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Will Advance Voting Stimulate Non-Voters Into Action?

One of the great fears of all political parties is their supporters not turning out to vote with the left in particular needing to motivate younger apathetic supporters with some hoping advance voting might help achieve this.

It is common for Labour to credit its great victories and defeats on it success or otherwise in getting unmotivated supporters out on the day. Many Labour’s campaign strategists work hard in getting activists to “mobilise” the vote.

This has been the case particularly in South Auckland where mobilising the vote in 2005 was considered crucial. Likewise the less successful attempts since then have been credited as key factors in Labour’s decline.

While “Dirty Politics” does not so far seem to have severely dented National’s general popularity, it has greatly angered many on the left and this presumably will motivate the activists to get out the vote on Election Day.

The common perception Labour and the Greens are hit worse than National by their supporters – particularly amongst younger people - not voting is partly true. However analysis of Roy Morgan polling data by data company Qrious shows 36% of those between 18 and 24 not enrolled and enrolled but unlikely to vote indicated they preferred National. This is lower than National’s general support across other ages, but higher than many commonly believe. In comparison younger non-voters indicated 39% of them preferred Labour and 19% Greens.

An earlier story covering National’s support base showed a strong but declining support base amongst young voters, which is not the traditional view of National’s support base.

The pattern of support amongst non-voters is similar across other ages, though these groups are more likely to vote than younger people. In the 35 to 49 age group, 39% of non-voters said they preferred National.

Some in National have been suspicious of “getting out the vote” campaigns seeing them as targeted at left leaning non-voters. The Qrioius/Roya Morgan numbers show National could learn from enrolment campaigns and polling data to target National leaning non-voters and what might motivate them.

National was most notably hit by supporters not turning out in 2002, but many in the party fear the vote in 2008 and 2011 was lower than it could have been because many supporters thought the election was decided and there was no point.

If National continues to poll at high levels apathy amongst soft supporters will be a worry again for the party.

Likewise Labour and the Greens will be hanging on to the hope that they will be able to motivate their larger numbers of young non-voters into action.

One of the great differences in this campaign compared to the past is the much higher profile being given to advance voting. Currently this is running at almost three times the level of 2011 with candidates using early voting for photo opportunities and a heavy internet promotion campaign about advance voting options.

Advance voting is not new, but only since the 2011 election has it not required a statutory declared reason for not being able to vote on Election Day. For decades National has always hit the rest homes and hit them early, with many rest homes almost always advance voting even before the rules were loosened.

There is more than one story from the past of senior National ministers spending precious campaign hours in rest homes to find out at the end the residents had already voted.

An increase in advance voting does indicate many people have made up their mind and believe nothing will happen in the coming days to sway their vote. It also makes electoral rules around no advertising and other things on Election Day a bit antiquated.

Advance voting may potentially lift voting rates amongst the apathetic especially in those areas (mainly urban) where it is easy to walk past an advance voting booth and pop in. On the other hand it may just mean motivated and decided voters find advance voting more convenient and little can be done in the remaining days to stimulate non-voters to vote.

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