Citizen power – building our knowledge base

Julie Haggie

Sam Collins
TINZ Administrator

Less political pontification due to the focus on COVID-19 may be a relief for some, but it leaves others wondering how to use their votes this year, or even whether to use them.

At TINZ we are big fans of democracy, we strongly encourage people to inform themselves and to vote. Voting is a power that each of us holds. It is our opportunity to influence those who make decisions that affect us and matter to us.

The internet has emerged as a key information source for our elections. According to data from the 2017 New Zealand Election Study, 64% of New Zealanders use the internet for information about the election, 44% often or sometimes follow election news on social media, and 25% use social media sites to promote an issue.

Below are a few online tools to help think about your priorities, learn about policies of parties, and be more savvy about who is paying to influence your voting power.

Ad Libraries

This year for the first time, people or organisations paying for Facebook advertising around political or social issues, have to register with the Facebook Ad Library. This promotes transparency within paid political advertising on Facebook.

Facebook is the largest single source of online political advertisement spending. In 2017 it was 25% of 2017 party election expense in New Zealand.

While limited, the Facebook Ad Library and Google’s similar Transparency Report are positive steps in political advertising transparency.

Are you on the Fence?

Do you want a tool to help you think about which parties align with your general political beliefs, including about the referendum on legislation around cannabis use?

On the Fence ( is a gameful questionnaire that guides you to your best match amongst the political parties. The tool was created to lower barriers that deter young people from voting such as lack of information and lack of understanding.

Another guide for voters in general, is the TVNZ 1-News Vote Compass civic engagement tool developed by political scientists. It calculates how your political views compare with party platforms. It is the New Zealand customised version of the Vote Compass tool used by millions of people during elections over recent years in many countries.

I want to know what their policies are!

Do you want to learn about the policies of political parties? Check out The complete guide to NZ Election 2020. This is a product of Policy who, like TINZ, is non-partisan and strives to treat all parties and candidates fairly.

In the realm of transparency, look no further than TINZ's Election 2020 questionnaire responses. TINZ made valiant efforts to engage political parties to provide answers on questions that are important to TINZ's mission - transparency, anti corruption, public participation, political integrity and open government.

What about the referendum votes?

Referenda are a rare opportunity for citizens to directly vote on legislation. Referenda are about 'participative democracy' instead of 'representative democracy'. This places a responsibility on each voter to do their homework before exercising their vote. This year NZ will have two referenda on the ballot.

On the Fence’s questions are useful to help voters work through the issues around the cannabis legalisation. The questions were designed by Massey University’s Design+Democracy Project alongside rangatahi from across Aotearoa, RNZ, Generation Zero and Platform Charitable Trust. Big ups to this public-community partnership.

The Government’s End of Life Choice referendum page contains solid non-partisan information on this referendum.

The Government’s overall referendum site has great information with links to frequently asked questions on both referendums.

Non-partisan information in alternative question and answer formats is also available at Explainer: End of life choice referendum (Newsroom) and Explainer: Cannabis referendum (Newsroom).

Voting for the first time?

Who Targets Me - A tool we would like but can’t use... yet

Lack of usage within New Zealand prevents Who Targets Me from bringing personalised analysis to New Zealanders. Created by a UK based NGO, this browser extension tracks the ads presented to its users on Facebook, building a crowdsourced dataset of political adverts and targeting. While at last count there are only 100 users in New Zealand, it has been installed by over 30,000 users worldwide in more than 100 countries.

Democracy daily faces new risks in the digital age. Tools like 'Who Targets Me' are important to create an informed electorate and provide transparency around political advertising and political content.



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