A typical neighbour who is a voter or an untypical voter who is a neighbour?

A few months ago we shifted. During moving we met our new neighbours on one side. Over the ensuing time we have got to know them.

The first thing to say about them is that they are a very pleasant, good-living, seemingly happy family ? a married couple with two children. He works as a digger driver and she has a three-day-a-week job in admin. Their kids are into sport and have a small income from paper rounds. They rent their home.

Like most of us, they complain about the cost of living, the state of the roads, the weather and the Warriors.??

As we got to know them a little more I tried discussing economics and politics ? just general queries to get a feel of how they saw things. They were quite open and volunteered, after struggling to remember, voting for Labour, once for New Zealand First and not bothering at a couple of elections. I asked what motivated their vote and unsurprisingly they replied simply ?what was in it for them.? Fair enough ? self-interest is what drives markets.

What was more interesting was a series of answers to questions asked over various visits.

  • The only politicians they knew were Ardern and Peters. They couldn?t remember for a few minutes which party Peters led. Incidentally, they knew Donald Trump was president of the USA but considered him ?bonkers?.
  • He didn?t know what his wages were but she did: ?She does all that stuff.?
  • They had no idea what tax they were paying except it was ?too much?, but they knew they were getting ?stuff from the government every couple of weeks for the kids?.? They thought GST was 10%.
  • ?Everyone pays tax except the rich.? What they meant by ?rich? was anyone with a ?beamer? or ?who lived along the water?. Pressured for a level they thought that it may be $100,000 or $150,000 a year.
  • All health costs including doctors, chemists’ cost etc ?should be free?. They reckoned they were paying too much in school fees, all of which should be ?free?.? Where would the money come from? ?The rich?, of course. They flatly refused to believe that the top 10% pay 40% of the tax ? ?The media make that stuff up.? (The media are part of the plot to keep workers poor.)
  • They don?t watch TV news, or any documentaries, or commentaries, get a newspaper or listen to the radio often. They had never heard of ?a blog?.
  • What was their main source of information on politics? ?The guys raise stuff over lunch some days? or ?We had a few arguments after league at the club before the election.?
  • I asked whether they were socialists or capitalists but they declared that they were just Warriors fans.
  • They are upset over increases in petrol prices and understood that the money was going to fix the roads and motorway problems. They had no opinion about a tram to the airport: ?Never go there, mate.?? When I suggested new cycleways were coming they laughed: ?Silly buggers shouldn?t be allowed on the road. Our truck drivers hate them.? They hadn?t considered whether fuel price increases would flow through into other price increases although the boss is ?Pretty steamed about it.?
  • She thinks nurses and teachers are underpaid because they work hard.
  • He thinks farmers are doing well because his uncle down in Hawkes Bay gets a new tractor every few years and ?Those babies cost a packet.?
  • She would pay politicians more to get ?better people?; he wouldn?t pay them at all.
  • We shouldn?t allow immigrants because ?They take our jobs for less pay.?
  • They don?t want to buy a house because it costs too much ? the result of banks charging high interest rates.
  • The government will look after them when they retire.
  • They are just not interested in anything to do with economics or politics. She went to a political meeting once because a neighbour asked her but she reckoned it was boring. They do not recall reading any election propaganda, watching leaders’ debates or listening to campaign ads.
  • They do know they will be voting Labour whenever the next election is because they are getting more money now from them in government.

I have been thinking about our neighbours and their view of the world. Their situation is nothing new. There have been voters like them around, thinking like that, since we started voting. It does raise some questions, though.

How typical are they of New Zealand families?

Are they 1%? 5%? 10%? Do they ultimately determine election outcomes?

Should civics lessons in our schools raise the level of importance of such subjects? Would it make a difference?

Should voters have to be qualified in some way? How workable is that?

Am I just an arrogant, uppity sod who doesn?t understand what real life is like down my street?

What else can we do about it? Should we ?sweat’ about it?

Lastly, does it matter? Is such ignorance a matter of ?it is what it is?, and who cares?