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Students, professionals vote for sustainability

23 April 2006

Media Release

New poll: Students and professionals' votes most likely to shift to party tackling key sustainability issues

The country's students and professionals are among the biggest 'soft voter' groups who could sway the next election result, based on how parties policies tackle economic growth - while preserving New Zealand's quality of life.

A new nationwide poll conducted by UMR for the New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development and released today, shows 49% of students and 47% of professionals say they could change their minds on which party to vote for before the election. Clerks (44%) and service workers (41%) are not far behind.

Overall, 47% of voters have made a firm party vote choice – but another 39% say they may change their minds before the next election.

And 49% of voters with a current voting preference say they would be more likely to be attracted to a party which places an emphasis on preserving the New Zealand quality of life.

With a 1.5% difference only between Labour and National in the 2005 general election result, the poll indicates that the party or parties which can persuade the public they are the best custodians for the New Zealand quality of life have the potential to be in power for a long time, the Business Council says.

The poll shows New Zealand First and Greens support is the softest.

Among those who say they will currently vote Green 57% may change their mind. Among other party voters the possible vote switches are NZ First (48%); Labour (47%); National (37%).

NZ First is the most vulnerable to current supporters switching votes to a party placing more emphasis on preserving the New Zealand quality of life: Some 75% of those saying they would vote for NZ First there is a chance of changing their mind before the next election. For other parties it is Green (60%), Labour (57%) and National (49%).

The big issues which could drive vote switching include:

Fresh water supply (the four parties each have 12% of soft voters saying this could move their vote to a party which does more about this issue).

Energy supply: Among those who could change their voting preference National is most vulnerable on this issue (14% could change); followed by Labour, Green and NZ first (all 10%).

Waste reduction: Soft vote by party on this issue – Greens 21%; NZ First, National and Labour each 13%.

Population growth: Soft voters who could switch, by party – Green (12%); Labour 7%; National 6%; NZ First 0%.

Ageing of the population: Soft voter switch – National (9%); Greens 3%; Labour 2%, NZ First 0%.

Skill shortages: More than 17% of voters are very concerned by this issue. Soft voters by party: Green (18%); National (16%); Labour and NZ First (12%).

Business Council Chief Executive Peter Neilson says the new poll, conducted among a nationally representative sample of 750 people aged 18+ in the last week of March, was done to find out what political impact sustainable development policies could have.

It follows other qualitative and quantitative council research, conducted late last year and also released today, to determine what people understood about sustainable development and the related issues which matter most to them. This research also included a nationwide UMR poll of 750 people aged 18+.

The Business Council – a group of 51 companies whose $33 billion in annual sales equates to 28% of the country's gross domestic product – says its polling late last year showed 86% of New Zealanders understand sustainable development to be important because they want to look after the things that are good about our country and make sure they are there for future generations.

"There is widespread support for sustainable development when it's expressed as growing the economy and developing the country in away which balances growth, protects the environment while also exercising social responsibility."

When sustainable development was expressed in these terms 60% were interested in the concept, 36% very interested.

Mr Neilson says the research also has a message for business: Some 75% of respondents to the nationwide poll taken last year believe it is important for individual businesses to play a role in sustainable development.

The Business Council – whose 51 members include a wide cross section of sectors, including major telecommunications, banking, accounting, energy, motor vehicle, manufacturing and retail interests – says it wants political parties to understand the importance of sustainable development policies to the electorate.

It wants long-term multi-party agreements on policies affecting climate change, reducing green house gas emissions, securing the energy and water supplies, while improving social outcomes.

"Our research has exposed a major seam of genuine and deeply held concern among Kiwis to which says 'get on with growing the country in a way which protects our quality of life'. It may explain why tax cuts and similar policies don't win elections on their own. Kiwis have a far deeper respect for the environment – including the social environment - and enough are open to considering a vote for the party which best addresses sustainable development," Mr Neilson says.


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