University hosts flagship debate for young voters

24 August 2017
Jennifer Lees-Marshment
Associate Professor Jennifer Lees-Marshment

For the first time during a New Zealand General Election, the University of Auckland is partnering with TVNZ to host a special live debate focused on young voters.

Called 1NEWS Young Voters Debate, with Vote Compass, it will be a 90-minute special debate styled on TVNZ’s Backbenchers show and held on the University Campus.

“This is a unique chance to understand and discuss youth issues in a debate as high profile as the standard TVNZ Leader debates,” says Associate Professor of Politics and International Relations, Jennifer Lees-Marshment, who connected TVNZ with the University (and Auckland University Students Association) and has advised on the programme format.

The University has selected a private audience of 100 youth from across New Zealand tertiary institutions, party lines and life circumstances who will participate in the debate as it is streamed live on 1 NEWS NOW, Facebook and YouTube, Duke TV (Freeview 13 and Sky 23), and simulcast on Newstalk ZB, from 7.30pm on 14 September.

Popular TVNZ Breakfast presenter Jack Tame will be directing a panel that includes a member of each political party:  Chris Bishop (National), Kris Faafoi (Labour), Chloe Swarbrick (Greens), Shane Taurima (Māori Party), David Seymour (ACT), Darroch Ball (NZ First) and Damian Light (United Future).  A second presenter Billie Jo Ropiha will roam among the invited audience asking questions and seeking comment.

 “We are delighted to be hosting the debate because young people are our leaders of the future and it’s critical that they engage actively in our democracy,” says Professor Jenny Dixon, the University’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Strategic Engagement.

It’s vital [to engage young voters],” adds John Gillespie, TVNZ’s Head of News and Current Affairs. He says TVNZ is “hugely looking forward to the debate”.

Vote Compass

The Youth Debate will also be informed by TVNZ’s Online Vote Compass tool, which is sponsored by the University’s Faculty of Arts.

Vote Compass enables voters to give their views ranging from strongly agreeing, to strongly disagreeing, on more than 30 policy or issue-based questions. The results are then calculated instantly so viewers can see how closely aligned they are to different party positions.

It puts the voices of ordinary people on the agenda,” says Dr Lees-Marshment who is the academic advisor to Vote Compass, and first introduced the tool from Canada, to New Zealand, for the 2014 election.

“As campaigns often end up plagued by personality issues and billboard slogans, Vote Compass plays an important democratic role ensuring discussions of policy, and public views on them, remain on the agenda.

“Vote Compass has engaged over 250,000 New Zealanders already in the 2017 election and we have gained insights into what the public is thinking, such as that health is voters top issue and Jacinda Ardern won the TVNZ debate. I am really pleased to work with TVNZ on this important initiative that helps us hear voters voices more directly.”



Tess Redgrave| Media Relations Advisor

Faculty of Arts


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