If only Kiwis could vote for president
In field 31 Mar 2016 to 6 Apr 2016
Apr
19
2016

There has been some debate among New Zealand political commentators about whether a candidate like Donald Trump could emerge in New Zealand. The underlying circumstances are sufficiently different to make this unlikely, at least in the next few years. New Zealand has not been as badly scarred by the global financial crisis as the United States. A decisive majority of New Zealanders have believed the country is heading in the right direction for almost all of John Key's term as Prime Minister.

The opposite applies for Obama - despite improving economic numbers Americans have remained seriously negative about the direction the country has been traveling in since 2008.

New Zealanders are understandably not as frightened by terrorism or as agitated by immigration. MMP arguably acts as a political safety valve in New Zealand. It seems unlikely that Trump's brash, blustery style and frequent declarations that he is "very rich" would work well with New Zealand voters.

There are some similarities, though. Both countries have considerable income inequality and disquiet about that inequality. It is also increasingly difficult for people on lower to middle incomes to make the kind of economic progress they are expecting to in their lives.

There have also been some polling surges by New Zealand minor parties in the past 20 years. The Alliance got to 35 per cent in an August 1994 UMR survey. New Zealand First peaked at 30 per cent in polls between April and June 1996. Even Act got to 12 per cent following a strong performance in the Taranaki-King Country byelection in mid 1998.

What is clear is that New Zealanders would much prefer a Democrat won this year's contest in the US. Given a hypothetical vote in the US presidential election in a UMR survey in early April, 82 per cent would go for Hillary Clinton and only 9 per cent for Donald Trump.

Even among National voters, 82 per cent plumped for Clinton and 11 per cent for Trump.

Among women, 87 per cent go for Clinton and a mere 4 per cent for Trump.

If the choice was between Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, New Zealanders would decisively elect the socialist senator from Vermont. He wins by 77 per cent to 8 per cent and even National voters prefer the avowed socialist by 76 per cent to 13 per cent.

New Zealanders are not too keen on Ted Cruz either. In a contest between Cruz and Clinton 72 per cent prefer Clinton and 14 per cent Cruz. If between Sanders and Cruz, Sanders wins 48-19 per cent, though 33 per cent are unsure of their vote facing this lower-profile match up. National voters veer a little right on this head-to-head but still prefer the socialist Sanders over Cruz by 39-28 per cent.

New Zealanders, like the Republican establishment, would much prefer Cruz over Trump. If New Zealanders had a vote in the Republican primaries 66 per cent would go for Ted Cruz and 11 per cent for Donald Trump.

We prefer Hillary Clinton to Bernie Sanders as well. Given that choice 55 per cent of New Zealanders go for Clinton and 25 per cent for Sanders.

In an almost exact parallel to United States demographic breakdowns, younger New Zealanders were much more likely to go for Sanders. Among under 30-year-olds 39 per cent preferred Sanders and 34 per cent Clinton. Clinton had big leads among older age cohorts.

Care is needed with the smaller sub sample but Green voters were also Sanders supporters, preferring him by 52-29 per cent over Clinton.

Labour voters broke for the more centrist candidate preferring Clinton by a 61-24 per cent margin over Sanders.

Sanders has had a string of primary wins over Clinton in recent weeks but has made up only a little ground among New Zealanders. An earlier UMR poll in January had Clinton ahead of Sanders as the preferred Democrat candidate by 59-18 per cent.

UMR Research has undertaken similar polling in previous US presidential elections. There has always been strong preference for the Democrat candidate but Donald Trump is hitting record lows.

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