1 Nov 2017

Youth voter turnout gets a big bump

3:36 pm on 1 November 2017

But 25 to 29 year-olds still behind all other age groups.



Argentina, Brazil and Scotland all have a voting age of 16.

Argentina, Brazil and Scotland all have a voting age of 16. Photo: 123RF

Voter turnout for this year's General Election is up across all ages, led by a big increase in the turnout among younger voters.

According to Electoral Commission data released today, 79.8 percent of people on the electoral roll voted - the highest turnout since 2005, when it was 80.9 percent. 

Young voters - those aged between 18 and 24 - saw the biggest increase since 2014, up 6.5 percentage points to 69.3 percent.

And the second biggest increase was among 25 to 29-year-olds, at 5.5 percentage points, though the group remains the least likely to vote, with a turnout of 67.6 percent.

Voter turnout for those aged between 30 and 70+ ranges from 70.9 percent to 86.3 percent.


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Photo: Data: Electoral Commission

Among voters registered in Māori electorates, 61.84 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds voted (compared with 71.38 percent of non-Māori) and 61.64 percent 25 to 29-year-olds voted (compared with 69.10 percent of non-Māori voters).

Māori voter turnout increased by 3.5 percentage points across both the Māori and general rolls this year - from 67.6 percent in 2014 to 71.1 percent in 2017.

Laura O’Connell Rapira, co-founder of Rock Enrol - an organisation dedicated to informing youth about the political process - said she was ecstatic about the increase in voter turnout among young people. 

“Our internal goal was to see an increase of 5 percent in the 18 to 29 year old demographic, and that has been achieved.” 

But she said that voter turnout going up and down for younger people was “still not a comprehensive long term cross party strategy” to ensure that New Zealand’s democracy was flourishing and protected so that all young people participate. 

“This is not the end game.” 

Voter turnout in 2014 and 2017

Voter turnout in 2014 and 2017 Photo: Source: Electoral Commission

O’Connell Rapira thought there were several different factors leading to the increase in young voters - one being Jacinda Ardern. 

“She definitely would have played a major part - she was explicitly making the appeal to younger people by running with the message of generational change and also by virtue of the fact that she falls into the millennial category - at the higher end.” 

O’Connell Rapira said Rock Enrol had noted a strong desire among young people to see the type of politics that was more about values and less adversarial. 

“You saw [Ardern] embodying that type of politics - like when she said to Bill [English during a televised debate] ‘We just look like a couple of politicians bickering’.”

O’Connell Rapira said another reason for the increase was because polling showed the election results were likely to be close. 

“We know from research that when the results are close and people feel like their vote will make a difference, they’re more likely to turn out.” 

She said the Rock Enrol campaign saw was a higher level of engagement than in 2014 - with a Facebook reach of up to 400,000 people a day at the campaign’s peak. 

For Māori voters, she said it was good to see numbers up - despite them remaining lower than for non-Māori.

“We can say the FFS Vote effort was a good one… But research shows that one of the main reasons that Māori don’t vote in higher numbers than Pākehā, is because of historical distrust towards the Crown because of our colonial history.”

O’Connell Rapira said the negative impacts of colonisation on Māori would take a long time to untangle. 

“But I am hopeful that having a large number of Māori MPs in Government now, and in good positions in Government, will go some way towards building that trust again.”