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Welcome to the 2019 New Zealand Political Studies Association Annual Conference

"Security, Community, Humanity"

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Friday, November 29 • 9:00am - 10:30am
Electoral Politics

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Joshua Ferrer
The Effects of Proportional Representation on Election Lawmaking in New Zealand

It is widely recognized that politicians are self-interested and desire election rules beneficial to their reelection. Although partisanship in electoral system reform is well-understood, the factors that encourage or constrain partisan manipulation of the other “rules of the game”, including election administration, franchise laws, campaign finance, and electoral governance, has received little scholarly attention to date. New Zealand remains the only established democracy to switch from a non-proportional to a proportional electoral system, and thus presents a “natural experiment” to test the effects of electoral system change on the politics of election lawmaking. I am conducting a longitudinal comparative case study analysis examining election legislation from 1970 to 1993 (under FPTP) and from 1996 to 2018 (under MMP). Utilizing legislative texts, debate transcripts, committee reports, newspaper coverage, and interviews with key actors, I am discerning the level of partisanship and assumed electoral effects behind reform efforts. I will then compare FPTP and MMP eras to determine whether PR has coincided with less partisan election lawmaking.

Brent Commerer
Hustle and Jostle: Evaluating How And Why The Invisible Primary Has Changed

America uses a time-consuming, costly, and complex system for picking each political party’s candidate for President of the United States. Five months of actual voting in the states is preceded by year-long national pre-voting campaign—the ‘invisible primary’—where candidates hustle and jostle to position themselves. This paper evaluates the invisible primary of 2019, and discusses how and why it has changed from previous presidential election cycles. I explain why the 2020 Democratic field of candidates is so large, and why Trump is not being seriously challenged for the Republican nomination. I examine empirical data to compare numbers at this point in the cycle to past elections, for factors such as fundraising, opinion polling, and endorsements, and argue that none of these can reliably predict the result of the primaries. Republicans have America’s most controversial president. Democrats have the largest field of candidates ever to run for president. This paper seeks to add to our understanding of how the 2020 contest for the White House may unfold.

Mark Boyd
Downward Spiral? Television News Coverage of New Zealand Election Campaigns, 1993-2017

Television news is the main provider of political information to New Zealand voters during general election campaigns, despite increased use of online sources. But how good a job does television do? How has its campaign coverage changed over the past two decades since the advent of MMP in 1996, and against a background of commercial and technological transformation? This study, based on the author’s PhD thesis, responds to those questions with a content analysis of the period 1993-2017. The quantitative variables are considered in the context of a ‘Coverage Quality Index’ allowing for direct longitudinal comparison of campaigns. Measured by normative yardsticks, the quality of coverage of election campaigns on both TVNZ and TV3 declined from 1993, reaching its nadir in 2014. It was substantially ‘devalued’, with fragmented statements by politicians and other participants; a confrontational style of reporting concentrating on scandals and trivia at the expense of policy exposition; and an increase in negativity.
But in most variables, and overall, the 2017 campaign saw a sharp increase in quality on both networks. What seemed like a downward spiral into triviality and cynicism was arrested, returning the quality of coverage to levels last seen two decades ago.

Matthew Gibbons and Jack Vowles
The practice and ethics of matching individuals over time: Lessons from New Zealand using electoral roll data

This paper discusses the strategies used to match a sample of 30,000 cases drawn from the 2014 New Zealand electoral roll with the 2016 and 2017 electoral rolls. The aim was to follow a panel of voters to determine who had voted in the 2014 and 2017 general elections, and also in the 2016 local government elections. Matching procedures used to match entire electoral rolls over shorter periods of time are also considered. As well as describing the matching procedures we also consider the rate or residential mobility and changes in names in New Zealand, and the privacy issues concerned. The results will be of interest to those carrying out panel survey research over time and those matching historical datasets.


Professor Bronwyn Hayward

University of Canterbury


Mark Boyd

Mark Boyd

Joshua Ferrer

University of Otago

Matthew Gibbons

Victoria University of Wellington

Jack Vowles

Victoria University Wellington

Friday November 29, 2019 9:00am - 10:30am NZDT
Eng Core 129, Meeting Rm 1 Engineering Core