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Public cynical – voter turnout must be in doubt

Public cynical of politics – voter turnout must be in doubt

Leaders have to be prepared to get into bed with coalition partners

Just how many voters will exercise their democratic right come election day and vote is in doubt with the New Zealand Study of Values showing a general lack of confidence in government and politics.

The Values Study co-author by Dr Paul Perry, a Senior Lecturer in Massey University’s School of Sociology and Women’s Studies, and emeritus Professor of Education Alan Webster. Dr Perry says there is a high level of dissatisfaction with the way the country’s affairs are being handled.

The New Zealand Study of Values surveyed over 1200 adult New Zealanders in 1998 asking a range of questions about family, community, work, politics, the government, religion and national identity. The first report from the Survey titled New Zealand Politics at the Turn of the Millennium has just been released.

Dr Perry says New Zealanders have a very cynical view about the amount of influence they can have on politics and government. A net 62% agreed the average person can get nowhere by talking to public officials, or 85% agree the public has little control over what politicians do once in office.

The degree of confidence in government is also low. Only 16% have a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in the government, down from 49% in 1985. The level of confidence in political parties is even lower at 6%.

Again a resoundingly critical view of government is recorded when people were asked for whos benefit is the country being run. A net 70% of respondents said the country was run by a few big interests looking out for themselves, up from 54% in 1989. Fewer than one in five thought that it was being run for the benefit of all the people, down from 38% in 1989.

“It seems clear that the events of the past decade have done nothing to increase people’s faith in the representativeness of government,” says Dr Perry. “Overseas experience suggests growing levels of disatisfaction can prompt voter turnout. However, as people loose faith in the system voter turnout drops.”

Dr Perry says one significant finding of the Values Study was that around 65% of those questioned prefered a political party leader willing to cooperate with others, even if it means compromising important beliefs, compared to 28% that prefer a firm party leader.
Contact: Dr Paul Perry
Senior Lecturer School of Sociology and Women’s Studies
Ph: (06) 350-5799 ext. 2622 (work)
Email: P.E.Perry@massey.ac.nz

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