QOTD: Herald Insights on NZ voting patterns

Credit where credit’s due, some great work is coming out of the NZ Herald’s Insights data site, like this interactive exploration of how different groups in NZ vote. But there’s a lot more to it than you might think on the surface:

  • Best predictors for National voters are places with high proportion of people from European ethnicity.
  • In a Labour versus Greens contest, places with higher proportion of educated voters are more likely to vote for Greens.

A comparison between different parties allows readers to see the shift in voting patterns for different population characteristics.

However, it is not possible to infer voting patterns for individuals using this analysis.

Even considering the social patterns, such as higher proportion of European ethnicity, it is useful to consider whether it is the ethnicity or living in a less diverse neighbourhood that has the impact on voting patterns.

[Edited slightly in solidarity with lost subeditors]

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking “Pasifika people all vote Labour” or “small business owners all vote National” or “this person is a middle-aged white male tradie, he’ll be really conservative”. We have to go a lot deeper, and consider each individual’s place in their community, to understand why they vote the way they do.

Go check out the whole thing!

Political resistance is the opposite of gerrymandering

A slightly odd headline at the Herald this morning:

Revealed: Plots to gerrymander flag referendum

Four shortlisted flag designs will be put to the vote in November but plots to gerrymander the referendum results are already under way.

Deborah Russell’s response makes the point pretty clearly:

See, the chair of the Flag Consideration Panel, John Burrows, doesn’t like the fact that people are saying he did a piss-poor job, by delivering a shortlist of two practically-identical, already-commercially-used silver ferns, one alreadyused-by-apparentlyeveryone silver fern, and the plainest, least-scarily-“cultural” koru in existence (All hail Hypnoflag!).

John says:

“I hope there won’t be much gerrymandering because I think people have got to see what an important occasion this is.

“It’s the one chance people have in their lifetimes to do it. So to actually waste a vote for political or other reasons I think will appear to most people as unpalatable and unattractive.”

Indeed, god forbid people get political about the sovereign symbol of their nation’s identity.

britney confused

There’s a worrying idea at work here, and it’s become a familiar one since John Key became Prime Minister: democracy is only democracy when people are forced to participate and deliver the results John Key wants.

So it’s not democratic when the people of Canterbury elect a regional council which wants to impose restrictions on just how much the farming sector can plunder natural resources. Out they go. It’s not democratic when thousands of people march against the TPPA because they’re just a “rent-a-crowd”.

And it’s definitely not democratic for people to refuse to hush, keep their heads down, and give John Key the flag he clearly wants. Frankly, how dare you think that the democratic process of determining what flag flies in our country’s name involves you having any kind of say in the process? How dare you think that you have some kind of right to protest the obviously rigged competition being run in your name?

Spoiling a ballot paper or refusing to fill one out is not gerrymandering. Gerrymandering is a process for the powerful to entrench their power by rendering the votes of the people meaningless. Gerrymandering, in fact, could look a lot like giving people an incredibly limited set of options and bullying them into taking part by attacking their patriotism if they don’t.

Oh god, is this whole flag referendum is a metaphor for First Past the Post?

Vote however the heck you want to, people. Vote for the design you like best. Vote for the design you think has the best, or worst, chance of winning the final showdown against our current one. Randomly assign numbers. Flip a coin if you really just like filling out boxes.

But remember: Not voting can also be an act of democratic participation. Whether that means you just don’t “show up” (I know, it’s a postal ballot) or you deliberate spoil your ballot by (ideas I’ve actually seen): writing “I want our flag” on your ballot, crossing out all the options, or stapling a copy of your preferred flag design to the ballot paper – if you’re making a choice not to play John Key’s game, you’re sending just as powerful a message.

When the people in charge are getting upset because a lot of ordinary folk are saying things they don’t like, and have the power to create change: you’re doing something very, very right.

you go glenn coco


A side note: This is also why I reject the condescending way some on the left talk about non-voters – the “sleepy hobbits” attitude. Choosing not to exercise your vote because you do not have trust in the system, or because there are no options offered which you support, is as much a political act as voting. Our current system doesn’t offer a “no vote” or “no confidence” option. I think it should. Until it does, we have no way of determining whether or not someone’s lack of voting is indicative of laziness or active dissatisfaction, and we shouldn’t make assumptions about it to justify our elitist posturing.

Dita de Boni: a loss to our national conversation

Dita de Boni’s final column for the Herald is a cracker:

People have asked me over the years why my columns have become more strident in tone; more “biased against” the Government. The answer’s that the examples of contempt for the public, hypocrisy, and flat-out bulls***tery have become too overwhelming to ignore.

And while these traits can also be found in the opposition, it’s not the same. A journalist – even an opinion columnist writing on politics, which is not the same thing as investigative journalism and certainly not as important – must necessarily give more weight to the actions of the party in power. Anything else starts to look like meaningless diversion.

Just go read the whole thing, and mourn for the loss (I hope temporary) of de Boni’s voice in #nzpol.

Modern fat-shaming: how do I smugly put down my fat friends?

A de-coding of this NZ Herald “advice” column:

Is it ever okay to step in and tell a friend they are too fat? – Weight Watcher, Auckland.

“Too fat” is obviously a turn of phrase you should never use when talking to one of your friends (or even behind their backs when you’re trying to impress other people with how health-conscious you are) because it’s sounds too judgey – and the real question is how you can judge your friends without them being able to call you out on it.

After all, fat-shaming isn’t helpful – it sounds too much like actual bullying, and reveals you’re the kind of person who judges other based on their physical appearance.

But fat people are disgusting and unhealthy. Science says so, and by “science” we mean hilariously inaccurate measurements like BMI and studies funded by the weightloss industry.

A study by University College London found that telling someone they’re fat makes them eat more, not less (because as a fat person they’re obviously already stuffing their faces with baby-flavoured donuts at every opportunity), so the trick is to make it obvious that you think they’re fat and disgusting without actually saying so. Start a conversation by really subtly looking them up and down with a sneer on your face and then brag about how much weight you’ve lost on your diet.

Don’t make the conversation about cosmetic appearance (that would make it too obvious that you’re fat-shaming them.) Instead, talk about a range of diseases and medical conditions which are predominantly linked to genetic factors but are stereotyped as being “diseases of obesity”, and brag about how much better you/your friend/your coworker felt after their diet.

Basically, tell your friend that even though you’re not judging them on their cosmetic appearance, you are able to categorically diagnose them with multiple invisible illnesses, based on their cosmetic appearance.

Then, ask your friend if they have concerns about their health, because they clearly should, because they’re fat. Even though you would never say that you’re only asking the question because of their size, they’ll work it out pretty quickly when you never ask any of your thin friends the same question. If they say yes, tell them to go to a doctor who can tell them to diet while ignoring their psychological state or bothering to figure out if they’re actually sick. If they say no, don’t be brutal, but do remind them once again that you can tell they’re unhealthy because they’re fat. Again, I stress the need for empathy here, and by empathy I mean “pretending you’re not fat-shaming them.”

You might be met with hostility, because fat people are too stupid to know they’re fat, and they get bizarrely irritated at other people making assumptions about their health and fitness based on their size. You might get the opportunity to have the conversation several times because they’ve been socialized to accept your obnoxious fat-shaming. But if you persevere, you might actually force your friend into disordered eating and self-destructive behaviour which temporarilys make them thin, which means they’re healthy. Isn’t that what friends are for?

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