Modern Australian

how might record advance voting numbers influence the final outcome?

  • Written by Claire Robinson, Professor of Communication Design, Massey University

With under 48 hours until polls close in the 2020 election, 1,742,960 New Zealanders have already made an advance vote. This represents 67% of the total number of votes cast in the 2017 general election and is the most advance votes ever cast in a New Zealand general election.

Is it possible to read the tea leaves in these numbers and predict what’s going to happen on Saturday?

Earlier this century and facing plummeting voter turnout, the Electoral Commission surveyed non-voters as to why they had not cast a vote. Respondents said they simply forgot or were otherwise busy on election day, away or overseas.

To mitigate these factors, the commission has made it easier for people to vote when and where it suits them. It has opened polling booths two weeks ahead of the election day in a range of locations, including school and church halls, mosques, marae, universities, clubrooms, libraries and pop-ups in retail spaces.

As a strategy to increase the total vote, this appears to have worked. Turnout has risen from a record low of 74.2% of enrolled voters in 2011 to 77.9% in 2014 and 79.01% in 2017.

Advance voting is not the only factor in these statistics. Voter advice applications such as Massey University’s On The Fence have helped first-time voters feel more confident about the voting process. This has led to higher youth voter turnout, contributing to the rise in overall turnout.

woman voting Locking in the result: Jacinda Ardern votes in Auckland on the first weekend polls opened. GettyImages

Who benefits from advance voting?

Our major political parties have cottoned on to the advantages they can gain by promoting advance voting. Core major party voters tend to decide their voting choices well before the official campaign period. It’s therefore in major party interests to lock those votes in before random campaign events shake voters’ confidence in their choices at the last minute.

Parties only have to look back at the 2002 election to see the impact of this. When Labour entered the campaign it was hovering around 53% support. Following a random media storm over genetically engineered corn, which blew over as quickly as it arrived, Labour’s vote dropped over ten points to 41.26% on election day.

It was therefore no surprise to see our major party leaders, Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins, casting their votes on the first weekend polls were open, projecting confidence and role-modelling the acceptability of advance voting. Green co-leader James Shaw and ACT leader David Seymour also voted that weekend, hopeful of locking in the opinion poll gains their parties had made in the middle of the campaign period.

Read more: NZ election 2020: 5 experts on the final debate and the campaign's winners and losers ahead of the big decision

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has said he will wait until tomorrow to cast his vote. On the grounds of “clanger after clanger after clanger being dropped every day now”, he has warned “only a fool tests the water with both feet”. He has encouraged voters to wait until election day so they know all the facts before casting their votes.

This isn’t just Peters playing amateur philosopher. Currently languishing in the polls, it has never been more important for New Zealand First to discourage advance voting. Peters will know that many of his supporters in previous elections have been protest voters who opted for New Zealand First as a matter of last resort because they liked neither of the major parties’ offerings or leaders.

Unfortunately for the party, some of the clangers this week are own goals. News about the financial scandal concerning the New Zealand First Foundation is more likely to hurt than benefit the party’s election fortunes this close to election day.

The impact of late strategic voting

Plenty of voters are still to cast their votes today and tomorrow. History shows many will end up voting the same way they would have two months ago, irrespective of what has transpired during the campaign.

But a good proportion will also have been waiting for last night’s opinion poll to decide how to strategically cast their vote to influence the composition of the next parliament.

Read more: NZ election 2020: why gender stereotypes still affect perceptions of Jacinda Ardern and Judith Collins as leaders

If it looks like their preferred party is “safe”, they may give their votes to a minor party to help them form part of a final coalition. If their preferred party is looking unsafe, they may give their votes to a minor party to send a message of disappointment for poor performance.

Since the MMP system began, the minor party vote has been highest in the elections where the pre-election poll gap between the major parties has been widest. With last night’s gap between Labour and National remaining a whopping 15 points, it looks like the Greens and ACT will be the beneficiaries of late strategic voting, not either of the major parties.

This won’t be the result Ardern and Collins were hoping for when they cast their advance votes two weeks ago, but democracy in New Zealand will ultimately be stronger for it.

Authors: Claire Robinson, Professor of Communication Design, Massey University

Read more


UN report says up to 850,000 animal viruses could be caught by humans, unless we protect nature

Shutterstock Human damage to biodiversity is leading us into a pandemic era. The virus that causes COVID-19, for example, is linked to similar viruses in bats, which may have been...

The reputation of Australia’s special forces is beyond repair — it's time for them to be disbanded

Australian Department of DefenceFour years into a constant stream of misconduct allegations, it’s hard to know how to process the latest revelations about the actions of Australia’s special forces in...

Alice Pung — how reading changed my life

Annie Spratt/UnsplashHaving survived starvation and been spared execution, my father arrived in this new country, vassal-eyed and sunken-cheeked. I was born less than a month later and he named me...

From scary pumpkins to bridal bling, how masks are becoming a normal part of our lives in Australia

www.shutterstock.comOn Halloween this Saturday, it won’t be just trick-or-treating children who are wearing spooky costumes. Adults handing out sweet treats may also be sporting Halloween-themed face masks, which are now...

we'll never cut unemployment to 0%, but less than 4% should be our goal

ShutterstockOne of the most concerning things that happens in any recession is the spike in unemployment. The COVID-19-induced recession in Australia and around the world is no exception – other...

Aged care isn't working, but we can create neighbourhoods to support healthy ageing in place

Image: Kathleen Brasher, Author providedThis article is part of our series on aged care. You can read the other articles in the series here.In 2020, the coronavirus pandemic has exposed...

COVID-19 slashed health-care use by more than one-third across the globe. But the news isn't all bad

ShutterstockIt’s no secret the COVID-19 pandemic has changed many aspects of our lives. One is how often we access health care.We’ve conducted what we believe is the first systematic review...

education research should answer to the same standards as medicine

ShutterstockAustralia has one of the highest-quality systems of medical research in the world. It has helped underpin the high standing of Australia’s health system — it’s ranked as one...

As Melbourne's Christmas arrives early, Queensland's election will test whether COVID is a vaccine for incumbents

Anticipating reactions to political attacks can be a tricky business.When Scott Morrison spectacularly trashed the reputation of Australia Post CEO Christine Holgate over her now-notorious gift of Cartier watches to...

Colourful opal fossils point to a diverse group of giant dinosaurs that shared Australia's terrain

North-central New South Wales today is known for its arid, drought-prone climate. During the Cretaceous period, however, it was a lush coastal floodplain with a high diversity of vertebrates including...

Genome and satellite technology reveal recovery rates and impacts of climate change on southern right whales

University of Auckland tohorā research team, Department of Conservation permit DJIAfter close to a decade of globe-spanning effort, the genome of the southern right whale has been released this week...

We put forward a way to govern ASIC better. The government said no

The current governance/management crisis at the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, ASIC has seen a deputy chairman resign and the chairman step aside under a cloud.It might have arisen simply...

News Co Media Group

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion

Popular articles from Modern Australian

These Countries Have the Best Netflix Catalogs4 Ways to Boost Your Games Winnings with BonusesThink You Know Classic Solitaire Inside out? Here Are Some Interesting Facts You’ve Probably Never Heard of4 Memorable Places to Visit in IndiaGoogle's New Pixel 5 is 5G Ready, but is it Good for Gamers?Mistakes To Avoid When Choosing Your Tasmanian Vacation AccommodationBonus Codes for Online PokiesParental Responsibility and Rights When Handling Custody MattersSix Things You Should Never Do During DivorceShipping Container Homes Made From BlocksNHL's Best and Brightest All You Need To Know About The Hyundai i45 For SaleThe Most Popular Cosmetic Surgery Procedures to Look Out for in 2021Tadalafil vs. Vardenafil: Which Is Better?Benefits of sleep for a healthier life