The Green Party is one of the more elusive parties when it comes to clarifying its social base, but in general the Greens are a party of middle class politicians and supporters. [Read more below]
The forerunner to the Greens, the Values Party, was very much based on middle class support. Levine and Robinson’s 1975 survey found that Values voters were typically found in the ‘middle/upper’ part of New Zealand’s class structure, and on an ‘occupational’ basis, Values voters were typically professionals and students (Levine and Robinson, 1976: p.141).
It is not surprising, therefore, that in 1990 the Green Party received its highest votes in the high-income electorates of Fendalton, Remuera, Eden, Birkenhead, Ohariu and Miramar. The Greens have also performed well in semi-rural, middle class seats like Coromandel.
An Alliance-commissioned focus group study in the late 1990s also confirmed that Green support was predominantly middle class:
the social groups which comprise support for the Green Party are predominantly those who in the normal course of events would be expected to vote National. But if the Greens did not exist most of their voters would most likely vote either Labour or for one of the ‘fringe’ parties rather than National. In the period during which the Greens were in the Alliance probably most Greens voted Alliance only because that was where the Greens were politically located for the moment (Simpson, 2000: p.7).
Perry and Webster’s 1998 survey showed that Green support was not particularly concentrated within any particular area of society. Compared to its overall 2.4% support in the poll, the party did better amongst ‘employers or managers 10+ employees’ where they scored 2.9%. Within most categories, however, the Greens received a relatively evenly dispersed support. For instance, amongst farm owners the party scored 2.4% support – the same as its total (Perry and Webster, 1999: p.28).
This evenness of support was confirmed by the final Herald-DigiPoll survey of the 2002 election, which showed that Green support ‘was spread more evenly across all income groups’ than other parties (Collins, 2002). The Greens are thought to have gained a large number of ex-National voters in the 2002 election. The Greens’ campaign manager, Cate Faehrmann, pointed out, ‘the Greens, like New Zealand First, have gained tremendously from the National Party’s collapse’ (Laxon 2002).
[This blog post will be updated and elaborated on with new data - any feedback and information is appreciated]