NZ General Election 2020


14th August, 2020

NZ Election 2020: Labour gains favour among small business operators

While New Zealand faces a potential new wave of coronavirus, the Labour party appears to have gained ground among small business owners ahead of General Election 2020.

A recent election survey from MYOB revealed New Zealand’s Labour Party has gained ground among the owners of small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs), signalling a shift in sentiment due to the Government’s handling of its COVID-19 response.

The MYOB Election Snapshot results arrived just ahead of the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announcement a new cluster of community transmission cases, and moving Auckland back to alert level 3.

It’s understood that cabinet ministers are meeting today, 14 August, to decide whether that alert level should change again, with an announcement due this evening.

Despite the boost in sentiment for Labour, it looks like this year’s election could be a tight-run race.

Key highlights of the MYOB Election Snapshot:

  • 38% of SME owners and decision makers intend to vote for Labour this election (up from 29% in 2017)
  • National Party identified as having strongest understanding of SME business needs
  • 45% of SMEs believe that the current government deserves to be re-elected

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Ongoing pandemic challenges likely a key influence

While the proportion of the votes for National is down, the party has the most consistent support from its base with 83 percent 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 percent 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 (nine percent).

MYOB New Zealand country manager, Ingrid Cronin-Knight, explained that the recent performance of the Labour-led Government in managing COVID-19 crisis has likely caused the gap between the major political parties to 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,” said Cronin-Knight.

“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.”

What SMEs are looking for

Regardless of their choice of party, only one in five small business operators said the issues affecting SMEs would receive sufficient attention in the 2020 election campaign. Another 47 percent believe some attention would be paid, but not enough.

And, as you’d expect during these uncertain times, the major issues called out by SME respondents as top business concerns for the next 12 months highlighted the fragility of the current economic environment.

Key business concerns for SMEs:

  1. Ongoing uncertainty due to COVID-19 (45%)
  2. Levels of customer demand and consumer confidence (30%)
  3. Ability to continue operations (24%)

“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,” said 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.”

The MYOB Election Snapshot also lays out the voting intentions of SME operators by industry sector, with those working in the construction and trades industry or the manufacturing and wholesale sectors, 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.

Voting intentions by industry 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%)

To assist the economic recovery post-pandemic, SME owners were clear on the initiatives they thought the Government should consider a priority.

Almost half (47 percent) of small business respondents said they’d like to see more job creation and support for employment growth, 31 percent called for simpler tax laws and compliance regulations, and 28 percent wanted a reduction in company tax rates.

Twenty-eight percent of small business operators also thought the Government should target the faster completion of major road networks, while 22 percent hoped to see higher investment 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,” said Cronin-Knight.

“What’s evident, however, is that it will take not only the right vision, but concrete, practical policy to convince them.”

The New Zealand General Election is currently scheduled for 19 September 2020.