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.