Cold Coffee: The struggle of the swing voter

Jacinda or Bill? Or someone else? It's a hard time to be a swing voter at the moment.

Jacinda or Bill? Or someone else? It's a hard time to be a swing voter at the moment.

COLD COFFEE: I have recently outed myself as a swing voter and I have been pleasantly surprised that I am not as alone as I thought.

Bring up the argument-inducing topic of politics to most people and it usually takes about 2.5 seconds to work out where their allegiances lie.

I get it, most people have their preferences, and that's cool.

But it has always amused me how set people are in their ways.

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When people harp on about "voting for policy, not for personality", it makes me question their basis given that surely you would have to be quite one-eyed to believe in every single one of your preferred party's decisions and never acknowledge that sometimes they miss the mark, or sometimes the other side comes up with a good idea?

As a swing voter, I can quite literally see each side. I can see why people feel so strongly for their team and I can also see why they are confused by swing voters.

But I've never had my clear-cut team. Put simply, I've felt disengaged from politics as a whole as I've seen parties and their associated promises come and go, failing to encompass my beliefs in their entirety.

I like little bits of this, lots of that and nothing of some other things. I can pull positives and negatives from each party and yet I don't think any party ticks every box for me.

Every election, parties tout what they have achieved or what they believe they would have done given the chance.

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Every three years I have the same "yeah right" cynical approach.

Sure, some parties achieve some great stuff, but it's almost always at the expense of something else. It's like a tennis match, back and forth between "you said this" and "you promised that".

That's politics, after all.

But it's little wonder there are so many non-voters in the country.

In the frenzy that is election season, swing voters have sore necks from the back and forth and still can't tell an ace from a deuce. Can you tell I know about as much about tennis as I do about politics?

Over the years, I have voted for a mix of political parties and local MPs, and even – gasp – exercised my democratic right to refrain from voting at all, on the basis that I found it easier to refute claims of biased reporting as a journalist when I could, hand on heart, say I had no particular leanings.

I often thought I was alone in my political confusion, but since outing myself online in a private group, I was pleasantly surprised to see there are plenty out there like me.

A former colleague, highly intelligent and very politically minded, didn't believe it was possible for me to be a swing voter. He once asked who my parents voted for, stating that by default, I was therefore a supporter of whichever party my folks went for.

I'll never forget that, and while this may be the case for some, it wasn't something that I identified with.

Now I'm in my 30s, I also feel like my priorities and key areas that I am concerned with have also changed.

I straddle so many target areas – I'm a full-time mum, a full-time student, a renter looking to get back in to the housing market.

I'm a military wife, who pays a lot in childcare, who wants a job at the end of my studies and my kids to grow up in a safe and clean country.

I want a strong economy and stronger education and health systems.

If you look at each of those key areas in isolation you can see already that some areas make me lean blue (traditionally good for the economy and defence), and other areas make me lean red (early childhood funding, as an example).

But I'm not only concerned about the areas that have a direct effect on my life. Maturity now means I also increasingly worry about what decisions are made at a governmental level that have an effect on the most vulnerable in our society.

To try to help make my mind up, I have done all the online surveys I can find and watched the numerous debates between Bill English and Jacinda Ardern.

The results from the quizzes left me more confused than I began, with one pointing towards National, the other one towards Labour.

Could I be more central? Gah.

It's little wonder, in my opinion, that if there are so many secret swing voters out there that the focus naturally shifts to personality politics.

While I'm not saying it's right, I can identify with wanting to like the personality of the person in the top job. National rode the wave of this with John Key and Labour is seeing the fruits of this with Jacinda Ardern.

It's not a criticism, it's just the reality of politics. If there's one thing I've pretty much concluded through this process of dissecting the political landscape it's that both of the main parties essentially want much of the same thing, or at least they say they do.

Whether or not either of the main parties, and whatever minor parties they marry up with, have the ability to pull any of their plans off remains to be seen.

If only I could vote for policies one by one and an overall preferred prime minister separately. Imagine what a diverse parliament that would provide.

 - Stuff


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