One Man Poll: Youth following trend to National

By Simon Collins

Herald reporter Simon Collins has been on the road for three weeks conducting a one-man poll. From Cape Reinga to Fiordland, he questioned 600 New Zealanders, face-to-face on the streets.

Read his reports in the Herald and on nzherald.co.nz, and check out our photo galleries showing what ordinary people are saying ahead of the election.

When 18-year-old James McLaren casts his first vote on November 8, he will be voting for a Government that is not afraid to offend people.

"The current Government is too concerned with being politically correct," he says "It is too afraid to step up and make a real difference that offends people.

"I feel National will be able to do things, even if it does offend people. For example, at the moment [Labour] is pretty much taxing everything that decent rich people have and giving it all to poor people."

The pupils of Bethlehem College in Tauranga, where James is a final-year student, are hardly typical of New Zealand's youth. Parents of secondary students pay almost $4000 a year for its Christian-based education.

But in this survey of 600 voters from Cape Reinga to Fiordland, the 104 people under 30 who have made up their minds are almost as pro-National as the country as a whole - 42 per cent National against 37 per cent Labour, compared with 44 per cent and 35 per cent in the full survey.

Like older age groups, young voters' main worries are living costs - in their case, housing and children - and crime. Not surprisingly, they are also concerned about educational issues.

The survey went to Bethlehem College because a year 13 student there, Luke Craven, helped found a national voice for youth, Youth Organised and United (YOU), after attending a Youth Parliament in Wellington in May.

Although he was nominated by former Tauranga MP Winston Peters, he is leaning towards supporting Mr Peters' chief tormentor, the Act Party.

"National is moving more towards what Labour is now, advertising itself as a change from Labour but not a significant change," he says.

"Act advocates lowering GST to 10 per cent and a higher threshold for the upper tax bracket."

Luke, James and classmates Hriday Shah, Julia Simons and Karl Wilshier all say education is being "dumbed down" under the National Certificate of Educational Achievement.

"It's just too easy to pass. They are lowering the standards," says James.

Julia adds: "Universities are ridiculously overpriced and too easy to get into. They take way too many people."

Elsewhere, Massey University sports and marketing student Andrew Hansen, 22, complains he is "having to borrow for living costs to study, whereas people on the dole can just get an allowance".

Canterbury politics student Lydia Boyd says: "People on a benefit get more than people who are doing something with their lives and going to university."

Labour is still getting some support because of its 2005 decision to abolish interest on student loans for graduates who stay in New Zealand.

Megan, 22, a recent graduate who works on a Christchurch foreign exchange counter, says: "What matters most to me is the student loans becoming interest-free. I don't trust National."

Christchurch student Zoe Burr, 19, is voting Labour because she has heard Helen Clark plans to pay the student allowance to all students regardless of parental income.

Tertiary Education Minister Pete Hodgson said in July that such a move would cost $728 million a year, but Labour's policy was to relax the income test "progressively" rather than abolish it immediately.

But others give Labour no credit. Palmerston North animation student K. Meha, 23, has lived away from home for seven years, and feels offended that he still misses out on a student allowance because of his parents' income.

"I've come from full-time working to being a student and it's hard as."

Some young voters have bought houses, but others can't see how they will ever fulfil the New Zealand dream of having a house and a family.

"Buying a house used to cost twice your yearly wage. Now it's 10 times," say Taupo couple Tammy Browne, 20, a sales assistant, and Steven Nordstrom, 21, who operates a forklift.

Ioane, a control technician on a block course at the Manukau Institute of Technology, says: "It's like the generation above us just screwed us, because they're getting multiple properties, and multiple properties are not taxed in New Zealand."

Soldier Michael Woodfield, 30, and his wife, Faith, 29, a factory worker, have bought a house in Palmerston North but now can't afford to have children.

"If we were to go on to one wage and start a family we'd be struggling," says Faith.

Says Michael: "Starting a family is not an option."

Southland farm contractor Callum Stalker, 24, says even young farming couples need one partner working off the farm to pay the bills.

"That's why a lot of people are having kids later in life. They can't afford to have them," he says.

Only one thing counts in Labour's favour when it comes to living costs: KiwiSaver. Takanini hairdressing student Renee Mills, 18, has joined the scheme and is voting Labour because she suspects John Key will axe its tax-funded subsidies or worse.

"If we're not going to get all of our money it will piss off heaps of people."

Mr Key promised in May to keep compulsory employer contributions to KiwiSaver at "pretty similar levels" to the current rates of 1 per cent of an employee's wages, rising to 4 per cent by 2011.

National has not yet announced its policy on the Government subsidy of up to $20 a week.

How the survey works:

This article, and others to follow this week, are based on 600 interviews from Cape Reinga to Fiordland, mainly in the streets, between September 2 and 21.

Everyone was shown a card saying, "On the things that matter most, I'd rate the current state of New Zealand as: 7/Excellent, 6/Very good, 5/Good, 4/Okay, 3/Poor, 2/Very poor, 1/Awful." People were then asked to explain why they made their choice.

They were also shown the reverse of the card, listing all 20 parties registered with the Electoral Commission as at September 2. They were asked which party they were thinking of giving their party vote to, and why.

Interviews in Auckland (32 per cent), the rest of the North Island (41 per cent) and the South Island (27 per cent) reflected the voting populations in those regions.

Women made up 51 per cent and men 49 per cent.

Europeans made up 72 per cent of the sample, Maori 14 per cent, Asians 7 per cent, Pacific people 6 per cent and others 1 per cent, all within 1 per cent of their numbers in the population.

The sample had the correct share of young voters under 30 (21 per cent). There were slightly too many people aged 30 to 49 (42 per cent, against 40 per cent in the voting-aged population), and slightly too few aged 50-plus (37 per cent against 39 per cent).

- NZ Herald

Your views

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf03 at 18 Dec 2014 23:15:40 Processing Time: 392ms