They may not be old enough to have their votes officially counted, but children in Aotearoa are mirroring the latest polls by signalling a tight race between the Chrises.
Preliminary results from 600 children who took part in Save the Children’s face-to-face children’s elections held at markets and schools across Tāmaki Makaurau, have Chris Hipkins just scraping in as preferred Prime Minister over Christopher Luxon by 32 votes. Third preferred Prime Minister went to ACT’s Brooke van Velden (74 votes) with the Green Party’s Marama Davidson coming in fourth place (with 72 votes).
But with just 10% of the 6000 children’s votes expected back from around 50 schools signed up to take part, the top job could still be anyone’s guess.
“It’s an exciting wait for all of the children’s votes to come in,” says Save the Children Advocacy and Research Director Jacqui Southey.
“But what we’ve seen so far from the results are children who know what type of leader they’d like to see for Aotearoa New Zealand and are engaged with the issues facing our nation. The reasons children gave for their choice of Chris Hipkins included both policies, such as making buses free and reducing food and fuel costs and more personality driven choices such as seeing him as ‘kind’, ‘authentic’ and ‘trustworthy’.
“Like adults, children were making decisions based on the issues that mattered to them and what they understood about the leader. One young voter, describing Christopher Luxon said ‘he seems like someone a kid could trust, nice personality, and sees good in people’, while another chose Marama Davidson ‘because she wants to make sure that we all have a home and enough kai and that we are treated with kindness and respect and I feel like I can trust her’.
“Some children also chose the leader because they could see similarities with themselves, such as liking cats and cupcakes like Brooke van Velden: “because the things that were important to her was honesty and that’s a good thing and I think she would be a good Prime Minister – and it’s really funny because the things she loves I love them too’”.
Children taking part in the true-to-life voting experience receive forms to vote for their preferred Prime Minister out of the current leaders, deputies and co-leaders from the five parties currently represented in Parliament. The child-friendly guide to the political candidates includes their responses to serious issues, like what they’ll do to support children, alongside more fun facts, such as favourite jokes, foods and animals.
Children also shared their thoughts on what would make Aotearoa better and consistent themes that came through were around listening to children, reducing inequities to make life fairer for people with less, greater climate action, improving education and making the country safer.
As David, 14, says: “try their best to make sure the planet they return to us is habitable and equitable for all people” or as nine-year-old Felix puts it: “To listen to children like us and for schools to have fair income and not let adults always make the decisions please.”
The full results, including children’s views on what would make Aotearoa better, will be collated and shared with politicians following the election.