Voters: If there is to be electoral reform – do it faster

Tuesday 10 August 2010, 7:26AM
By New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development

More than half of New Zealanders want any changes to the electoral system in place for the 2014 general election, not the 2017 one as currently planned.

According to a new nationwide ShapeNZ survey of 2,261 New Zealanders, if there is a vote to change the system when a referendum is held next year:

• 56% want a different system operating for the 2014 general election

• Only 18% want to wait until 2017 as currently proposed

• Only 36% feel well enough informed to choose between the current Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) system and alternatives to it. Nearly six out of 10 want more information, and

• More New Zealanders support than oppose extending the term of Parliament beyond its current three years.

The weighted ShapeNZ survey, conducted between July 20 and August 2, 2010, has a maximum margin of error of + or – 2.1% on the national sample.

Faster reform

Next year’s referendum, held at the same time as the general election, which will ask voters if they want to keep MMP or change to a different system. In a second question, voters will choose their most preferred different system from four options. If there is a vote for change a second referendum will be held in 2014 to choose between MMP and the most popular alternative option. The most supported option will then be introduced in time for the 2017 general election.

Staying with the 2017 implementation timetable, if there is a vote for change next year, is supported by just 18%. Some 56% want reform in place for 2014 while 25% don’t know.

By party vote at the 2008 election, there is more support than opposition for faster reform across all parties’ supporters except the Green Party. Faster reform is most popular among voters for Act (77%), National (72%), United Future (65%), Jim Anderton’s Progressives (58%) and NZ First (56%). Some 49% of Labour voters want faster reform, 47% of Maori party but only 34% of Green Party voters.

Support for longer Parliamentary term

• 40% of voters support a longer Parliamentary term while 33% oppose a longer term, 19% neither support nor oppose change, and 7% don’t know.

Extending the term of Parliament beyond its current three years is supported by ACT, Green and National voters and opposed by Maori Party, Labour, NZ First, United Future 2008 voters and undecided voters.

Poorly informed

The survey indicates a big demand for more information on reform options:

• Only 36% of people feel they are “very well informed” (12%) or informed enough (24%) to make a decision between MMP and alternative voting systems, and

• 59% of voters would like to be better informed to make a decision. Of these 41% believe they need to know more.

• Some 9% say they are poorly or not informed and don’t want to know more.

Commissioned by the New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development, part one of survey results, showing New Zealanders are likely to vote for an opportunity to change the way the country elects its Members of Parliament, are available here: http://www.nzbcsd.org.nz/story.asp?StoryID=1206

The Business Council does not have a policy view on MMP reform. It commissions ShapeNZ research to provide the public with an opportunity to contribute to policy making.