12 December 2011

Referendum facts and figures

Part A of the Referendum asked if we should keep the MMP system or change to an alternative.

57.8% of valid votes were in favour of keeping MMP. That compares well with the 53.9% in favour of MMP in the 1993 run-off referendum against FPP.

By far the strongest support in favour of MMP in 2011 came from the seven Maori electorates, ranging from 85.5% in Waiariki to 78.9% in Te Tai Tonga. That was closely followed by Mangere (76.7%). Urban, traditionally Labour-held seats tended to be the strongest supporters of MMP, after the Maori seats.

But support for MMP was also strong in some urban blue electorates. Hamilton East was 59.4% in favour of MMP, but was won by National on party vote (51.4%) and candidate vote (8,275 majority). Botany favoured MMP by 55.4% (slightly below the overall result), but National scored 61.1% party vote there, and the National candidate has a 10,741 majority.

By contrast, the strongest support for changing the voting system came from rural and traditionally National-held seats. Clutha-Southland topped the change vote with 55.4% in favour of change.

Ground-zero for MMP politics, the Epsom electorate, was marginally in favour of MMP (50.1% voting to keep it). In Ohariu, 62.0% voted to keep MMP, above the national average. So the pressure on those electorates has not turned their voters against MMP.

Part B of the referendum asked which of 4 alternative voting systems you would choose if there were a change of electoral system.

There is a compellingly strong statistical correlation (0.96) between the percentage of votes in favour of MMP in each electorate and the percentage of informal votes in Part B. Those in favour of MMP were clearly less likely to indicate a preference for any alternative – though some may have thought they weren’t supposed to. So, Waiariki voters returned 48.9% informal votes in Part B, but only 2.2% in Part A.

In Part B, 33.14% of votes nation-wide were informal, and this figure is higher than the percentage of votes in favour of the front-running alternative (FPP) which got 31.19%.

Let’s look, then, at the valid votes only for Part B. As a percentage of valid votes, 46.7% voted for FPP as the favoured alternative. The strongest support for FPP came from rural South Island electorates, beginning with Clutha-Southland (58.1%). The lowest support for FPP came from urban electorates, with no obvious bias towards either National or Labour strongholds. The lowest were Wellington Central (24.5%) and Auckland Central (32.3%). Epsom voters gave relatively low support for FPP (33.2% of valid votes).

While the Maori seats led the vote in favour of retaining MMP, for their valid votes in Part B the most popular alternative was FPP. All but one Maori seat gave higher rates of valid votes for FPP than the national average – but then they also had high rates of informal votes, in the 40s.

Supplementary Member (SM) ran second among the alternatives. It had been promoted by the ‘Vote for Change’ lobby-group with the support of Mr Key. It got 16.14% of all votes nation-wide, and 24.1% of valid votes. Looking only at the valid votes, the six electorates that returned the strongest support for SM were all blue-ribbon Auckland electorates, with Epsom at the top (35.9%). Maori and South Auckland electorates gave the lowest support for SM.

The strongest support for STV was in Wellington Central, with 37.9% of valid votes. Wellington Central was also the least in favour of FPP. Note that STV is used there in local body elections.

Preferential voting (PV) got the strongest support in the 10 Maori and South Auckland electorates, with Waiariki at the top again giving PV 23.4% of valid votes. But these electorates had high levels of informal votes (over 40%), and their valid votes for FPP were higher (45.7 to 51.6%) than for any other alternative. PV got the lowest vote overall.

Data source: Electoral Commission


At 8:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Grant - the figures are fascinating to look through. Any suggestions as to why the vote for PV was so high in the Maori and South Auckland electorates? The other high/low figures seems easy to explain, but this has me perplexed. Maybe I am missing something obvious?

Janine Hayward
Otago Uni

At 9:47 PM, Blogger Grant Duncan said...

Hi Janine. I'm equally perplexed. Maori electorates were the strongest supporters of MMP and had the largest Part B informal votes of all electorates. Of those Maori voters who did vote in Part B, their strongest preference was for FPP, and second was PV. This pattern is across all 7 Maori electorates, and is quite distinct from the national average. I can see why Maori prefer MMP (they get a guaranteed Maori MP plus the choice of a party), but the Maori electorates all stand out as a type of their own in these figures. That alone is interesting. But STV is more proportional than PV and serves minorities better, they say, so I don't understand their higher rating of the one that ran last elsewhere. I wonder if someone influential said something in favour of PV?

At 10:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Grant - I wondered the same thing, although it would have to have been someone with considerable 'reach' to get a message across those Maori and Auckland electorates. And I am also not sure what the message would have been to be so persuasive. I can only think that PV is appealing because it would bring 12 Maori seats to Parliament which would be elected in a way that would marginally increase the chances of Maori being elected outside the Maori seats also, when compared to FPP. Although I am still not sure why PV would be preferred over STV, unless there was concern about the size of the proposed electorates under STV.

I have asked several people if they have an answer to this question - will tell you if I get a convincing reply! J

At 9:14 AM, Blogger Grant Duncan said...

Hi, Janine. I guess it must have been the 12 Maori seats, due to having no list. But you wouldn't necessarily get more Maori MPs overall with PV, as the major parties would tend to put forward 'mainstream' candidates in general electorates. (Can you tell me how many Maori MPs we have in the this new parliament?) Most NZers didn't seem to understand the merits of STV. But it's all academic now, as I can't see us having another such referendum for a long time to come. G

At 9:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Grant - I haven't seen any official stats about the new MPs yet, but my best estimate looking through the list is that there are around 18 self-identifying Maori MPs (about 15%). With Paula Bennett losing her electorate seat, I think Simon Bridges is the only self-identifying Maori MP to win an electorate seat outside the Maori seats. J

At 12:34 AM, Blogger Astri Thunold said...

Hi there, I am a Norwegian reporter, researching representation of indigenous or other minorities in various electoral systems.
To qualify for the Maori electoral option - is self-identification as Maori sufficient? Or do you have to prove Maori descent?
Grateful for any info on this,
Astri Thunold, reporter, Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation

At 9:44 AM, Blogger Grant Duncan said...

Hi Astri
Thanks for your query. Self-identification is enough. The requirement is that the person is Maori or a descendent of Maori.
I will most more on the history of the Maori seats.


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