A Populist Exception?

A Populist Exception?

The 2017 New Zealand General Election

Edited by: Jack Vowles orcid, Jennifer Curtin orcid

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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.


ISBN (print):
ISBN (online):
Publication date:
Aug 2020
ANU Press
Social Sciences: Politics & International Studies, Social Policy & Administration
Pacific: New Zealand

PDF Chapters

A Populist Exception? »

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  1. Populism and Electoral Politics in New Zealand (PDF, 0.2MB)Fiona Barker and Jack Vowles doi
  2. Populism and the 2017 Election—The Background (PDF, 4.2MB)Jack Vowles doi
  3. Measuring Populism in New Zealand (PDF, 0.6MB)Lara Greaves and Jack Vowles doi
  4. Populism, Authoritarianism, Vote Choice and Democracy (PDF, 1.3MB)Jack Vowles doi
  5. Immigration and Populism in the New Zealand 2017 Election (PDF, 2.0MB)Kate McMillan and Matthew Gibbons doi
  6. Gender, Populism and Jacinda Ardern (PDF, 1.3MB)Jennifer Curtin and Lara Greaves doi
  7. Māori and the 2017 General Election—Party, Participation and Populism (PDF, 1.0MB)Lara Greaves and Janine Hayward doi
  8. The Unexpected Coalition—Challenging the Norms of Government Formation (PDF, 0.9MB)Jack Vowles doi
  9. New Zealand Populism in the 2017 Election and Beyond (PDF, 1.1MB)Jennifer Curtin and Jack Vowles doi


‘New Zealand politics deserves greater international attention by gender scholars, among others, and this excellent book is a good introduction.’
– Carol Johnson, Politics & Gender, May 2021.

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