Street shows swing voters

By Nicola Shepheard

Eight months after polling one of the country's most typical bellwether electorates, the Herald on Sunday visited a street in that seat to test the winds in the face of the upcoming election. We chose Nutsey Ave in the Auckland suburb of Northcote because it's a typical street in a politically revealing electorate.

Revisiting some of the residents last week, Nicola Shepheard asked what would swing their votes, what issues they were most concerned about and their views on Winston Peters following the New Zealand First donation debacle.

Nutsey Ave is a sloping, quiet, mid-market cul-de-sac in Northcote on Auckland's North Shore. As a bellwether seat, Northcote's composition, volatility and voting patterns closely mirror national trends.

Extending to the north and west of the Auckland Harbour Bridge, it spans the economic spectrum, from moneyed Birkenhead South to low-income Tuff Crater.

In recent years, Northcote has belonged to National (National's Jonathan Coleman holds the seat) and to Labour. It needs only a small swing to change hands again.

What could propel that swing? When we polled Northcote earlier this year we found tax cuts or high taxes would be a vote-clinching issue for almost one in five people (18.9 per cent).

Health matters weighed heaviest for 14.9 per cent and the economy for 9.4 per cent.

A vivid gender split showed: Labour's support was heavily female at 71 per cent, while National's base had a masculine skew, with more than four male supporters for every three women.

Across the sample of 402, men were markedly more likely to favour John Key as prime minister (67 per cent) and women to favour Helen Clark (59 per cent).

The latest poll has National ahead but its lead narrowed last month. A New Zealand Morgan poll out yesterday put National at 44.5 per cent support and Labour at 38 per cent.

The Greens, on 8 per cent, were the only minor party above the 5 per cent threshold.

But what influences the figures and what issues will decide the election?

If Nutsey Ave reflects the nation's political soul, we're singing a chorus of National and change agendas.

Tax cuts and social services remain deciding issues.

There is cynicism about politicking and mudslinging and a tension between self-interest and wider concerns.

We'll return to the avenue next month and again on election night.

- Herald on Sunday

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