Friday, April 27, 2012

Why we don't vote

Last election saw the worst ever voter turnout, at a mere 73.8% of enrolled voters. No matter how you look at it, this is a failure of our democracy, so the Electoral Commission has been looking into it as part of their usual post-election voting process survey:

The survey showed that the reasons for not voting were similar to the 2008 election. Non-voters said they had other commitments (14 percent), work (9 percent), could not be bothered (14 percent), could not decide who to vote for (11 percent), or felt their vote would not make a difference (8 percent).

The biggest influence on New Zealanders who did not vote was a distrust of politicians. A third of all non-voters said this was their reason for failing to turn up on election day.

A large proportion of non-voters cited the polls predicting the National Party's victory, and decided the election was a foregone conclusion. The percentage of non-voters who said this was a factor was far higher in 2011 than in 2008.

Two-thirds [see below - I/S] of non-voters said they were unaware of the option to vote in advance, and would have voted if they had known about it.

With the relaxation of the rules around advance voting, there's pretty obviously something the Electoral Commission can do about the latter. And they could also do more to highlight the law which gives employees paid time off to vote. As for the political side of things - making people feel that their vote makes a difference, giving people something to vote for rather than just a general feeling of resigned disgust at the whole show - that's really up to politicians.

Radio New Zealand's Insight will be discussing the survey on Sunday morning. It might be worth listening to or downloading.

Correction: I've just been notified that the Herald messed up, and got the proportion of non-voters who knew about advance voting round the wrong way. Two-thirds knew, and one-third did not. Thanks to the Electoral Commission for the correction.