Jack Vowles

Jack Vowles is Professor of Comparative Politics at Victoria University of Wellington, is a Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand and has led the New Zealand Election Study since 1996. His most recent book is Democracy Under Siege? Parties, Voters, and Elections After the Great Recession (OUP, 2020), co‑authored with Timothy Hellwig and Yesola Kweon.

orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0002-1954-7466

A Populist Exception? »

The 2017 New Zealand General Election

Publication date: 2020
The ‘spectre of populism’ might be an apt description for what is happening in different parts of the world, but does it apply to New Zealand? Immediately after New Zealand’s 2017 general election, populist party New Zealand First gained a pivotal role in a coalition with the Labour Party, leading some international observers to suggest it represented a populist capture of the government. The leader of New Zealand First, Winston Peters, justified his support for Labour as necessary to allow capitalism to ‘regain … its human face’. The new prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, spoke of a kinder, inclusive politics. This book draws on the 2017 New Zealand Election Study to uncover New Zealanders’ political attitudes and preferences post-election. Its authors ask: is New Zealand now A Populist Exception? Through detailed empirical analyses of how populism and authoritarianism affected vote choice, opinions about immigration, satisfaction with democracy and the relevance of gender and indigeneity to these issues, this book finds that New Zealand politics today does not reflect the international trend toward ideological polarisation and electoral volatility. The authors argue that inclusive forms of populism can be pluralist if a leader’s rhetorical approach recognises ‘the people’ as diverse and encompassing. A Populist Exception? concludes that although populism has long been a strong current in New Zealand history, contemporary New Zealand exhibits a moderate form of populism, with liberal and pluralist values in balance with a strong commitment to majoritarian democracy.

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A Bark But No Bite »

Inequality and the 2014 New Zealand General Election

Publication date: August 2017
Based on New Zealand Election Study (NZES) data from a sample of 2,830 eligible voters, A Bark But No Bite explores a puzzle. While there was a lot of talk about inequality before the 2014 general election in New Zealand, and during the campaign, concern about inequality appeared to have no tangible effect on the election outcome. This book shows that, by its attention to the concerns of middle ground voters, the National Government had reduced the potential of policy differences to drive voter choices. Perceptions of competence and effective leadership were National’s strongest suit, crowding out voter concerns over matters of policy. When voters did consider policy, inequality and related concerns were second to the economy. Traditional priorities about health and education, and perceptions of party differences on these matters, had faded into the background. Meanwhile, voters doubted the opposition Labour Party’s ability to govern effectively in an alternative coalition to that of the National-led government. Labour’s policies were too many. In various ways, they would have chipped away at inequality, but lacked a coherent narrative and presentation. This book confirms that Labour’s proposal to increase the age for receipt of New Zealand superannuation gained Labour no new votes. Hopes that the ‘missing million’ people who failed to turn out to vote in 2011 would vote in 2014 and give an advantage to the left were unfulfilled. A comprehensive study of the 2014 election, this book provides a detailed account of all these findings, and a host of others.