27 Sep 2023

Election campaign leaves some still wondering who to vote for

From Checkpoint, 5:54 pm on 27 September 2023

Those aged 25 to 34 are the worst offenders when it comes to voter apathy, and a quarter did not vote last election - the worst voter turnout of all age groups. 

Early enrolment figures this election show 85 percent of 25- to 29-year-olds, and 86 percent of 30- to 34-year-olds, are enrolled to vote.

But the Electoral Commission's figures from the 2020 election showed just over a quarter did not actually cast their vote in the ballot box. 

With less than three weeks till election day, Checkpoint went to ask people in that age group if they would be voting this year, and whether they had decided who will be getting their two ticks yet. 

In Māngere, 41 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds did not vote in the last election. 

"At this point I'm not really sure I'm not really fussed who's going to win," said one woman. 

Asked if they usually voted, one man said he was not even sure who was in the running to vote for. 

In East Auckland's Botany, 33 percent of 25- to 29-year-olds did not vote in the last election, and neither did 38 percent of 30- to 34-year-olds. 

"It's just not something I've ever been like, taught how to do or pushed to do in my life," said one local resident. They were not planning on voting in this election either. 

One man said he did not usually vote but this year he would: "I'm really fed up this time." 

To the west in Kelston, 29 percent of 20- to 25-year-olds did not vote in the last election, and 26 percent of 30- to 34-year-olds also did not. 

One woman said she was confused and overwhelmed: "No idea actually, yeah, I am struggling with it this year - I think they're all much the same." 

Christopher Luxon and Chris Hipkins

Christopher Luxon and Chris Hipkins. Photo: RNZ

Another local resident said she did not usually vote: "I just haven't had time to educate myself, I guess, on the politics." 

On the North Shore in Takapuna, voter turnout was higher - 25 percent of 30- to 34-year-olds did not vote in 2020 and 21 percent of 25- to 29-year-olds. 

Many people told RNZ they were planning on voting, but some had not made their mind up yet. 

"Not yet no, it's really complicated this election," said one woman. 

Another local resident said they did not see the point in voting: "Because, like everything's gonna stay the same and I still got my job." 

Joshua James, politics teaching fellow at the University of Otago, said social pressure had a huge influence on voting - so if young voters' friends were not interested, they would not be either. 

He said in general they would also be paid less than older voters, which created a socio-economic divide. 

"If people are more worried about, you know, earning wages than voting, then they're gonna go out and work instead of voting." 

Higher-decile schools were also more likely to incorporate civics education.   

"So there's this real kind of close relationship to political education and how you view your role in the political system."

2020 was a standout year for 18- to 24-year-olds - 78 percent of them voted, which put a stop to a 15-year decline. James said this would bump up the next age group of 25- to 29-year-olds. 

He said social media coverage of recent polls could also have an effect on turnout. 

"If I was an under-39 National-inclined voter and I saw that, I might think actually I don't need to go out and vote because my one vote won't make the difference because my team is already going to win." 

This is the second year people can enrol and vote on election day, so it will be hard to tell if voter apathy has improved until all the special votes are counted.