1. Yes, low voter turnout favours the right-wing parties.
2. If everyone had voted, the result would have been much closer: the Labour Party may have been able to form a government.
It turns out that National would not have won a majority; they would have needed all of their coalition
lackeys partners to form a government. Here’s the breakdown of seats actually won, and seats that would have been won if everybody voted.
|Party||Actual seats||With full turnout|
|NZ First Party||11||9|
With this result, it becomes possible for a centre-left coalition (Labour with the Greens, NZ First and the Māori Party) to achieve a one-seat majority. That would be a pretty shaky government, to be sure, but it shows what a difference the non-voters can make.
And this result isn’t final; there’s a significant chance that the final count will reduce National’s count by one and increase the Greens’ by one, which could have yielded a three-seat majority for the centre-left. This shows that voting really does make a difference — and so does not voting.
How did I calculate this? It all came from an article misleadingly called Busting Myths About Non-Voters, by the Election Data Consortium, which seems to be basically the pollster Roy Morgan Research. They give a sketchy graph on the site, mostly made up of pretty colours with only a few actual numbers, that showed the voting preferences of people who said they were not planning to vote. I extracted the numbers from the graph using my trusty ruler and Mathematics, and came up with the following. This table, like the graph, includes Internet Mana and the Conservative Party, even though these won no seats in Parliament.
Party preferences of non-voters
Of people who said they did not plan to vote, this table shows the proportion who would have voted for each party, if they had voted.
|NZ First Party||3.1|
So non-voters were almost as likely to be Labour supporters than National, even though actual National voters outnumbered Labour two to one. So Labour were much more poorly served by their non-voting “supporters” than National were. I applied these percentages to the number of people who actually failed to vote (716,949 according to the Electoral Commission’s website) to show the proportion of each party’s supporters that failed to vote:
Proportion of party supporters who didn’t vote
|New Zealand First Party||186,031||22,000||208,031||11%|
|ACT New Zealand||14,510||5,177||19,687||26%|
It seems strange that the “Busting Myths About Non-Voters” page says that the “common perception that centre-left parties like Labour and the Greens are hit much harder than National when their supporters do not turn up to vote does not hold up”, when their data clearly show that it does — Labour’s 31% no-show rate is half again as bad as National’s 21%, and the Greens’ is even worse.
As I mentioned, the survey data was on people’s pre-election intentions. To be more accurate, it would be interesting to use data from a post-election survey of people who actually didn’t vote. It might not change the results, but we could be more confident of their accuracy.
So if you’ve read this far, you probably already know this, but I’ll say it anyway: Vote whenever you have the chance.