Dec 27, 2007

Are The Greens Really Being Squeezed By Both National And Labour?

Kiwiblog yesterday carried a list from NZPA of the top 10 political stories/themes carried by the Association. One of these listed was on the squeeze that we and others have reported on, with Labour and National both seeking and succeeding to take votes from the Greens. A couple of the people who commented on Kiwiblog have questioned whether the Greens and National do compete. As this is a topic on which we have done some work we thought we could add a useful contribution to this debate.

The problem for the Greens (and they are far from unique in this) is that they are an amalgam of interest groups. The Green title suggests a strong concern for the environment. Jeanette Fitzsimons would be the standard bearer for this faction Then you have the far left economic thinkers - Rod Donald and now the new co-leader Russel Norman represent this group. You have the dope smoking lobby - Nador. And there are other groups - Sue Kedgley for example, is a food safety campaigner.

In the same way that the Party represents different interests people vote Green for different reasons. Greens do well at the young end because they are seen as anti-establishment. You have the committed young environment activists, the young communists etc all voting for them. You have the hippy types who never grew up - the type of demographic who never really grew up and still live in the Coromandel, Nelson/Golden Bay etc. And you also have the wealthy but environmentally concerned residents of the major cities - the types who were in the first wave of people putting their names down for hybrid Lexus SUVs. These people often vote Green too.

The demographic in Wellington Central for the average Green voter there is almost identical to the average National voter. (One recent poll by a business group of their members put support for Green in Wellington at double figures, not that much behind Labour.) If there is going to be a switch from one party to another, these voters are toying up between Green and National rather than even considering giving Labour a vote. This group of Oriental Bay apartment dwelling Greens is the first group to feel the squeeze. These people are not communists (not anymore anyway). They are Green out of concern for the planet. They feel deeply uncomfortable with the Green economic agenda, and they don't much like Labour's agenda either - look at the rebellion going on right now inside the Business Council for Sustainable Development over attempts to hijack the agenda Labour's way). If National is prepared to support the Kyoto process (was it not National that signed up in the first place??) and do something domestically then these people will seriously consider a vote for National in 2008. These people are also serious enough about this subject to realise that Labour is being opportunist on the climate change issue. It took over 6 years for them to act, and they are acting now only because many MPs face political oblivion. If you doubt this analysis go shopping at Commonsense Organics (Wakefield Street not Kilbirnie) and look who is also there.

The second group being squeezed is at the young end. The 18 year olds who voted Green last time around are finishing off their studies now or starting work at Treasury, MED, MFAT, Bell Gully, Chapman Tripp etc. The world is a more complex place in their eyes than it was three years ago. The conversation at Astoria, Arabica, and Trade Cafe is of a totally different nature to that at the Student Union or out in the Quad. Unless they are employees of NZAID, these people are not going to vote Green this time around. Is it to be National or Labour?

A final group experiencing the squeeze if the "green"business person out in the provinces. The organic farmer, retailer, exporter, tourism operator. They have been known to vote Green out of concern for the environment, but are seriously angry at what Green has actually delivered - $2 million in organic farming research across the entire country - what a joke! They seem to be thinking National this time around.