ACT takes Chinese voter support from National

Conducted in the last ten days, a new poll from Trace Research suggests National is losing ground in the Kiwi Chinese community. National Party leader Judith Collins and her team have dropped by nine percent amongst ethnic Chinese New Zealanders since August 2020 – and if the election were held tomorrow, only 53 percent would vote National.

This is a contrast to the August poll which showed 62 percent support for National being in power, which also saw a big drop from the 2017 election. Three years ago, over 70 percent of Chinese Kiwis voted National. 

Where are the Chinese votes going? Not to Labour - the party only increased its Chinese New Zealander support by 0.7 percent in the last month, bringing it to 21.7 percent in this poll. 

The ACT party is the big winner in the new poll. While in August ACT had 8.8 percent of the vote, in September they surged to 14.8 percent.

Given Labour’s lack of traction with the Chinese Kiwi community, it’s clear these votes will come from people who formerly leaned towards National. 

What’s behind the surge? Dr Andrew Zhu, who conducted the poll through Trace Research, says the increased support is due to both targeted campaigns in ethnic media and ACT’s core values appealing to ethnic Chinese.

“I think it is partially because of their policies on economic rebuild, tax cuts and tough punishment on crimes,” Zhu says of ACT’s newfound support. “In addition they have run pretty effective customised campaigns in the Chinese media.” 

AMC went direct to ACT party leader David Seymour to query the dramatic increase in ethnic Chinese support. “There’s nothing more entrepreneurial than leaving everything behind and seeking opportunities in an unknown country," he says. “ACT’s entrepreneurial spirit aligns with the outlook that Chinese New Zealanders have brought here.”

from Trace Research NZ Chinese Immigrants Political Poll September 2020 Topline Media

On the party's website, ACT recently published a page in Mandarin to appeal to native speakers in New Zealand.

It pushed the support rate in the Chinese community as very encouraging for the party. "This reflects the fact that ACT's constructive opinions on public health and economic recovery in response to the new crown epidemic Covid-19 have been recognised by Chinese voters,” said Seymour in a statement translated to Mandarin.

"In addition, it also shows that Chinese voters welcome ACT's legal policies against gangs and the idea that parents can provide their children with more educational choices."

Because of the way MMP functions, a vote for a minor party like ACT with more than 5 percent support is perhaps more strategic than a vote for National for generally right-leaning Chinese Kiwis. ACT stands to have nine MPs in Parliament if they pass the threshold in 2020, up from just one MP (the Epsom electorate) for the past three election cycles.   

Economic stimulus is the most important deciding factor for Chinese Kiwi voters this election, with 58.1 percent saying it was their top priority.  

Next on the list are taxation (46 per cent), law and order (37 percent), healthcare (29.9 percent), and immigration (27.2 percent).

The environment is the least important factor in voting this year for ethnic Chinese with just 12 percent support.

This poll surveyed 1,350 Chinese New Zealanders who are eligible to vote in the New Zealand 2020 General Election, including Chinese from New Zealand (born here), and ethnic Chinese migrants from Mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and Cambodia.

All respondents were over 18+ years old; 45.4 percent of whom were male and 54.6 percent female. 

The main research objectives for the poll are to encourage Kiwi Chinese constituents to care about their democratic rights and engage them with the upcoming 2020 General Election, and help Kiwi Chinese perceptions be better understood by wider communities in New Zealand.

- Asia Media Centre