If everyone voted…

Following on from my ponderings yesterday about the so-called ‘missing million’ voters that Labour seems to be relying on as its election strategy, David Farrar at Kiwiblog has gone back to a blog post from November last year by Andrew at Grumpollie – “If everyone got out to vote in 2011, what difference would it have made?”

The basic conclusion from Andrew is that if everyone who was enrolled to vote in 2011 had actually voted, National’s vote would have increased by 0.14% and Labour’s by 1.68%, while the Greens would have decreased by 1.04% and NZ First by 0.82%. Not much of a difference. Mr Farrar concludes, “So my take on this is that just inspiring a larger turnout won’t necessarily help Labour.”

In 2008 though, National’s vote would have decreased by 3.81% while Labour’s would have increased by 3.76%. The Greens would have increased by 0.58% and NZ First would have decreased by 0.09%. That is a significant difference.

Of course, the problem (which Andrew notes and accepts) is that the data being relied on (from the NZ Election Study) involves a very small sample size – just a few hundred. It’s pretty hard to extrapolate too far with such a small sample and the correspondingly large margin of error.

At Polity, Rob Salmond is unimpressed with their conclusion regarding the 2011 election:

Here is why I think they are both wrong:

1. 25.8% of people did not vote in the last election, but only 8.2% of the population admitted it in the survey Grumpollie was using. That’s a very big discrepancy.

2. There is a long-standing tradition to lying to pollsters about whether you voted. It is based on “social desirability bias.” And the people most susceptible to it, people who often do vote and are embarrassed that they did not in 2011, are also in my view among the most likely to have voted for Labour in 2008.

3. The analysis, and David Farrar’s conclusion, is based on the idea that Labour will go hunting for non voters randomly around the country, convincing non-voters in the bluest parts of Clutha-Southland to vote just as much as we do in Labour stronghold areas. We are a bit smarter than that.

This year, I expect Labour will put considerable effort into turning out people who we think like Labour but we think may not have voted in 2011. And National will do the same for people suspected gf being lapsed National supporters. Two parties: one task. The difference, which gives Labour an advantage, is that we are better at this task than National.

With respect to Mr Salmond, Andrew’s analysis and conclusion is based on the conceit that everyone will turn out to vote. And part of the conclusion reached is that the non-voters who have a party preference will be distributed largely in line with the voting preferences of those who did vote.

This obviously means that the “missing million” are not all from the political left, just waiting to be hustled along to the ballot box by Labour. Sure, the 2008 non-voter figures used by Andrew show that 52.27% of those who didn’t vote (and had a party preference) would have voted Labour and the left bloc grows to over 60% if you add the Greens figure of 9.55%. Nonetheless, the 2011 figures show almost 50% of the non-vote would have gone National’s way, with Labour picking up just 34.01% – a significant difference to 2008.

Mr Salmond’s point, of course, is that he thinks Labour will be better at getting out the pro-Labour non-vote than National will be at getting out the pro-National non-vote. And he’s correct that Mr Farrar’s conclusion would be wrong – if Labour increases the left wing turnout rate, while the right bloc’s turnout rate stays static, then of course increased turnout would benefit Labour.

But there’s still the problem for Labour that I pointed out yesterday – Labour shows no sign of picking up these “missing million” and making them want to vote for the party. There doesn’t seem to be any significant change between Labour of 2011 and Labour of 2014 that is capable of creating the excitement amongst the non-voters that will bring them back into the fold. And until that step-change occurs, any talk of Labour’s superior machine getting out the Labour-sympathetic non-vote is just that – only talk.

UPDATE:

Andrew from Grumpollie has his own eloquent critique of Mr Salmond’s post here, which is well worth reading.

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