Election 'youthquake' a myth, figures show

Fears of a 'youthquake' at this year's election were unfounded, with young people no more likely to vote in 2017 than in 2014.

While turnout for 18 to 24-year-olds on the electoral roll jumped from 62.7 percent to 69.3 percent, there were actually fewer in that age group enrolled to vote in 2017 than in 2014.

"You have to remember the commission's figures are a percentage of the enrolled voters," Grant Duncan of Massey University's School of People, Environment and Planning told The AM Show on Thursday.

"Of the 18 to 24-year old group, only 72 percent are actually enrolled - therefore only half of them voted."

Combining the Electoral Commission's data with population figures from Statistics NZ shows only 47.6 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds voted in the 2017 election. In 2014, it was 47.4 percent - almost exactly the same.

Statistics NZ data shows in 2017 there were 483,940 people aged 18-24, with 333,164 enrolled; while in 2014 there were 447,880 people, but 338,269 enrolled.

It's a similar story for 25 to 29-year-olds; while the Electoral Commission data suggests a 5.5 percent boost in turnout, if you include people who aren't enrolled, turnout actually fell 1 percent. 

The likelihood of a person turning out to vote increases as they get older.

"The oldies rule," said Prof Duncan. "Let's put it this way - once you get to the sort of 50s age groups, pretty much everyone is enrolled and you've got turnouts in the high 80s. It's the older folk who are ruling - they're the ones who are making the vote swing one way or another."

He said if youth actually bothered to vote at the same rates as their elders, it would "change the political landscape".

"National would be in deep trouble, unless of course they changed their policies. If young people turned out to vote, then suddenly all the major parties would be having strong youth-oriented policies."

A person's age isn't the only factor driving whether they vote or not. Prof Duncan says electorates with a large number of poor and immigrants also have lower turnouts.

"There's really quite a kind of social inequality and an economic inequality in relation to who turns out, as well as the age issue."

Overall, turnout was 79.8 percent of enrolled voters - the highest since 2005.