Poll: Electors yet to be won over by the merits of MMP

By Deborah Hill Cone
Published December 10th 2003 in The National Business Review
 National Business Review-Phillips Fox poll has found seven years on, people are still far from convinced about the virtues of mixed-member proportional voting system (MMP).

The public was evenly split when asked: "Now we have had experience of the MMP system and the first-past-the-post (FPP) system which do you prefer?"

Overall, 44% said they preferred MMP compared with 43% who favoured first past the post.

Thirteen per cent said they were unsure or did not support either electoral system.

Pollster UMR Research regularly asks this question and when it was asked earlier this year, in February, 40% of people said they backed MMP (four points down on the latest result) and 43% backed FPP, unchanged on this new poll.

Last year, backing for first past the post reached its highest level for three years when 53% of people said they preferred FPP compared with 36% who favoured MMP. There is a clear left-right split on the issue with right-leaning voters, including the conservative blue-collar contingent, strongly favouring first past the post.

Fifty four per cent of blue-collar workers say they favour FPP, 58% of National voters and 50% of people who earn more than $70,000.

Young people were more enthusiastic about MMP ­ 50% aged under 30 say they favour that system, and supporters of left-leaning parties also favour MMP, with 72% of Green supporters saying they back MMP.

Victoria University politics lecturer Jon Johansson said the NBR-Phillips Fox poll showed although the political elite believed MMP would continue into the future, the public remained uncertain.

"The underlying thing to me is that in the public's mind there is an implicit political contract over the electoral system ... I do not think the public has given MMP its final tick at all," Mr. Johansson said.

At election time, support for MMP increases as the public can use their votes and see the system at work, but in between elections voters are not convinced.

That is despite the Labour-led government commanding a clear majority and maintaining a stable coalition.

Mr. Johansson said he thought the public wanted to see a strong opposition and under the MMP system believe they are not getting it.

"The public think they are the final arbiter of the system. [They] are still saying we are split half-way about which direction," Mr. Johansson said.

The National Business Review-Phillips Fox poll

The UMR Research omnibus is a telephone survey of a nationally representative sample of 750 New Zealanders aged 18 or older. Fieldwork was conducted from November 7-12 at UMR Research's national interview facility in Auckland. The margin of error for a 50% figure at the "95% confidence level" is ±3.6%. If there are any inquiries about this poll, please contact UMR Research on 0-4-473 1061 (phone), 0-4-472 3501 (fax) or [email protected] (email).