The ‘Jacinda Effect’ Causes Spike in Campaign Volunteers – and Not Just for Labour

The Dunedin North Labour Party say they have signed up an extra 52 campaign volunteers since Jacinda Ardern was made leader, as both major parties report an increased interest in this election campaign.

Labour Party Campaign Manager for Dunedin North Jarred Griffiths says that during the 2017 campaign, the party has put a specific focus on growing their volunteer base.

“This has been a substantial focus of ours for the past six months,” Griffiths said. “We had an initial goal of adding 100 new volunteers, which we have already exceeded. We’ve now signed up 260 new volunteers and contributors.”

Young Nats Southern Regional Chair Tim Shiels says his party’s volunteer recruitment has been, “Quite strong, would say more people than last time and more people keen to give longer hours. We’re always keen for more, and I'm sure it will pick up closer to the election.”

For Labour, this is the largest volunteer base they’ve ever had, according to Griffiths. “It’s really exciting, it allows us to run a real grassroots campaign,” he said. Jacinda Ardern being made leader also helped, “We’ve had a small bump, we’ve got 52 new volunteers since Jacinda, although even before her we were probably getting 10-15 new volunteers a week”. The party now has “easily 3 times as many” volunteers across Dunedin North as it did during the 2014 election.

For National, Tim Shiels says it is a change of culture which has caused the increase in support, “I think for many years National hasn't been seen as a student focussed party, but that perception has certainly changed recently. It's much more socially acceptable to support National now than say, 10 years ago and as the party that won all the campus polling booths last time, there is now a real depth to our student support.” He says Young National now has “roughly 40-50” volunteers across a whole range of activities.

Labour says their main focus is on making phone calls and knocking on doors, “It’s all about one on one conversations,” but they say that they have “space for everyone to do as much or as little as they can, we don’t want to exclude anybody”. Aside from contacting voters, Labour volunteers help organise events, assist with tech support and graphic design, provide baking for campaign workers, and even just display Labour signage on their homes.

Tim Shiels says National also aims to include anyone who wants to offer their support, “We always offer a range of activities as I know not everyone is keen to knock on a door, or engage with members of the public. We have things like human hoardings and pamphlet delivery which allow people to contribute in a more casual way”.

The parties will be going head to head in the coming weeks as the campaigns wrap up, but each insist they are more focused on themselves than the opposition. “We’re really proud, but there is always more to do,” says Griffiths. “Right now we’re just focused on running the campaign of our life.”

This article first appeared in Issue 20, 2017.
Posted 10:30am Sunday 20th August 2017 by Joel MacManus.