Electorate analysis – Mangere

The primary focus of our campaign this year was to take either the Mangere electorate or East Coast Bays, to avoid the 5% threshold. Jerry Filipaina was campaigning full-time in Mangere for a year before the election, and by the election the party had visited every house five times. However our actual results there were disappointing. The main results (parties gaining over 100 votes) are below, full results may be found here.

Parties Candidates
New Zealand Pacific Party 2,212 FIELD, Taito Lemalu Phillip NZPP 4,767
Family Party 237 FILIPAINA, Galumalemana Jerry FAM 856
RAM – Residents Action Movement 14 FOWLER, Roger RAM 138
National Party 3,641 HARRIS, Mita NAT 3,081
MATATUMUA, Lemalu Talia IND 48
Jim Anderton’s Progressive 137 PO’E, Tala JAP 126
Labour Party 13,162 SIO, Su’a William LAB 11,263
United Future 182 SOLOMON, Pulotu Selio UFNZ 389
Green Party 452 STRICKSON-PUA, Muamua Sofi GP 462
ACT New Zealand 252 TABACHNIK, Michael ACT 214
Mäori Party 165
New Zealand First Party 767
Party Informals 245 Candidate Informals 343
TOTAL 21,688 TOTAL 21,687

I will do my best to describe the situation in Mangere, but remember I was campaigning in Selwyn at the other end of the country, so if anyone spots any errors stick them in the comments & I’ll fix it.

No media organisation published polls for Mangere in the run-up to the election. We were unable to have a professional poll conducted, due to the workload of polling companies or their refusal to conduct one due to having a conflict of interest because they were conducting polls for another party.

However a month before the election we conducted an internal poll, which I am now able to release publicly. Although conducted by ourselves, it was done as rigorously as possible to ensure it was accurate. This poll showed Sio (Labour) on 28%, Jerry (Family) on 31%, and Field (Pacific) on 33%. In other words, all three candidates were neck and neck, so it could go any way. It was on the basis of this poll that we were able to campaign saying that Jerry had a decent chance of taking the electorate.

In the month following that poll our campaign stepped up in an attempt to bring Jerry into the lead. Our final visit of every house in Mangere occurred on the Saturday prior to the election, when the team visited 14,500 homes in the one day. Our brochures were pushing the “2 for 1” message, ie vote for Jerry and get two local MPs, as Sio would be in on the list anyway. On Friday night before the election the team was parading around Mangere and Manukau East until midnight with the truck, billboard trailer and motorbikes!

However, the campaigns of Labour and the Pacific Party also swung into gear strongly in the last few weeks. Labour was particularly well-resourced, and being already ingrained in the culture would have made an impression on many voters. Old habits die hard, and if a voter was still undecided on polling day (due to heavy campaigns by three different parties) they may well have just ticked Labour because they always had.

Liberty Scott has questioned what Labour campaigners were actually telling people, as the fact that some believed their benefits would be cut if National got in certainly makes it sound like some Labour campaigners could have been spreading lies about National. If this is the case, this could have turned voters off not only National but any party hoping to go into coalition with them, such as ourselves.

Labour was also ringing people up on the morning of the election, and giving their supporters rides to the polling booth. We simply didn’t have the resources to do the same this year.

Many Mangere voters did not actually vote. Only around 20,000 voters turned out in the South Auckland electorates, as opposed to over 30,000 in most other electorates. There is a possibility that many people who were intending to vote for us when polled, did not end up actually voting. However more Labour supporters would have voted due to the free lifts to the polling booths. It is also possible that some people who were intending to vote for Jerry were picked up by Labour, which influenced them to vote Labour after all.

As a result of all these factors, and possibly others, Jerry’s support on polling day was nowhere near as high as he had polled, the election result really took us by surprise.

In future, when targeting South Auckland electorates, we will have to be very careful to address all these factors. We must ensure voters understand MMP, so they clearly understand they can vote for our candidate and still support Labour if they wish. We must ensure they have accurate information about policies, and keep an ear to the ground for what Labour campaigners are actually saying to the people (not just the official campaign material).

And we’ll probably need to hire a load of buses for election day!

EDIT:

There is a real possibility that our campaign helped to reduce Labour’s votes from Mangere. In 2005 Labour took 21,000 votes from Mangere, from a total turnout of 29,000. Although it wasn’t great for us, possibly our campaign resulted in many voters being confused who to vote for, as they may have been put off Labour but unconvinced whether they should vote for us, and therefore they stayed home. This year Labour only got 13,000 votes in Mangere. So although our campaign there didn’t get us in, it could well have dented Labour’s election performance considerably and so still helped to change the government.

MMP

There is a lot of debate at present about whether we should keep MMP or not. People are becoming rather disillusioned with it now, because it isn’t necessarily delivering the accurate representation of the country that it was supposed to.

The biggest problem with MMP, in my opinion, is the 5% threshold. This threshold results in much of the strategic voting, where people may vote for a party they don’t entirely agree with and not for one they do, to ensure their votes count.

If we had no threshold, we would have seen representation from:
1996: Christian Coalition, ALCP, United
1999: Christian Heritage, Future NZ, ALCP
2002: Christian Heritage, Outdoor Recreation NZ, Alliance

In actual fact the results would have been quite different, as if people were less scared of wasting their vote all these parties would likely have polled far higher, and others may have gained representation too. We would have seen far greater diversity in parliament, and the last decade may have been very different – especially with representation from the Christian Coalition, which may never have split into CH and FNZ if they got in, and from ALCP. In my opinion this diversity would have been a very good thing, and Parliament would represent the country far more accurately than it does at present, because people would be more inclined to vote for who they truly believed was right, rather than vote for the lesser evil.

Another problem is the fact that the current calculations mean you can end up with an overhang. If the extra seats gained by a party that had more electorate seats than its party vote would entitle it to were subtracted from the total number of seats in the same way that seats gained by independant candidates are, this problem would be solved and we wouldn’t be paying more MPs than we needed to.

I personally like MMP in theory, because it allows better representation of minority views, but only in proportion to their numbers – which is exactly how democracy should work. But the current system with a 5% threshold does not do this very well. It would also be far simpler to get rid of the 5% threshold than change the electoral system completely again (to say STV or SM) and confuse everyone even more, so I see no reason why we shouldn’t just ditch the threshold for a couple of elections and see how it goes, provided we have a referendum after two elections with it to see what the public think. Best to try the simple option first, before considering another major change to our electoral system little more than a decade after the last change.

Jeanette Fitzsimons and Referenda

I noted that when Jeanette Fitzsimons was asked if the Greens would honour the result of a referendum on MMP, she indicated that of course they would.

So I assume, to be consistent, she will also honour the will of the people next year when we have a referendum on the smacking law?

Fat chance of that, but you can always dream.