Of course, it’s not 88% of New Zealanders who voted “no”. It’s 88% of people who felt strongly enough about the issue and thought the question was meaningful enough to go to the trouble voting at all. So about half of eligible voters. Slightly more than the proportion of New Zealanders who watched the season finale of Shortland Street in ’07 to discover who the serial killer was.

That said, turnout itself can be considered a telling statistic. Polling data on why the other half of the country didn’t vote would be very interesting. Presumably some mix of:

  • John Key said it didn’t matter anyway.
  • I refused to participate in such a stupidly worded referendum question.
  • I didn’t care enough about the issue.

It continues to demonstrate a general (and encouraged) misunderstanding about the law. “Should stepping a foot on someone else’s property be a criminal offence in New Zealand?” would make a good referendum. My God! It’s only the discretion of the police that stops us from being hauled off to jail every time we scuff our feet on someone’s lawn!