Which regions of New Zealand are most interested in the cannabis referendum

The further down the country you go, the more likely you are to be looking online for information about getting high.

New data shows more people in Southland and Otago, per capita, have been turning to Google to learn about the upcoming cannabis referendum than anywhere else in the country.

"The most engaged regions at the moment are Southland and Otago - they take the first spot, equal," Aro Digital managing director Tim Dorrian told The AM Show on Thursday. 

"Then we've got Wellington then Nelson and Marlborough. Least engaged... West Coast and Tasman. They're searching for it the least, proportional to their population." 

Aro Digital looked at Google data for searches for 'cannabis referendum', 'marijuana referendum' and 'weed referendum' in May, June and July. 

"The trend so far has been steadily ticking up as the months go by, as we get closer to the election," said Dorrian.

But the raw numbers have been surprisingly low. Nationwide, there were only 7580 searches in those three months - about 85 a day. 

"About two-and-a-half times more people are searching for 'enrol to vote' than the previous election, so we're definitely seeing an uptick in that," said Dorrian.

He suspects that extra interest might be down to the cannabis referendum - why then are so few people searching for that specifically? A recent poll by Horizon Research could hold the answer. It found 99 percent of voters have already made a choice on whether to vote yes or no. 

"If they're already for or against, they may not need to know the specifics of the referendum as much," said Dorrian.

Tim Dorrian.
Tim Dorrian. Photo credit: The AM Show

The Horizon poll found the yes and no camps tied on 49.5 percent each. Young voters overwhelmingly back legalisation, while older voters - statistically more likely to actually cast a ballot - are against. 

Despite support being evenly split, on social media it's a different story. 

"The 'Say Nope to Dope' movement, the anti-legalisation movement, that's only got about 2500 followers - whereas Make It Legal's got around 41,000 followers - so 16 times more followers than the 'Say Nope to Dope' movement [which has] Family First backing it." 

Either way, he suspects this election will have record turnout. That'll be a tough ask - turnout in 2017 was 79 percent, well below the almost 94 percent who voted in 1984.