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About the 1996 NZES

If you want to understand the 1996 election read Voters' Victory?
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Funding for the 1996 NZES was provided for by Foundation for Research, Science, and Technology  (FRST), the Waikato School of Social Sciences Research Committee and the University of Waikato, University of Auckland Research Committees and Lottery Science.

The principal and associate researchers (with current affliations) are:
Jack Vowles,
Susan Banducci,
Jeffrey Karp,
University of Exeter
Peter Aimer,
Helena Catt,
Raymond Miller,
University of Auckland

David Denemark,
University of Western Australia

The 1996 Election
New Zealand's first election under proportional representation was held on October 12, 1996. National received the most votes with 33.8 percent of the party vote but failed to win a majority of the seats necessary to govern alone (having received 44 out of 120). Labour followed with 28.2 percent of the party vote (37 seats), New Zealand First with 13.3 percent of the party vote (17 seats), Alliance with 10.1 percent of the part vote (13 seats), ACT with 6.1 percent of the party vote (8 seats) and United with .09 percent of the party vote (1 seat). Following the election, National entered into a coalition government with New Zealand First. To see how the votes were geographically distributed see the spatial patterns in the votes.

The 1996 Study
One of the primary objectives of the 1996 NZES is to monitor the democratic process during New Zealand's transition from a plurality (first-past-the-post) electoral system to a proportional (MMP) system. The programme is designed through the second MMP election, probably occurring in 1999. These surveys generate a wide array of information on the attitudes, opinions, and behaviours of both electors and candidates.

The 1996 study incorporated a common module of questions designed by participants in the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems (CSES) project at two meetings in Berlin in 1994 and Budapest in 1995. This is now part of the Module 1 Release which was administed in over 30 countries.

The 1996 study included both a pre and post election survey of electors as well as a survey of candidates. Respondents in the pre election survey were selected by random digit dialing from a national sampling frame of telephone numbers. Respondents in the post election survey were randomly selected from the 1996 electoral roll and sent a self completion questionnaire. Further details of the study are described below.

Post-Election Study
Respondents to the post election survey were randomly selected from the 1996 electoral roll and sent a self completion questionnaire. Initially, 1650 questionnaires were mailed. Of those, 863 were returned and another 180 were completed by phone; the total sample size is 1043. The response rate is 63 percent.

Maori Sample
One thousand persons randomly selected from the Maori rolls were mailed self-administered questionnaires, 424 were returned and another 81 completed a phone interview. The response rate for persons on the Maori rolls was 51 per cent. The remainder of Maori electorate respondents were part of the panel or first interviewed by phone during the campaign. A total sample size of 614 was secured for persons in the Maori electorates.

Panel Study
Each elector survey includes a panel of respondents carried through from the previous study, making it possible to track patterns of individual-level change. The 1996 survey includes the final wave of a panel of respondents who participated in the 1993 and 1990 NZES. Of the 1110 participants in the 1990-93 panel study, 768 were carried though to the 1996 wave of the panel (31 per cent attrition rate) while 548 of the 1993 participants were carried through to the 1996 study (47 per cent attrition rate). Therefore, a total of  1306 respondents participated in both the 1993 and 1996 studies (1174 by post, 132 by phone).

The Campaign Wave
A pre-election survey was conducted over the course of the campaign to track short-term changes in voting behaviour. The rolling cross section was conducted 5 September through 11 October, during which time approximately 120 computer-assisted telephone interviews per day were conducted with randomly selected New Zealanders of voting age, bringing the total sample size to 4448, of which 3090 were seven minute interviews and 1357 were three minute interviews. The response rate was around 50%, on the assumption that numbers called 20 times or more with no reply were non-residential.

Questions asked include the most important issue likely to affect voting choice; the party closest t the respondent on that issue; the most preferred Prime Minister; perceptions of change in the economy over the last year; party identification; the relative importance of the party and electorate votes under MMP; party vote choice; electorate vote choice; coalition preferences; expectations about party votes and the parties that might form the government.

Respondents who completed the seven minute interview were asked to supply names and addresses so that they could be sent a postal questionnaire after the election. Of these 3090 persons, 2326 supplied a name and address; 1649 were returned and another 215 completed a post election phone survey, contributing to a total sample size of 1862; a response rate of 60 per cent.

The Candidate Survey
The candidate survey provides data on the career paths of politicians and aspects of their working conditions enabling a comparison between the attitudes and behaviour of voters and political elites. A similar survey was sent to party candidates and conference delegates in 1993. The survey was administered by Peter Aimer, from the University of Auckland.

In 1996, candidates nominated by the ACT, Alliance, Christian Coalition, Labour, National, New Zealand First, and United parties were sent a 24-page questionnaire, with questions arranged under the following sub-headings: Political Background and Activity; Candidate Selection and Campaigning; The Role of an MP; Opinions and Policies:The Economy; Other Issues and Values; Electoral, Parliamentary and Constitutional Issues; Background Information.

Questionnaires were sent to a total of 487 candidates. The overall response rate was 65 per cent, or 316 usable questionnaires, distributed among the parties as follows (party response rates in brackets): ACT 55 (81%), Alliance 49 (65%), Christian Coalition 51 (65%), Labour 64 (69%), National 46 (56%), New Zealand First 36 (56%), United 15 (56%).

The overall response rate for the sub-set of elected MPs was 60 per cent. The questionnaire contained a total of 67 questions. As many of these were multi-part questions, the resulting dataset contains 230 separate variables, that is, separate items of information to which all or most of the 316 respondents replied.

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