Joe Hendren

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Monday, May 16, 2005

Will the Alliance take votes off the Greens?

In case people are wondering, yes that is me at number 15 on the Alliance Party List.

I can understand some on the left being concerned that about the danger of the Alliance taking votes off the Greens, who have a greater chance of being in the next parliament. Many, including the media, appear to assume the Alliance and the Greens share a similar constituency because of a similar policy direction. I did a little research to find out if this was the case. In particular I looked at where the Alliance vote went between 1999 and 2002.

This data is included in "What happened in the 2002 Election" (Peter Aimer and Jack Vowles) a chapter in "Voters Veto: The 2002 Election in New Zealand" (2003). The book comes from the NZ Election Study, a research programme a friend tells me has been running for 30 years. It is based on over 5000 voters picked at random.

A staggering 42.9% of people who voted for the Alliance in 1999 voted for Labour in 2002. Only 7.1% of the Alliance vote transferred to the Greens, incidentally the same percentage of voters who transferred to United Future. 11.4% of those who voted for the Alliance in 1999 did not cast a vote at all in 2002.

Alliance voters abandoned Jim, as the Progressive Coalition only gained 15.7% of 1999 Alliance voters.

According to Aimer and Vowles "Labour benefited handsomely from the collapse of the Alliance, while National and Act exchanged almost equal numbers of voters. Significant exchanges took place between Labour and the Greens, with the Greens doing marginally better in 2002." (p. 23)

If there was ever going to be an election where the Greens should have picked up the Alliance vote, it should have been in 2002. Yet the Greens gained less than 10% (9.3%) of their support from former Alliance voters. This is not to be disparaging about the Greens - quite the opposite. Differences in the socio-economic makeup of supporters, as well as differences in policy (eg. toll roads) and priorities creates two distinct constituencies. This is encouraging, as this will improve the chances of a wider red/green vision actually being implemented.

For example, I doubt there will be significant action on student debt in the next parliament if Labour commands 40% of the vote and the Greens join the government. But say in the future a party like the Alliance, the Greens and (perhaps) the Maori party collect 15-20% of the vote together (say A=5%, G=8%, M=6%) they could combine forces on common policies and encourage Labour to be more reasonable. This scenario is conservative - long term I believe there is potential to lift the left-of-labour vote higher than this.

Interestingly, nearly 20% of the people who voted Labour in 1999 did not vote in 2002 (19.7%). This may indicate Labour were abandoned by their traditional class base. A measure designed by Peter Aimer and Jack Vowles (Afford Index of Class Voting) shows the manual-household vote reached an all time low in 1990, generally rose up until 1999 and then fell back to 1990 levels in 2002. Thankfully for democracy, Blairism has its costs.

For these reasons I believe it is in the long term interests of the left for the Alliance to stand in this election and use the chance to rebuild. By targeting Labour and non-voters we will be able to highlight important issues in the upcoming campaign and remind people we are still around. In my humble opinion the long term benefits of such a strategy far outweigh the possible small cost to the Green vote.

If you support the general direction of Alliance policy, and want to see another party to the left of labour back in parliament, get involved and help us make it happen.

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