Wanted: A plan for real change

Dr Oliver Hartwich
Insights Newsletter
16 September, 2022

After driving through rough terrain for a long time, you finally realise you have been going in the wrong direction all along.

So, what will you do: speed up, slow down, or turn around?

The answer should be obvious. Going faster in the wrong direction would only make matters worse. Slowing down will not help, either. The only way to get to where you want to go is to change course.

What appears logical in this analogy, however, is not how voters think.

This week, Roy Morgan released its new poll. 

One finding stood out: The number of New Zealanders who believe the country is heading in the wrong direction has never been so high.

53% of New Zealanders said New Zealand is heading in the “wrong direction”. Only 37.5% believe the country is going in the “right direction”.

With a difference between the two of -15.5%, this is the lowest confidence rating on record.

But if a majority of New Zealanders believe the direction is wrong, does that mean they are willing to change course?

Not necessarily. According to the same poll, a coalition of Labour, Greens and the Māori Party would have a parliamentary majority.

Arguably, such a Labour-led coalition would go in the same direction as the current majority Government, but faster.

Voters are complicated. On the one hand, they say they are unhappy with the direction. On the other, they want more of the same.

Still, there is a way to make sense of this poll.

Despite their unhappiness with the Government, voters do not know if the alternative would be any better. 

The opposition will point out the flaws in the Government’s navigation. They will tell voters the wheels are about to fall off and the tank is empty.

But what voters actually want is something different. They want to see a proposal to repair the car –  and a cost estimate. 

They also want to see a new destination. Lastly, they want to know the alternative driver is competent.

It is one thing to realise things are not going the way we like. It is another to pass on the command to someone else.

The poll shows the opposition still needs to convince voters it is ready.

However, it also shows voters are looking for a credible plan for real change.

Whoever produces the better roadmap will win next year’s election.

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