Populist Extremism and Culture Wars on the rise in NZ? We’ve been here before, but why it’s different this time

Right Wing Settler Cracker Kiwi - I listen to The Platform when I'm mad, Reality Check Radio when I'm angry and ZB Plus when I'm stupid

Populism vs Authoritarian political currents have been exposed by the latest IPSOS poll…

New Zealand broken and in decline – new survey

A global wave of disillusionment and disenfranchisement has not spared New Zealand, with a majority of respondents to a survey here agreeing that New Zealand society is broken and the country is in decline.

Ipsos New Zealand asked 1001 Kiwis about their hopes for the future and their views of the state of the nation in the final week of February. The results, exclusively obtained by Newsroom, line up with the pollster’s findings from 28 countries overseas: People believe the economy is rigged to benefit the rich and powerful and traditional politicians aren’t doing anything about it.

Three in five respondents told Ipsos that New Zealand society was in decline and that the country is broken, aligning closely with results from overseas. This is the first time New Zealand has been included in this survey, which Ipsos has run elsewhere five times since 2016.

Paul Spoonley, the former director of centre of research excellence He Whenua Taurikura, said the findings align with the long-running Edelman Trust Barometer study, which doesn’t include New Zealand.

“What they’re recording internationally, which is repeated in this Ipsos survey, is a very rapid decline in trust, particularly in governments and in experts, and a decline in the level of social cohesion internationally,” he said.

“What you see repeated in both the Edelman Trust Barometer and the Ipsos survey is this dissatisfaction, but more than that, distrust of leaders, within government or out. Attached to that distrust is a post-Covid pessimism in the collective.”

TDB Recommends NewzEngine.com

…yes this spike in extremism is deeply concerning, BUT as Jack Vowles points out, we’ve had levels of dissatisfaction that were higher in the past…

Jack Vowles: Stop the panic – we’ve been here before

New Zealand is said to be suffering from ‘serious populist discontent’. An IPSOS MORI survey has reported that we have an increasing preference for strong leaders, think that the economy is rigged toward the rich and powerful, and political elites are ignoring ‘hard-working people’.  The data is from February this year.  There is no earlier IPSOS data to compare it with, but the inference is clear. We are on a downward track towards dangerous populism and authoritarianism.

The New Zealand Election Study (NZES) has been in the field during much the same period, collecting post-election opinion. We have been asking similar questions over the past thirty years, asking people to agree or disagree with the following statements. This data can provide a useful longer-term perspective.

‘Most members of Parliament are out of touch with the rest of the country’.  The percentage agreeing is up since 2020 – 51 per cent  in 2023 compared to 43 per cent in 2020. But looking further back, agreement has ranged in the low to mid-forties since about 2005, but in 2002 it was at about 49 per cent. In 1993, the first year we asked the question, it was 60 per cent.

‘People like me don’t have any say over what the government does’. 45 per cent agree this year, up from 40 per cent in 2020.  But in 2011 48 per cent agreed with the statement, and in 1993, 63 per cent.

‘The New Zealand Government is largely run by big interests’.  51 percent agreed in 2023, up from 36 per cent in 2020. But the 2020 number was unusually low. Normally agreement has tracked up and down around 40 per cent since 2002.  In 1993, 60 percent agreed. There is a slight tendency for agreement with this statement to be higher under National governments, but there may be no causal connection.

‘A few strong leaders could make this country better than all the laws and talk’.  51 per cent agreed with this statement in 2023, up from 43 per cent in 2020. But since 1996 agreement with this authoritarian position has normally tracked well over 50 per cent, dropping down from 56 per cent in 2011 to the low point of 43 per cent in 2020. 2023 is a reversal of the trend, but we have been there before.

How satisfied are you with the way democracy works in New Zealand? Those very or fairly satisfied: in 2023, 69 per cent.  Down from 73 per cent in 2020. But 69 per cent is still higher than all the previous numbers except those from 1996. Normally, those who are satisfied have tracked at about 65 per cent.  Those not satisfied in 2023 were 25 per cent.

…where Jack I think is wrong is in terms of the radicalisation and polarisation we now have.

Yes there was a deep dissatisfaction with the system in the previous years Jack compares to, but the difference is why people are dissatisfied and the new extents of radicalisation they have mutated into.

Sure you might be pissed off with NZ politics in 1996, because that was the first year NZ First swept the Māori electorates and we had MMP, the difference now is that the dissatisfaction is driven by social media hate algorithms that has radicalised and polarised the dissatisfied in a far more extreme fashion.

Yes dissatisfaction has been higher in the past, but the extreme nature of the radicalisation is what is different now.

There’s a vast difference between being unhappy with what Ruth Richardson was doing in 1993 and the belief that Jacinda, her family and the entire front bench of the Labour Party should be hanged for crimes against humanity at a Covid Nuremberg trial!

The manner in which social media school chambers have radicalised voters into Qanon militia speaks to a deeper wound and is reminiscent of the way global Muslim youth were radicalised in the 1990s and 2000s thanks to online Jihadist recruitment videos.

Citizens should feel angry and cynical at a system that is rigged in favour of the rich!

That shouldn’t shock or surprise us, that is the reality!

The danger now is the extremism that social media hate algorithms has manufactured.

Increasingly having independent opinion in a mainstream media environment which mostly echo one another has become more important than ever, so if you value having an independent voice – please donate here.

If you can’t contribute but want to help, please always feel free to share our blogs on social media.


  1. Lucky we haven’t added hordes of foreign neo-colonials to the massive inequality… that would be truly incendiary. Christ, imagine if “we” allowed non-citizens to vote… that would be treasonously insane. Anyone got a match? *crickets chirping*

    • I’m prepared to be proved wrong on this, but hasn’t NZ made it much easier to vote for people with residency? I haven’t read the legislation, but I remember reading a govt (LAB) announcement on scoop a couple of years ago on this subject.. They may have included work visa recipients as well, but I wouldn’t quote me on that particular aspect…
      I do remember thinking that it wasn’t a very sensible idea, and my opinion regarding that policy hasn’t changed.

      • Here are the requirements to vote in NZ: “For electoral purposes, you are a permanent resident if you’re in New Zealand legally and not required to leave within a specific time.” Anyone, any non-NZ-citizen of any country whose visa or permit allows them to reside in NZ indefinitely.

        The authorities also do not record the citizenship of voters; if you don’t believe me you can submit an OIA request and find that one out for yourself, although the fact that “we” can’t even do a census may suggest that truth already.

        Not very sensible may be the understatement of the century.

  2. How about maybe it’s that people can see we have been lied to forever? That’s why trust is collapsing in Politicians and the media.

    The Twitter files show all of this in the US, the Covid enquiries in the UK and on and on.

    People aren’t stupid and now that social media and the internet make it so easy to share information the lies can’t be hidden.

    Problem is that a whole load of bad information also gets shared which amplifies everything

  3. Unusual that someone can post horrific genocidal acts on the socials but can’t say river to the sea. Must be the algorithms.

  4. Is it not it great, all these nation birds, are being secreted, towards the hills on the what hills of welly.
    Eh!, Kiwi!s, found your nests to hide.

  5. Yes, there was every reason for the public to despise our MPs after the black decade of the nineties, and we certainly did.

    But of course Labour came to the defense of working people, stopped illegal and unskilled migrants undercutting wages, and contained migration to the limit of available housing and infrastructure. So a recent NZ graduate can confidently expect to own their own home with ten years, and a worker within twenty.

    Oh, wait… Helen didn’t, and neither did Jacinda. The only thing Labour cares about is Rainbow agendas – they did nothing whatsoever!

    We should totally keep overpaying these lazy, cowardly, and insulting wankers for not doing their job.

  6. In the nineties the New Zealand public was alienated and angry at their betrayal by the two major parties both of which had embraced globalism and neo-liberalism. They then sought redress through various minor parties – New Zealand First, New Labour, the Alliance, the Greens or Te Pati Maori. Now disappointed and disaffected to varying degrees by the minor parties as well, more and more are looking outside of the parliamentary system for political leadership and many find it in social media, limited liability companies such as Voices for Freedom and Reality Check radio, or fringe parties such as New Zealand Loyal. But I suspect a larger number have become cynical to the point of nihilism.
    Jack Vowles is only half right when he says “We have been there before”. As Karl Marx said “History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce”. In the nineties New Zealanders were confronting the destructive consequences of a neoliberal globalist ideology while still believing that the colonialist system could offer a way out of the morass. In this decade they are faced with the farce that is acting out the terminal decline of the colonialist order and they are, at least on the subconscious level, aware that colonialism has no way to save itself.

  7. You have TVNZ replying to a complaint by saying the BSA doesn’t mandate unbiased, balanced reporting because there are other sources available.
    Hence 33% trust and the rise of non MSM news
    The Woke started the split and the right learned from them.
    We are going towards civil strife

  8. What Ruth Richardson was doing in 1993 was largely an economic attack.

    Jacinda, on the other hand, went far beyond that. Creating 2 classes of citizens and attacking body sovereignty.

    • Adern didn’t create 2 classes of citizens. She just allowed the stupid class to be clearly seen by their actions.

        • Neoliberalism creates two classes of citizens. National are using strong arm tactics to once again prove that. Thousands see this dictatorship government for what it truly is.

          • In that respect, Labour also seems largely committed to Neoliberalism.

            Labour’s failures and covid stand-over tactics along with their harsh treatment of smokers has largely resulted in this National coalition winning the election

            • ” Harsh treatment of smokers”

              Jesus H Christ, you really are fucked up!

              Smoking is a choice!

              National is the stand over government as evidence by the fast tracking of legislation without consent.

              Time for you to give away commenting until you grow a brain.

    • Yes, the class of people who work happy to infect others, and the class of people who were in danger of being infected. As one of the vulnerable group, I wouldn’t want to be in a hospital where unvaccinated nongs like you were responsible for treating me. Your right to throw a punch stops at the end of my nose.

  9. It’s been interesting observing the Coalition of Corruption react with alarm to perceived threats to themselves and their families.
    Donor-owned parties like Act & National utilised their massive war chest of donated money, either directly, or indirectly through proxies like the so-called TaxPayers union, Groundswell etc etc (https://www.thepost.co.nz/politics/350189452/candidates-who-scored-biggest-campaign-donations) to instigate and inflame outright hatred via social media to new heights.
    Having seen the success of other overseas far right parties using this tactic, they managed to get elected based on hatred of the existing government and with NO (zero, nada, zilch!) costed coherent policies to enact, other than promises of $$$ to their donors (mining, tobacco, real estate etc).
    A stunning success, and their unfettered slash & burn of the NZ economy since acquiring power is all too evident to the majority now suffering (and yet to suffer) the worst of this “Trussonomics”.

    But here’s the thing. They opened Pandoras Box. They created these hyperventilating monsters and uncritical, keyboard bashing idiots who have been conned into thinking large portions of their fellow Kiwis are their enemies.
    Divide and Conquer. A tactic as old as the hills. And their gullible supporters fell for it hook line and sinker. And as more of those supporters feel the pain, and fail to see their hopes materialise……….?
    Now, the creators of this madness have to suck it up. Yes, the Coalition of Clowns must OWN this. They used it to gain power – now they have to accept the consequences. I in no way condone any of it of course – just pointing out the facts.
    Private security forms are doing well I hear.
    This is New Zealand, but not as we know it.

  10. I sometimes – okay always – long for the time when the tinfoil hat brigade had to use abandoned machine, or if they could afford it a Gestetner, and do some actual work to get their stuff in readable form and then use their own fucking money to buy stamps to posted out to similar nutcases. It’s far too easy these days for eejits to get a worldwide audience of the gullible.

  11. Populism vs Authoritarian political currents have been exposed by the latest IPSOS poll… Martin Bradbury

    “A global wave of disillusionment and disenfranchisement has not spared New Zealand, with a majority of respondents to a survey here agreeing that New Zealand society is broken and the country is in decline….
    …..the pollster’s findings from 28 countries overseas: People believe the economy is rigged to benefit the rich and powerful and traditional politicians aren’t doing anything about it.
    Three in five respondents told Ipsos that New Zealand society was in decline and that the country is broken, aligning closely with results from overseas.”
    Martin Bradbury

    “The danger now is the extremism that social media hate algorithms has manufactured.” Martin Bradbury

    While I agree that social media has turbo charged this move to the Far Right, this phenomenon is not new and preceded the internet.

    The appeal of right wing populist politics, and its most extreme form fascism, can be summed up in one sentence.

    Mehdi Hasan DESTROYS Suella Braverman [And Winston Peters] – And So Much More

    “It is easier to kick down than it is to kick up” Mehdi Hasan


    In one line, Mehdi Hasan explains the success of Winston Peters. Winston Peters is right wing populist politician who has made a career out of scapegoating immigrants and Maori as the cause of people’s problems.

    Populist Right Wing politicians like Peters opportunistically exploiting the disenchantment with mainstream politics, cultivate the worst racist and xenophobic currents in our society.
    ‘Kicking Down’ and blaming Maori and immigrants and other minorities for the nation’s problems, leaves the real causes of inequality and falling living standards to go unaddressed.

    By ‘Kicking Down’ populist politicians, like Peters, and Braverman, instead of being roundly condemned for appealing to our worst natures, are well rewarded for this service to the rich and powerful.

  12. Or, for that matter, trans people.

    Authoritarian populism is nothing new. Muldoon, Thatcher, Reagan, Howard, Abbott, Boris Johnson and Nigel Garage, T/Rump, the anti-vaccinationists, the anti-Treaty brigade, law and order rhetoric… it always gets wheeled out to distract attention from rightist economic agendas, Keynesian or neoliberal.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here