The New Zealand Print Media and the 2004-2007 Local Elections: A Case Study

  • Jacky Yaakov Zvulun Beite Berl College, The School of Government and Social Policy, Beit Ber l44905
Keywords: print media, local elections, electoral systems, media coverage, STV, MMP, New Zealand


Voters gain their information from news media, and in particular from print media, about politicians. More importantly, voters develop their understanding of political processes based on what they read. In this paper, I examine the print media coverage of the campaign introducing new electoral system Single Transferable Vote (STV) in the New Zealand Local Body Elections 2004 and 2007 compared with the campaign introducing Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) electoral system in the 1996 national election. I focus particularly on the coverage of the alternative electoral system, STV, by two newspapers – the Dominion Post and the Otago Daily Times from the perspective of type, nature, and number of the articles published and the attitudes toward encouraging participation and introducing new electoral system [STV]. The study shows that both newspapers offered a significantly poorer coverage of the 2004 and 2007 local elections compared to the campaign in 1996 national election. This also might lead to the prediction of one of the reason decreasing or increasing voter turnout.


Arbour, B. K. & Hayes, D. (2005) Voter Turnout in The California Recall: Where Did the Increase Come From?, American Politics Research, 33(2), pp. 187-215, doi: 10.1177'1532673X04272430.
Bean, C. (1986) An Inventory of New Zealand Voting Surveys, 1949-84, Political Science, 38(2), pp. 172-184.
Bean, C., Levine, S. & Roberts, N.S. (1991) An Inventory of New Zealand Voting Surveys, 1987-1990, Political Science, 43(1), pp. 78-75.
Cavana, E., Mcmillen, P., Palmer, S., Brc Marketing & Social Research (2004) 2004 Local Council Post-Election Survey Summary of findings (Wellington: New Zealand Local Government).
Cheyne, C. & Comrie, M. (2005) Empowerment or Encumbrance? Exercising the STV Option for Local Authority Elections in New Zealand, Local Government Studies, 31(2), pp. 185-204, doi: 10.1080/03003930500032064.
Cleveland, L. (1971) The NZPA and the Newspaper System, Political Science, 23(1), pp. 22-60.
Eggers, A. C. (2015) Proportionality and Turnout: Evidence from French Municipalities, Comparative Political Studies, 48(2), pp. 135-167.
Eunjung, C. (2003) Appealing to Images or Begging for Votes? Comparing the Effect of Media Exposure with the Effect of Canvassing on Turnout in Presidential and House Elections, paper presented at the Midwest Political Science Association, Chicago, Illinois, USA, 3-6 April 2003.
Gibson, R. K. &McAllister, I. (2015) New Media, elections and the Political Knowledge gap in Australia, Journal of Sociology, 51(2), pp. 337-353.
Hope, W. (2003) Media and Political Process, In: Miller, R. (ed.) New Zealand Government and Politics. Third edition (Melbourne, AUS: Oxford University Press), pp. 330-341.
Hunt, T. (2004) STV? Not a disease, The Dominion Post, 02 September 2004.
Mayston, B. (2004) Voting papers get yellow card, The Otago Daily Times, 20 September 2004.
Min, Y. (2004) News Coverage of Negative Political Campaigns: An Experiment of Negative Campaign Effects on Turnout and Candidate Preference, The Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics, 9(4), pp. 95-111, doi: 10.1177/1081180X04271861.
Lasse, D. D. (2004) The Effect of Information on Voter Turnout: Evidence from a Natural Experiment, American Journal of Political Science, 49(1), pp. 103-118, doi: 10.1111/j.0092-5853.2005.00113.x.
New Zealand Audit Bureau of Circulation Inc (2002) Newspaper Audit Results (Auckland: New Zealand Audit Bureau of Circulation Inc), available at: (March 13, 2016).
New Zealand Audit Bureau of Circulations Inc (2004) Newspapers Audit Results (Auckland: New Zealand Audit Bureau of Circulation Inc), . (February 20, 2006).
New Zealand Press Association (2004) Counting hard but voting easy in STV, officially says, The Otago Daily Times, 22.09.2004.
New Zealand Statistics (2006) Mass Media (Wellington: New Zealand Statistics), available at:, March 24, 2006.
Nielsen Media Research (2005) Nielsen Media Research National Readership Survey Results (Takapuna: Nielsen Media Research), available at: (March 20, 2006).
Norris, P. (2004) Electoral engineering: voting rules and political Behaviour (Cambridge, UK; New York: Cambridge University Press).
Otago Daily Times (1996) MMP understanding, Otago Daily Times, 12 September 1996.
Patterson, T. E. (1998) Political Roles of the Journalists, In: Graber, D.A. , Mcquail, D. & Norris, P. (eds.) The Politics of News: The News of Politics (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press), pp. 17-32.
Qantas Media Awards (2006) Qantas Media Awards 2006 Results (Aucland: Qantas Media Awards), available at: (March 12, 2006).
Randall, V. (1998) Democratization and the Media (London; Portland, Or.: F. Cass).
Roberts, N. S. & Levine, S. (1996) Bias and Reliability: Political Perceptions of the New Zealand News Media, In: Mcgregor, J. (ed.) Dangerous democracy?: news media politics in New Zealand (Palmerston North: Dunmore Press), pp. 197-209.
Robinson, J. P. (1976) The Press and the Voter, Annals of the American of Political and Social Science, 427, pp. 95-103.
Ross, K., Fountaine, S. & Comrie, M. (2015) Facing up to Facebook: Politicians, Public and Social Media (ted) turn in New Zealand, Media, Culture and Society, 37(2), pp. 251-269.
Shaffer, S. D. (1981) A Multivariate Explanation of Decreasing Turnout in Presidential Elections, 1960-1976, American Journal of Political Science, 25(1), pp. 68-95.
Simon, J. (1996) Media use and voter turnout in a presidential election, Newspaper Research Journal, 17, p. 25.
Stromberg, D. (2002) Distribution News and Political Influence (Stockholm: Stockholm University), available at: (March 2, 2006).
The Dominion Post (2004) Campaign to enrol voters, The Dominion Post, 1 July 2004.
The Dominion Post (2004) Making the poll count, The Dominion Post, 06 September 2004.
The Dominion Post (2004) It's important to have your say, The Dominion Post, 11 June 2004.
The Dominion Post (2004) Remember where the money comes from, The Dominion Post, 15 September 2004.
The Justice and Electoral Committee (2005) Inquiry into the 2004 Local Authority Elections (Wellington: New Zealand Parliament), available at: (November 21, 2005).
The New Zealand Engineering Printing and Manufacturing Union (Epmu) (2007) Our Media: Fighting for Quality News in New Zealand (Wellington: EPMU), available from: (January 6, 2007).
The New Zealand Press Association (2004) Otago Daily Times (Aucland: The New Zealand Press Association), available at: (April 22, 2006).
The New Zealand Press Association (2006) Industry Overview (Aucland: The New Zealand Press Association), available at: (March 29, 2007).
The Newspaper Advertising Bureau (2003) The NAB Leads the Way (Johanesburg: The Newspaper Advertising Bureau), available at: (January 21, 2003).
Thrasher, M., Downe, J. & Rallings, C. (2002) Turnout at local elections. Influences on levels of voter registration and voting (London: The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister), available at: [June 20, 2007).
TNS New Zealand (2015) Report into the 2014 General Election (Aucland: TNS New Zealand), available at: (January 12, 2015).