. I also think I can put together an argument worth considering as a guest post. I really wish Pete would give me the chance. Not easy for me as a lone voice but I’m willing – for the benefit of all. That’s Kiwi isn’t it? Also capable of withstanding heaps of ridicule. Give me a chance Pete? Is your site truly one which does not threaten free speech? And truly non partisan politically? Or are you a bit cowardly? A lot of men are. It’s compassion with guts we need in our country.

      Reply
      • Jack

         /  19th July 2020

        Plenty of data in my guest post Alan. If only Pete would run. I agree with you re words as claims. No one likes being put in a box, yet many people climb in anyway. Probably to get warm.

        Reply
        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  19th July 2020

          PG is usually open to guest posts so contact him and I expect he will run it or tell you why not.

          Reply
      • “I think that Pete doesn’t know what he is”

        Who actually knows who they are? I think I have a fair idea who I am, but that’s just from my own perspective, not from anyone else’s perception – but I think we should know ourselves a bit better than strangers who only see things online.

        Politically I have worked out fairly well where I am, pragmatic, willing to give any credible idea or politician or party a chance, not constrained by partisan blinkers or partisan hatred.

        I’ve always welcomed guest post submissions in comments and in About – see https://yournz.org/about/

        Reply
        • Jack

           /  19th July 2020

          Thanks. Getting that sorted.
          Who actually knows who they are? That question reminds me of my abusive clan members’ gas lighting. They gossiped about me being mentally unwell but if I asked them to be upfront with me regarding real issues they would say, “oh, everyone is mentally unwell to some extent.” I never had an answer in the past. I do now! “Speak for yourself.”
          I know who I am. Easy.

          Reply
  4. Tom Hunter

     /  19th July 2020

    it’s a pretty stable pattern, with a lot more people on the centre and even extreme right than on the left

    One of the strange paradoxes of post-WWII NZ that has been noted by visitors, was the combination of what were regarded as very Left-wing ideas being enacted in the form of legilsation and public institutions – while the population itself was quite socially conservative, even when not religious. It’s been argued that the reason things like unemployment payments, general social welfare and public health worked well was that the NZ population guarded itself from abusing them.

    So people tend conservative unless they want things from the Government…

    True. Also true of every Western Social Democracy, which is why “welfare” ends up going to the Middle Class more than it does to the people to whom it’s supposed to be targeted. One of the great illusions of the need for “universal” solutions (universal so that such policies have the broadest possible support and are not orphaned into nothing) is that no one group gets more of “it” than anybody else. That’s demonstrably not true, even in the case of Public Healthcare systems in Canada and Britain, where repeated studies have found that educated folk on average incomes know how to get more out of the system than poorer-educated, low-income people.

    Reply
  5. Tom Hunter

     /  19th July 2020

    …that appears to me to suggest liberal is associated with left wing….

    In the case of the USA their Left called themselves “Progressives” for decades as they pushed for unions, unemployment benefit, public healthcare and so forth. The main fall-out came with the election of the US’s first “Progressive” President, Woodrow Wilson (D), whose giant PhD brain felt that society would be run by genius technocrats and that things like the Constitution, separation of government powers and small government were obsolete.

    It didn’t work out so well for them, and of course Wilson was also an extreme racial bigot who did everything he could to re-impose segregation, starting with booting Blacks from Federal government positions where they’d been hired by previous Republican administrations. It was Wilson who held the White House opening showing of Birth Of A Nation which gloried in the Lost Cause of the South and extolled the KKK.

    After that the word “Progressive” stank and “Liberal” was taken up. Now we’re seeing it turn again, with the former being embraced and the latter rejected as having been too demonised by the Right to be useful anymore.

    Reply
  6. Gezza

     /  19th July 2020

    I think this is a fairly good explanation of the difference between modern science & Maori science.

    “Mātauranga Māori and science?

    There has been debate as to whether mātauranga Maori can be referred to as Māori science. Some suggest that mātauranga Māori is not science. Science and mātauranga Māori do not seek to do the same thing. Mātauranga Maori is knowledge – knowing about things (such as preparing poisonous karaka berries for eating). Science is about finding out why and how things happen (such as why and how karaka berries are poisonous and how preparation removes the poison).

    Mātauranga Māori is a knowledge base in its own right. It is Māori knowledge, including values and culture. It is different from modern science. Mātauranga Māori belongs to iwi and should remain under Māori control. Mātauranga Maori is taonga (a treasure) and as such should be protected.

    Nature of science

    Scientists are recognising the value of Māori knowledge, particularly that concerned with the natural world and ecology. Collaboration with hapū and iwi is becoming an important part of environmental science as we all endeavour to make our environment sustainable.”

    It’s actually quite a good link for understanding how in NZ modern science & traditional Maori can interact in useful & practical ways – e.g. in conservation, & in botanical & biological research.

    Also in there is a link explaining how Maori experimented with soil composition. That early research enabled, e.g. Tainui to modify soils to make them lighter, more friable, better drained & to thus extend the areas in which they could grow valuable kumara beyond their normal range.

    Where we Pakeha start to roll our eyes, I think, is when we get to this kind of situation, where the lore & whakapapa that were used to explain & retain knowledge are elevated by some traditional Maori to a level they insist is important to still know, & we see no practical use for because, scientifically, it’s mythical nonsense.

    “Early Māori culture was based on oral lore and had a justice system based on chiefs and tohunga (the knowledge experts). Such experts were chosen from an early age and educated within wānanga (learning institutions) to remember vast amounts of knowledge. The knowledge of the hapū (tribe) and iwi were entrusted to these experts, who would then pass their knowledge on to future experts. The way to memorise such a volume of complex material involved using a whakapapa (genealogical) framework. Whakapapa is used to explain genealogies and taxonomies, to create categories and families of flora and fauna and to describe environmental and life issues. The example below describes the whakapapa of different stones and their grouping:

    From chaos sprang Papatūānuku, the Earth mother. Then Papa-matua-te-kore, the parentless, appeared. She mated with Rangi-a-Tamaku. Their firstborn was Putoto, whose sister was Parawhenuamea, the personified form of water. Putoto took his sister, Parawhenuamea, to wife. She gave birth to Rakahore, who mated with Hinekuku, the clay maiden. Hinekuku gave birth to Tuamatua. Tuamatua was the guardian of the different stones and gravel found on sea coasts. The younger brother of Tuamatua, Whatuaho, typified greywacke and chert. Next came Papakura, the origin of volcanic stone…

    Reply

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