The narrow divide: new poll shows tight political race for SME votes

13 Aug 2020

  • 38% of SME owners and decision makers intend to vote for Labour this election
  • National Party identified as having strongest understanding of SME business needs
  • 45% of SMEs believe that the current government deserves to be re-elected

In a major turnaround following nearly a decade of MYOB election polls, Labour is currently the preferred political party of New Zealand’s SMEs, with 38% of SME owners and decision makers intending to vote red in the upcoming General Election, while 35% will vote for National.

The MYOB General Election Snapshot suggests it’s a tight race for these votes, however a marked shift in the voting intentions of SMEs has seen support for National drop from 44% in 2017, while Labour has been buoyed by a substantial rise in support – up from 29% in 2017.

When it comes to the overall split of the party vote by SME owners and decision makers, results of MYOB’s Snapshot revealed:

  • 38% intend to vote Labour
  • 35% intend to vote National
  • 5% intend to vote ACT
  • 3% intend to vote Green
  • 3% intend to vote NZ First
  • 11% don’t know who they’ll vote for

While the proportion of the votes for National is down, the party has the most consistent support from its base with 83% of those intending to vote National this election having also voted for the party in 2017.

In comparison, ACT has seen a significant rise in support, with 86% of those SMEs intending to vote for the party this year having voted for a different party in the 2017 election. Meanwhile, the Greens have the largest proportion of first-time SME voters (9%).

MYOB New Zealand Country Manager, Ingrid Cronin-Knight, explains that the recent performance of the Labour-led Government in managing the COVID-19 crisis has seen the gap between the major political parties tighten.

“This is the fourth time we’ve polled SMEs in the run up to a New Zealand General Election and we haven’t seen results this close previously, nor have we seen such figures of support for Labour by business,” says Ingrid.

“It’s likely that this sentiment toward the current Government has been generated by the recent support offered to SMEs to help them cope and survive in extraordinary circumstances. What counts most now are the initiatives and types of ongoing support these businesses will be offered as we continue to navigate the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and seek to drive economic recovery.”

Governing opinions

The Snapshot results indicate that 45% of SMEs believe the current Government deserves to be re-elected, while 37% think it is time for a change.

Those working in the construction and trades industry or the manufacturing and wholesale sectors, were more likely to believe it was time for a change. Professional services, retail and hospitality, and transport and storage SMEs were mostly of the opinion that the current Government should be re-elected.

While support amongst New Zealand’s SMEs for Labour has grown, National is still considered the political party that best understands business. Of those surveyed, 37% said National has a greater understanding of their business needs compared to 33% who said Labour.

Despite National maintaining a lead here, the gap has tightened since MYOB’s Business Monitor survey in March, with SMEs now having more confidence in Labour. Then, over half (56%) of SME owners and decision makers said that National was the party best for helping business, compared to just 19% who said Labour.

Results also confirmed that SMEs’ voting intentions for this upcoming election were unlikely to be influenced by the choice of leader, but more by the party policies. Just a quarter (26%) of respondents admitted they put personality over policy when it comes to making their voting choice.

Key business concerns for SMEs

Despite their voting intentions and opinions on which party should lead us through this next stage of the pandemic response only 20% of SME owners and decision makers believe that the issues affecting small businesses will receive sufficient attention in this election campaign, while 47% believe some attention will be paid, but not enough.

Asked what their top three business concerns were over the next 12 months:

  • 45% of SMEs said the ongoing uncertainty of COVID-19
  • 30% of SMEs said the levels of customer demand and consumer confidence
  • 24% of SMEs said their ability to continue to operate

“As we have seen throughout our nation’s experience with COVID-19, SMEs are a vital part of New Zealand’s business landscape, supporting our economy and working tirelessly to keep Kiwis employed and communities thriving,” says Ingrid Cronin-Knight.

“We need to make sure that we address the concerns of these businesses to give them every opportunity to not only survive, but flourish.

“In the lead up to the election, it’s important that our SMEs have a clear understanding of the policy agenda of each party and how these will address the needs of their business,” says Ingrid.

Focuses for the future

In the longer term, SMEs have a clear picture of what they’d like to see the next Government prioritise.

Almost half (47%) said they’d like to see more job creation (and support for employment growth), 31% would like simpler tax laws and compliance regulations, 28% want to see a reduction in the company tax rate and the same proportion would also like the Government to prioritise faster completion of major roading networks. Interestingly, 22% would like to see the Government invest in mental health and wellbeing initiatives specific to business.

“Our research results paint an interesting picture when it comes to how votes may be split by SME owners and decision makers on election day, and our parliamentary representatives have an increasingly challenging task of making their case to around 500,000 SMEs across the country. What’s evident, however, is that it will take not only the right vision, but concrete, practical policy to convince them,” says Ingrid.


Notes to Editors:

Key Findings:

2020 General Election voting intentions by sector

  • Construction – National (49%)
  • Agribusiness – National (35%); 35% were also undecided
  • Manufacturing and Wholesale – National (56%)
  • Transport and storage – Labour (53%)
  • Retail and Hospitality – Labour (43%)
  • Professional services – Labour (36%)

For more information please contact:

Janelle Ericksen, MYOB, PR Specialist
M:021 1050 490 / E:

Gerard Blank, The Agency Communications Limited, Director
P: 03 341 5841 / M: 0275 243 629 / E:

MYOB General Election Snapshot - methodology

The MYOB General Election Survey was conducted using Pure Profile’s business panel. In total, 401 SME decision makers were surveyed from employing businesses in New Zealand. The June survey was conducted online from July 20th – 24th 2020.

About MYOB

MYOB is a leading business platform with a core purpose of helping more businesses in New Zealand and Australia start, survive and succeed. At the heart of MYOB is a customer base of 1.2 million businesses and a network of more than 40,000 accountants, bookkeepers and consultants, for whom MYOB delivers end-to-end business and accounting solutions. MYOB operates across four key segments: Small and Medium Enterprises (SME), Enterprise, Financial Services and Practice. For more information visit or follow @MYOB on Twitter.