Written By: - Date published: 9:21 am, March 11th, 2018 - 44 comments
Categories: class, community democracy, Deep stuff, democratic participation, discrimination, election 2017, greens, jacinda ardern, journalism, labour, national, polls, same old national - Tags: bryce edwards
There was this fascinating recent panel discussion on Guardian Weekly where the panelists discussed where the political divide in the United Kingdom currently is. The panelists claimed that notions of class politics they though were breaking down. Brexit showed many working class areas, apart from Scotland, voting leave while more urban areas with younger populations such as London voted heavily to stay. And the surge in Corbynmania was clearly because of young people getting out and voting.
From the introduction:
For most of the 20th century, British politics was a battle of left v right. There was a clear divide between those who favoured more state intervention and those who preferred freer markets. The parties tended to split neatly on the issue: Labour on the left, Conservatives on the right.
But things are no longer that simple, at least according to research from a new thinktank, Global Future. To understand the seismic convulsions of Brexit and last year’s general election, it says, you need to look at politics through a different lens: open v closed. That is, those who are open to immigration, new technologies and new ways of doing things versus those who are worried by those things.
But the one factor that clearly distinguished the group likely to vote Labour and the group likely to vote conservative was age.
This graph from YouGov says it all.
The tipping point was about the age of 47. Below that and the younger voters were the more likely they were to vote progressive. The older they were the more likely they were to vote conservative.
I am not sure if the discovery is so revolutionary. The change itself is somewhat evolutionary. It used to be that the demarcation lines for political support were based on class. But continued attacks on the trade union movement in all western democracies have seen their power ebb and notions of class diminish.
But it is not as if the support has then been coopted by the right. Rather support has been spread around many different movements, most of which are at least nominally progressive. Just think of the LGBT movement and the environmental movement. Think also about the surge in cultural pride and the acceptance even celebration of cultural diversity that occurs. These are ideas and concepts that are traditionally associated with the left. The right will embrace them as well, but only when it realises that political power depends on it.
What about in New Zealand. Are we also seeing evidence of a Youthquake?
The evidence is mixed. This is from an article from Newshub where the topic was discussed after the results for the 2017 election were published:
Fears of a ‘youthquake’ at this year’s election were unfounded, with young people no more likely to vote in 2017 than in 2014.
While turnout for 18 to 24-year-olds on the electoral roll jumped from 62.7 percent to 69.3 percent, there were actually fewer in that age group enrolled to vote in 2017 than in 2014.
“You have to remember the commission’s figures are a percentage of the enrolled voters,” Grant Duncan of Massey University’s School of People, Environment and Planning told The AM Show on Thursday.
“Of the 18 to 24-year old group, only 72 percent are actually enrolled – therefore only half of them voted.”
Combining the Electoral Commission’s data with population figures from Statistics NZshows only 47.6 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds voted in the 2017 election. In 2014, it was 47.4 percent – almost exactly the same.
Statistics NZ data shows in 2017 there were 483,940 people aged 18-24, with 333,164 enrolled; while in 2014 there were 447,880 people, but 338,269 enrolled.
The article does however miss the point that more young people voted and it also does not comment on how they voted. And the rate of increase in the numbers of young people outstripped the overall population increase. So an increasingly progressive vote can at least in part be put on the young.
And do young New Zealanders match their overseas equivalents? It appears they do. From a post by Bryce Edwards in the Herald just before the 2017 election:
The strongest evidence of a powerful age dynamic coming into the election campaign came out of the most recent 1News Colmar Brunton opinion poll for, which showed that “67 per cent of 18-34 are voting or intending to vote Labour” – see: ‘Something’s clearly going on here in terms of this idea of a youth quake’ – Corin Dann on huge new Colmar Brunton poll.
Labour’s incredibly success with youth is also shown in two other surveys that have just come out. Survey firm SSI was commissioned to run a poll for Newsroom, which also showed that 65 per cent of 18 to 24 year-olds intended to vote Labour, with only 14 percent of this group favouring National – see Tim Murphy’s Labour opens gap with women, young.
Inversely, National dominates amongst older age groups: “Labour’s lead reduces progressively as the age of respondents rises, but is still 57 percent to 22 among 25-34 year-olds, 45 to 26 for those 35-44 and 49 to 24 for those aged 45-54. Only from 55 to 64 does National pull ahead, by 39 to 34 over Labour, with a commanding lead of 53 to 27 for those aged 65 and above.”
The Horizon polling company also identifies a similar trend: “By age, Labour’s strongest support is coming from those aged 18-34. 52% of definite voters aged 18-24 support, Labour, 25% National. 47% of those aged 25-34 support Labour, 32% National. The parties each have 32% of those aged 35-44 years. National has more support among those aged 45+. Among those 65+ National has 52%, Labour 29%” – see: Main parties in dead heat.
Why young people tend to vote progressive is easy. Progressive parties tend to think more carefully about the future. They are more determined to address climate change and environmental disaster and these are issues that young people have a particularly keen interest in. Progressive parties are not afraid of change of new ideas. Nor are young people. Conversely older people tend to resent change.
And progressive parties have always been at the forefront of the recognitions of diverse rights associated with race, creed, gender and sexual preference. And young people also tend to relish these values. On the other side conservatives resent change and have to be persuaded, over time, that respect for these rights is actually a virtue and not a threat.
The job for Labour and the Greens will be to continue to attract the support of young people, get them enrolled, and get them active and passionate about politics. And the job of National will be to reach out to them while at the same time keeping its older support.