I don’t expect everyone to share my political views and respect others who have the courage of their convictions, whether or not they agree with mine.
What frustrates me is people who vote without understanding what they’re doing.
It’s a frustration shared by Paul Henry:
. . . “The problem with the democracy is that everyone’s vote counts the same as everyone else. I think it is diabolical that someone who doesn’t give a shit about politics, has no interest in it, doesn’t care, can go into the polling booth and nullify my vote through their own pig-ignorant stupidity,” he said.
If Henry ran the country (his 1999 foray into politics for the National Party in Wairarapa left him unelected) there would be a test at the beginning of the ballot paper to determine a voter’s intellectual capability to participate in democracy. A three-question, multi-choice quiz to establish a minimum knowledge of the system.
“And if you can’t get those three questions right, there is no way you can make an even vaguely intelligent independent decision on who should form the next government. It would be nice if people could upskill,” he said. . . .
I’ve often said that people should have a comprehension test before they’re allowed to vote – but only tongue in cheek.
If you’re free to vote you’re free to vote in ignorance or to not vote at all.
But could – and should – more be done to ensure people are better informed and engaged so that they can vote more intelligently?
I don’t know of any data on why people vote the way they do but Statistics NZ has found that the most common reason for not voting at all was they didn’t get round to it, forgot or weren’t interested.
Non-voters in 2008 and 2011 general elections: Findings from New Zealand General Social Survey shows 21 percent of people who didn’t vote in the 2011 General Election ‘didn’t get round to it, forgot or weren’t interested’.
A further 7 percent didn’t vote because they felt their vote wouldn’t make a difference. It’s interesting to see that this group has nearly doubled since the 2008 General Election, according to NZGSS manager, Philip Walker.
Age, income, and migrant status also made a difference to voting behaviour. Younger people were less likely to vote – 42 percent of people aged between 18–24 years said they didn’t vote in the 2011 General Election.
“People who feel they don’t have enough money to meet their daily needs are also less likely to vote,” Mr Walker said.
Whether people are migrants, and how long they have been in New Zealand also made a difference to their voting behaviour. Recent migrants had low voting rates, while migrants who had been in New Zealand for longer periods had very similar voting behaviour as people born in New Zealand.
The report is welcomed by the Electoral Commission, which is concerned about New Zealand’s declining voter participation.
“Declining voter engagement in our Parliamentary democracy is a problem that affects all of us and it will take a national effort to turn this worrying trend around,” Robert Peden, Chief Electoral Officer, said. “This research will further increase understanding of the problem, which is a necessary step in finding solutions.”
It’s not just a matter of quantity but quality.
We should be concerned not just about how many people vote but that they do so in an informed manner with a good understanding of what they’re doing.
I am sure one of the reasons people are disenchanted by politics and politicians is that they don’t understand them.