Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Psychology

Predicting Party Vote Sentiment: Identifying the Demographic and Psychological Correlates of Party Preference in Two Large Datasets

Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Psychology

Predicting Party Vote Sentiment: Identifying the Demographic and Psychological Correlates of Party Preference in Two Large Datasets

Article excerpt

Across established democracies and across decades, sociological models of voter choice have shown that people with certain social or demographic characteristics are more likely to vote for different political parties. In New Zealand, the New Zealand Election Study (NZES) and a handful of smaller studies have provided reliable data from a national sample on demographics and vote choice for past elections (e.g., Aimer & Vowles, 2004; Coffe, 2013; Iusitini & Crothers, 2013; Park, 2006; Vowles, 1998, 2002a, 2014). Our aim here is to document not only the social and demographic variables, but also the psychological variables associated with voter sentiment1 by utilising two large, independent national probability samples. We seek to replicate past analyses with the advantage of two large datasets and to synchronise information on how demographic and psychological variables relate to voter preference in New Zealand into a single paper.

Firstly, we use data from a random-digit dialled survey conducted by research firm Colmar Brunton for Television New Zealand (N=7,830) in the run up to the 2014 General Election. These analyses show how the standard set of demographic variables collected through phone polling predict voter sentiment, and also provide validation for the second model which was collected via a postal-based survey. Due to the relative efficiency and quicker time frames of phone polling, mail surveys have not traditionally been used as a method to track voter sentiment on the lead up to an election (Sibley et al., 2017). As such, our first model provides a benchmark for the second set of analyses using a national probability mail survey, the New Zealand Attitudes and Values Study (NZAVS; N=10,581), collected from the end of 2013 through to the end of 2014. The NZAVS is a valuable data source as it includes not only the "standard set" of demographic variables, but also psychological variables which may help shed light on previously-unidentified correlates of voter preference in New Zealand. Thus, with this second set of analyses, we extend previous analyses by adding psychological variables, such as personality, Patriotism, and Nationalism. Additionally, the large size of the NZAVS (in terms of both sample size, and range of questions) allows us to explore differences in voter sentiment for groups that past studies have been unable to reliably examine due to small sample sizes. For example, differences in voter preferences across minority ethnic groups, and the previously unexamined attitudes of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual (LGB+) population.

Previous Research on Demographics and Voting

There have been many studies conducted both nationally and worldwide on how demographics relate to voting behaviour. However, the focus of this paper is on providing data, rather than providing an exhaustive review of how demographics may relate to vote choice. As such, we focus on recent research (since the introduction of the Mixed Member Proportional electoral system in 1996) from New Zealand. Such research largely uses the NZES, a study which provides researchers with a rich source of national data, and one that has led to many publications based on quantitative analyses (for an overview, see Vowles, 2000; New Zealand Election Study, n.d.), including prominent analyses of voter turnout (to cite just a few examples: Karp & Banducci, 1999; Karp & Brockington, 2005; Vowles, 2002b, 2010).

Research from the NZES has shown consistent demographic differences across a number of variables, including a gender gap in voting. Women have tended to vote for Labour over National since the 1993 election and have expressed significantly less support for NZ First (Coffe, 2013; Curtin, 2014; Vowles, 1998, 2002a, 2014). Research based on the NZES has also found reliable socioeconomic differences and differences in rurality/urbanicity between voters. National voters tend to be small business owners, self-employed, living in rural areas, and have a higher socio-economic status than other voters (Aimer & Vowles, 2004; Vowles, 1998, 2002a, 2014). …

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