Thank you for your interest in our piece. The commentary, published yesterday in Drug & Alcohol Review, discussed some of the social, political and campaign factors that may explain the outcome, with international academic audience in mind. We have endeavoured to present the evidence in a balanced way and that has meant we have been criticised by interest groups from both sides of the debate. It’s our job to present the evidence and analysis, not advocate for one side or the other. We asserted that Prime Minister Jacinda Arden’s decision not to reveal her voting preference before the vote may have been decisive based on her effectiveness as a political communicator and broad popularity with middle New Zealand conservative voters. We believe Jacinda Arden’s communication skills and popularity are self-evident and so we didn’t provide any reference to back that up (although there are numerous political opinion poll results you could refer to). Incidentally, we are not criticizing Jacinda Ardern for her position, she clearly explained the rational that she wanted people to decide for themselves, which is reasonable for such a values based issue. Nevertheless, it is a factor that in our view is relevant in explaining NZ referendum debate.
With regards to campaign spending, thanks for noting we did not have access to reports submitted to the Electoral Commission by “third party promoters” (those were published after the article was accepted for publication). We agree the reports provide interesting insights. You rightly note, only 3 campaigners filed the reports (only those that spent $100,000+ in the “regulated period” are required to do this) and 2 of those were on the NO side (SAM and Family First – who are behind the “Nope to Dope”; note we refer to “Nope to Dope” as anti-reform group not a “registered campaigner”) - their declared combined spending was $462,000. The only registered campaigner who crossed the $100,000 reporting limit on the “YES” side was NZ Drug Foundation ($337,000). From Facebook data, we also know that “Make It Legal” (also YES side) was very close to the $100,000 in that pre-referendum “regulated period”, Facebook estimate for the 8-weeks pre-referendum suggests roughly $96,000 spending on social media advertising (and for the 3 months pre-referendum Facebook estimate sits at $129,000 spent – but this data extends beyond the “regulated period”). Next to NZDF, we consider “Make It Legal” one of the leading pro-reform campaigners (possible with second highest spending among registered campaigners on the YES side, and definitely the highest spending on Facebook advertising). Absolutely agree strategies differed among campaigners, and we explicitly referred to leading role of Make It Legal on social media. While we will never know the exact spending on each side (because those <$100,000 don’t file the reports), the above – from what is available in the public domain - suggests it wasn’t far off in the immediate pre-referendum period. Unfortunately, as you note - there is even less information about campaign spending before that, therefore our commentary focused on the immediate pre-referendum period for which some data is available.
Marta & Chris