In the Centre of Things
In the Centre of Things
Commentary by Peter Dunne
There is an enduring myth that United Future was the chief beneficiary of National’s disastrous election result in 2002.
As a consequence, it is assumed that any resurgence in support for National at this year’s election will hurt United Future the most.
However, a survey carried out by Victoria University in the week leading up to election day 2002 found that of those intending to vote for United Future, 24% were former Labour supporters, and 30% came from National.
Reinforcing this view that United Future won votes from across the political spectrum, the post-election survey carried out by the New Zealand Election Study (NZES) based at Auckland University found that of those who voted for United Future on election day, 29% had switched from Labour and 36% from National.
New Zealand First, on the other hand, took most of its votes from Labour (28%).
The way in which people split their votes tells a similar story. According to official statistics, of those who gave United Future their party vote, 33% also cast a vote for a United Future electorate candidate, but another 22% voted for a Labour candidate and 30% for a National candidate.
Following the 2002 election, some National MPs bitterly attacked United Future in the House, blaming us for stealing their votes.
But the survey research from the NZES suggests that National had bled in many directions. National only retained half of the support that it had at the outset of the campaign, losing 7% to United Future, 6% to Labour, 6% to New Zealand First, 5% to ACT, but another one-fifth was lost to non-voting.
The support that came to United Future from both National and Labour supports our claim that we are the true centre party on the New Zealand political landscape.
Another finding from the NZES underlines this point. They asked voters to place each party on a ten-point ideological scale, from left to right. Of all of the parties, United Future was on average placed closest to the centre-point.
When asked to position their own views on the same scale, the single most popular choice was dead in the centre.
Clearly, many people want their government to hug the centre-line, and not veer off to the left or the right. United Future is just the party to make sure of that.