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.


Poll: most important problems facing New Zealand

A Roy Morgan poll on most important general issues facing New Zealand compared to the world shows that economic issues, inequality and housing are of most concern.

Most Important Problems Facing New Zealand and the World - February 2018

And the most important specific New Zealand issues compared to the world.

It’s not surprising to see economic issues so high, including inequality, and in New Zealand housing is also of major concern.

Interesting to see that New Zealand is significantly less concerned about environmental issues.

Perhaps this is why the Greens are so keen on advocating on social issues.

Source: Economic Issues dominate New Zealand concerns early in 2018


Issues facing the US

The numbers for Issues facing country today “extremely” or “very” concerned:

  • Government spending 80%
  • Economy 75%
  • Infrastructure 75%
  • War with North Korea 68%
  • Terrorist attacks 67%
  • Job market 65%
  • Russian meddling 61%
  • Climate change 60%
  • Illegal immigration 51%

That’s interesting to see a clear majority concerned about ‘Russian meddling’ and ‘climate change’.

Poll on issues and immigration

IPSOS immigration poll:

Right-wing voters and long-term immigrants are less pro-immigration. Recent, pro-immigration people are more likely to be from India, whereas the long-term migrants who are mainly from the UK are now less favourable towards immigration.

Curia has a summary of an Ipsos poll on immigration:

Most important issues:


On immigration:


Also (via Curia):

  • A net 52% agree immigration should be targeted at professions with shortages
  • A net 48% say refugees can become highly valued contributors to society
  • A net 35% say immigration has made NZ a more interesting place to live
  • A net 28% say immigration is good for the economy
  • A net 30% agree immigration has placed too much pressure on public services
  • A net 15% are confident most refugees will integrate
  • A net 12% say immigration has made it harder for those here to get jobs
  • A net 10% say there are too many immigrants in NZ
  • A net 10% say terrorists who pretend to be refugees will enter NZ
  • A net 7% say immigrants are often better workers than those already here
  • A net -15% want an increase in the number of refugees
  • A net -35% say the number of immigrants who can move here should increase
  • A net -40% want no refugees accepted at all

There were 16545 people surveyed in 23 countries, including New Zealand.

• The New Zealand data was collected via one single survey of 505 adults. Some questions were omitted and some added, to ensure better suitability for the New Zealand context.

That’s a relatively small sample size.

The IPSOS survey summaries:

  • Housing affordability, cost of living and poverty concern the most New Zealanders, but age and political views influence people’s concerns.
  • Older people are more likely to say that immigration to New Zealand has increased a lot.
  • New Zealanders are much more likely to say immigration has had a positive impact.
  • New Zealand-born people have a more negative view of immigration than immigrants.
  • New Zealanders are generally positive about immigrants, but 53% feel they are pressuring public services and 54% do not want an increase in immigration numbers.
  • New Zealanders are less likely than most to feel that there are too many immigrants, but 53% agree that they are causing pressure.
  • Although 45% of New Zealanders feel that immigration has made it difficult to get jobs, New Zealanders are the most likely to feel that immigration has been good for the economy.
  • New Zealanders are the most likely to say immigrants with higher education should be given priority to fill skill shortages and that they make New Zealand a more interesting place to live.
  • Seasoned travellers and immigrants are more open and positive towards immigrants, while those New Zealandborn and poorly travelled are more ‘anti’.
  • Right-wing voters and long-term immigrants are less pro-immigration. Recent, pro-immigration people are more likely to be from India, whereas the long-term migrants who are mainly from the UK are now less favourable towards immigration.
  • While the majority of New Zealanders believe refugees can integrate well and contribute a lot, there is a concern about terrorism and little appetite for increasing the refugee intake.
  • New Zealanders are much less likely than those in the other countries surveyed to say ‘close our borders entirely’.
  • New Zealanders are much less likely to say terrorists pretending to be refugees will enter the country to cause havoc.
  • New Zealanders tend to be more confident about refugees’ ability to integrate.
  • Only 14% of New Zealanders knew the correct number of refugees allowed into NZ each year. 22% overestimated the number.
  • Those who over-estimate the size of the NZ refugee intake have a more negative view of refugees’ ability to contribute to society and likelihood to be terrorists.
    Those who over-estimate the size of the NZ refugee intake have a more negative view of refugees’ ability to integrate into NZ society and are more likely to feel we should stop admitting ALL refugees.
  • Most in EU countries think Britain was wrong to leave, for both Britain and the EU. New Zealanders are less concerned and Australians even less so.
  • New Zealanders are the most concerned about the effects on Britain than any other non-EU country surveyed, and are more concerned than Australians.
  • New Zealanders are the most concerned about the effects on the EU than any other non-EU country surveyed, and are more certain than Australians.
  • New Zealanders are more saddened and worried about future arising from the Brexit vote than Australians, who are also less likely to have an opinion.
  • 27% of New Zealanders believe that the Brexit vote will be bad for the New Zealand economy.
  • New Zealanders are more likely than those in EU countries themselves to think that the EU’s influence on the world stage will be reduced. Australians are less concerned.
  • Of all the non-EU countries surveyed, New Zealanders were the most likely to feel that both the UK and EU will become weaker post-Brexit.
  • The majority of New Zealanders felt that both the UK and the EU will become more divided and less integrated over time.

I think the poll questions on Brexit have little value here. My guess is that most New Zealanders will have only a vague knowledge at best of what Brexit was about, and our opinion is pointless anyway.

Curia has a link to the full poll details at  Ipsos poll on immigration

Poll on ‘Problems facing New Zealand’

Roy Morgan has a poll on what New Zealanders think are the major problems facing us.

When asked about the most important problem facing New Zealand:

  • Economic issues 40% (down 1)
  • Government/ Public policy/ Human rights issues 26% (up 5)
  • Social issues 15% (down 5)
  • Environmental issues 7% (up 1)

With National being seen as the strongest party on dealing with the economy this isn’t a surprising result. And it suggests why the Greens struggle to get traction with the environment a relatively low concern.

A breakdown of the most important Economic Issues facing New Zealand:

  • Poverty / The gap between the rich and the poor 18%  (down 2)
  • Unemployment/ Job security 8% (up 2)
  • Cost of living/ Increasing prices/ Financial hardship/ Household debt 5% (unchanged)
  • Economy/ Financial crisis/ Recession/ Inflation/ Exchange rate/ High dollar 5% (down 1%)
  • Low Wages 3% (up 1)
  • Christchurch Recovery & Rebuilding 1% (up 1)
  • Foreign Ownership/ Selling our Assets 1% (unchanged)
  • Need to Increase Exports 1% (down 1)

A breakdown of the most important Government/Public Policy/Human Rights Issues facing New Zealand:

  • Housing shortage/ Housing affordability 10% (up 4)
  • Government/ Politicians/ Leadership/ Government Spending 9% (up 1)
  • Education 2 (up 1)
  • Health Issues/ Disease/ Obesity/ Poor Health 2% (up 1)
  • Benefits Given to the Maori/ Inequality Between Maori and Other Ethnic Groups 1 (unchanged)
  • Health System/ Shortage of Doctors/ Health Services 1% (up 1)
  • Immigration/ Refugees 1% (down 1)

A breakdown of the most important Social issues facing New Zealand:

  • Child Abuse/ Lack of Care of Children/ Bringing up Children Wrongly 3% (up 1)
  • Social Apathy/ Lack of Values/ Lack of Empathy Toward Others/ Intolerance 3% (down 1)
  • Breakdown of Family Unit/ Family Violence 2 (unchanged)
  • Crime/ Law & Order 2% (unchanged)
  • Drugs/ Alcohol Issues/ Drink Driving 1% (unchanged)
  • Greed/ Materialism 1% (unchanged)
  • Racism/ Racial Tension 1% (unchanged)
  • Social Welfare System 1% (unchanged)
  • Violence/ Gangs 1% (unchanged)

The problem with this is people may have varying levels of concern about different issues but can only choose one.

These findings come from a special New Zealand Roy Morgan survey conducted with New Zealanders aged 14+ asked what are the most important issues facing New Zealand and the World today.

In New Zealand, a cross-section of 1,002 men and women aged 14 or over were interviewed by telephone in March 2015. Respondents were asked: “Firstly, what do you think is the most important problem facing the World today?” and“What do you think is the most important problem facing New Zealand today?” The research conducted was bothqualitative (in that people were asked to use their own words) and quantitative (in that the ‘open-ended’ responses were analysed and ‘coded’ so that the results could be counted and reported as percentages).

Bigger issues

There’s been a lot of talk about sideshows like Kim Dotcom and “Dirty Politics” overshadowing more important policies and issues. ‘Doggone7’ asks at Kiwiblog:

So what specifically would they have been doing instead of concentrating on the Hager stuff? Jerry was not distracted from his Christchurch earthquake stuff, I don’t think Hekia was diverted from coming up with and implementing some ground breaking education policy, and so on. They had a ready made screen so they could get on with the important stuff uninterrupted.

Or are the “more important things” only important if every Tom, Dick, Harry and media person is giving them full attention?

Alan (Wilkinson) had a go at answering “off the top of my head”:

bigger issues:
1) how to educate the unemployable

This is a major and difficult issue. It is very challenging educating a significant proportion of the unemployed, many of whom are virtually unemployable and have a low drive to being fully employed and self supporting. The Government has put quite a bit of resources into addressing this but it is not easy successfully turning around those who have chosen to live off the state.

2) how to roll back bureaucracy and encourage productivity and innovation

That’s two related issues. The resource Management Act is something in particular that needs reconsidering. IRD is trying to simplify tax compliance but government imposed tax levels can also affect productivity and innovation.

3) how to educate the financially illiterate to support sensible economics

Some will never learn about financial realities. The Greens are trying their own education and sound sensible to some but most see through their impractical ideologies.

4) how to pursue trade liberalisation

Successive governments have worked on this. Current negotiations on the TPPA are one example. The Chinese trade liberalisation under Helen Clark’s government is another that has made a significant difference to broadening New Zealand trade.

5) how to encourage free competition and discourage and regulate monopolies

This is an important one but can be difficult to achieve, free competition and regulation can be opposite approaches. The key is getting the balance right between the two.

6) how to reduce the health bureaucracy and encourage innovation in that sector

Health is a major and growing cost – as is the health bureaucracy. When health and lives are at stake it can be a very emotive issue. In general health outcomes and life expectancy are improving but the cost of maintaining progress can be prohibitive.

Off the top of my head they would be the main ones.

A good list. Another major issue is the cost of an ageing population, especially the cost of National Super