So here’s the list results for the last four elections, but instead of calculating the percentage of votes each party received, I calculated the percentage based on the total number of voters on the roll for that election. So, in 2011, about 2.2 million people voted, but there were over 3 million people on the roll, and National won 34.5% of that second number. This gives you an idea of the fluctuating number of non-voters. (The columns don’t add up to 100% because I was too lazy to factor in the very minor parties).
So you can interpret this any number of ways. But I’ll hazard a couple of theories:
- Maybe Key’s National Party hasn’t ‘captured the center’ as comprehensively as we think. Maybe they’ve just kept turnout high amongst their base – ie, the right – during a period of declining voter turnout, while also benefiting from the collapse of ACT.
- Labour are probably losing votes to the Greens. But that’s dwarfed by the number of voters they’re losing to the ‘Don’t vote’ cohort. There are probably about 250,000 people who voted for Labour in 2005 who didn’t vote for anyone in 2011. We hear a lot about how Labour needs to woo non-university educated middle-aged white men who own their own businesses – Waitakere Man, ‘White van Man’ – and I’ve never quite grasped why a center-left party needs to chase after the most consistently right-wing, conservative demographic in the nation. Or why they need to develop policies that can attract voters in Rangitikei, one of the safest National seats in the country. If I were a Labour strategist I’d be looking carefully at that gigantic bloc of people who used to vote for me, even at the height of the feminazi identity-politics driven, liberal excesses of Helengrad, and no longer vote for anyone – not even lovable John Key or the class traitors in the Greens – and try and win them back.