So the first round of the flag referendum is done (bar the formal tidying up). What, if anything, does it tell us?

So it transpires* that we'll be voting in March next year on whether to retain a colonial relic or to adopt something that looks like a cheap souvenir beach-towel. Democracy, hell yeah! My kids will have fun making that choice!!

On the vote itself, what can we say?

First up, preferential votes changed things! Had this been a simple one-tick FPP vote, then our "preferred alternative" would have been the Silver Fern (Red, White and Blue) option. However, it seems that people who had prior-preferences for flags with black in them carried these over through into their later orderings, such that the Silver Fern (Black, White and Blue) option came out (narrowly) on top.

I guess that once you've tried black, you really don't go back.

Second, while overall turnout was 48.16% of enrolled voters, only 41.3% actually expressed a preference for either of the final two Silver Fern options. That's because there were 148,022 informal votes (or 9.7% of the total cast), as well as some 66,000-odd people who preferred other flag options and didn't say which of the final two they liked better.

Third, the figure for informal votes was a lot higher than in the last postal referendum (the CIR on asset sales in 2013). Back then, only 4000 (or 0.3%) of votes were invalid. So there's been a 3233% increase in the incidence this time about. Even given for the difference in voting methods - this referendum required preference ordering, rather than simply ticking one option - it seems extraordinarily unlikely that this increase is just due to voter confusion. There was a fairly hefty protest vote here.

Fourth, and following on, the turnout figures now will be spun in predictable ways. John Key and change supporters will point to the fact that the overall number of voters and percentage of participants is higher than in 2013. This shows how engaged and involved the electorate is with the issue! The exercise really is worth while!!

Andrew Little and opponents of John Key (although, it should be noted, not actually opponents of change per se!) will note that actually only 9,000 more counting votes were cast this time around ... which actually amounts to just 43.4% of enrolled voters ... some 2% lower than in 2013. And that last referendum was non-binding in nature! And the Government ignored the outcome anyway!! So what a waste of time all of this is!!!

Fortunately, with Christmas just a couple of weeks away, we can now forget all about this issue. Until the New Year, that is, when the real lobbying will begin. So as you enjoy your Holiday Tofurkey, just remember these competing images capture the next three months of your life.

Season's best to you all!

 

* This conclusion applies even should some unexpected change occur when the final results are announced next week - a beach-towel with black in the corner is much the same as a beach-towel with red in the corner.

Comments (25)

by Raymond A Francis on December 12, 2015
Raymond A Francis

Good to see the Twitterati choice was given the heave-ho and just how dodgy preferential voting is

So nothing new the  2011 Referendum with its 30%  informal votes showed that the voters know what they are doing

 

by Wayne Mapp on December 12, 2015
Wayne Mapp

Andrew 

Your cynicism is showing through all too clearly in this post. Which I thought we try to avoid on Pundit.

Anyway for what it is worth, I reckon the final vote which go for change. Now that we have a clear winner (in the sense that two Kyle Lockwood options were way ahead of the others) there will be a momentum for change.

The more the cynics go on that the preferred choice is no more than a tea towel, the more likely that will happen. Most voters don't actually like being insulted. 

by Andrew Geddis on December 12, 2015
Andrew Geddis

Wayne,

Your cynicism is showing through all too clearly in this post. Which I thought we try to avoid on Pundit.

Just trying to leach the last of it from my system before the festive season commences.

And I don't think that the Lockwood design is a tea towel. It's not that good! It's a beach towel ... which still may be better than the current flag. As I say, my kids are smart enough to decide that for themselves.

by Eliza on December 12, 2015
Eliza

The Lockwood designs are flags for people who want a new flag without the Union Jack and with the silver fern. They're not flags for people who want a new flag with a bold and interesting design that can come to be a powerful symbol of New Zealand in it's own right. I'll vote to keep the current flag and figure I'm young enough to probably see a better new one later. Hopefully Andrew's kids do the same!

by barry on December 12, 2015
barry

Have you never seen the current flag on a beach towel?

by Liam Hehir on December 12, 2015
Liam Hehir

When the day comes that progressive commentators can move beyond their default response to any situation with irony and sarcasm, they will start to regain sway with the voting public.  

by Tom Semmens on December 12, 2015
Tom Semmens

Biased media that loves John Key? Rubbish I say.

http://thedailyblog.co.nz/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/Screen-Shot-2015-12...

by Tom Semmens on December 12, 2015
Tom Semmens

"...When the day comes that progressive commentators..."

When the day comes that right wing trolls stop getting their buzzwords from Fox News, I'll start taking them more seriously.

by Fentex on December 12, 2015
Fentex

I think it's most likely the current flag will be retained, and I have no idea what I'll vote until the moment I make my mark.

I want the UK Ensign gone but I have no stomach for approving such a bland choice.

by Ross on December 12, 2015
Ross

Your cynicism is showing through all too clearly in this post. Which I thought we try to avoid on Pundit.

I'm not sure if you're being serious or not. The fact is that opinion polls show major support for retaining the status quo. The silver fern looks like a corporate logo, which of course might be appropriate for this Government.

Now that we have a clear winner there will be a momentum for change.

The second part of your statement doesn't follow from the first. As Andrew says, only 41.3% voted for change. Bear in mind that some people wouldn't have been enrolled to vote but they may well enrol by March. So, the mood for change that you speak of may have seen fewer than 40% vote for change. I would have expected the turnout to be much higher.

by Ross on December 12, 2015
Ross

No, but I've seen a Union Jack on a T short and it's not bad!

http://skip-to-the-end.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/geri-halliwell-uni...

by Ross on December 12, 2015
Ross

That comment was in reply to barry.

by Alan Johnstone on December 12, 2015
Alan Johnstone

"As Andrew says, only 41.3% voted for change."

You simply can't extrapolate that from these numbers. i voted in the first phase of the referendum, but I'm certain to vote to retain the existing flag after the holidays.

I don't think we'll see a change, differential turnout where the elderly will vote for the status quo in huge numbers combined with the "screw john key" faction will make it very difficult for a new flag to get over the line.


by Ross on December 12, 2015
Ross

You simply can't extrapolate that from these numbers.

Alan,

My point is that the turnout wasn't high. I'm sure that some who voted will vote to retain the existing flag. I do agree that I don't think there will be change.

by Andrew Geddis on December 12, 2015
Andrew Geddis

@Liam,

When the day comes that progressive commentators can move beyond their default response to any situation with irony and sarcasm, they will start to regain sway with the voting public.

But that would be a bad thing, right? Imagine a world in which people like me could dictate how things will be. Shudder.

by Rab McDowell on December 12, 2015
Rab McDowell

Reality check 1 - take a look at what new Zealanders display on back packs, at sports events, even on battle gravestones and you will see far more of the elements of the winning design especially the silver fern, than elements of the current one. Many many NZers have already decided that the current flag does not adequately represent their thoughts of what symbolises NZ.

Reality check 2 - "The winning design is not  good flag design." Italy is recognised for its sense of dsign, Take a look at its flag, or the French one, or the German one. Have they got more style that Lockwood's?

by mudfish on December 13, 2015
mudfish

@Raymond - Good to see ... and just how dodgy preferential voting is

What's dodgy? Seems to me to be a good voting system for this particular choice - where three of the five options are variations on a theme (albeit a bit odd how they all got there). The second choice of those who preferred the black and white fern was overwhelmingly the black and blue variation. Would you prefer their second votes count for nothing?

You'll get your FPP choice next time when there are only 2 options. Even then the winner may not get 50% if there are enough informal votes.

Come to think of it, the voting system is so good, the current flag could have been included in this vote with no prejudice or preference for or against a new flag and we could have decided this all in one go.

by Stewart Hawkins on December 13, 2015
Stewart Hawkins

Prediction: 70% will vote to retain current flag. The winning alternative and indeed the other potential designs were uninspiring and even if Italy is the home of attractive design and its flag isn't that won't be enough to convince people to change. The current flag - simply from my personal design perspective - is the most attractive choice.

by Viona C on December 13, 2015
Viona C

Anyone who thinks status quo flag supporters would not be swayed towards change, need to look no further than the many persons who happily swayed their allegiances to 'Red Peak' once it was explained to them why they should like it over anything else. People like to feel they are on the right side of history. Any small lift in the polls for the flashy new contender that looks like it might end up winning, will take chunks out of the 'tied, old, boring one's' support base. Given our poll driven government, and media, the result will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The two step competition was designed to engender change, with the change die cast a longtime ago. To that end the process is dishonest - almost as dishonest as the man pushing it, but Key lying to the SFO in 1991 and lying to New Zealanders' about it in 2008 is another story - and manipulative.  Glad to see there was a large number of protest votes. 

by Viona C on December 13, 2015
Viona C

- why they should like it over anything else - including no change.

by Ross on December 13, 2015
Ross

take a look at what new Zealanders display on back packs, at sports events

At the Olympics the national flag is displayed prominently and national anthem played - and that looks suspiciously like the NZ flag draped around Lydia Ko, Sarah Ulmer, Sarah Walker, Lisa Carrington and Val Adams.

http://www.stuff.co.nz/sport/commonwealth-games/events/10299188/Adams-to...

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/69/fe/09/69fe09c9c9af90423f29b...

http://static2.stuff.co.nz/1344735145/809/7463809.jpg

http://www.gettyimages.co.nz/detail/news-photo/new-zealand-cyclings-sara...

http://file2.stuff.co.nz/1406059213/309/10299309.jpg

 

by Murray Grimwood on December 13, 2015
Murray Grimwood

Hmmmmmm

What's wrong with this picture?

On the weekend the most critical global decision was taken - not the solving of the issue nor addrssing the compounding ones - this post gets all this attention. And there isn;t anything about Paris.

Nor is there any noting that the flag result was timed for? The weekend of the Paris decision.

Only one media commentator got it right - Garrick Tremain, cartoonist. His flag had a key, and a row of red herrings. Nobody else joined the dots; of course, you've first got to understand the game.

by Rich on December 14, 2015
Rich

I don't understand why the two-stage referendum, rather than just having the existing flag as an option at stage one?

by Andrew Geddis on December 14, 2015
Andrew Geddis

@Rich,

The claim was that for a "proper" decision to be made, it required one generally agreed alternative to be compared with the existing flag. In other words, how could people vote for change unless they knew exactly what they might be going to change to?

See here.

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