A lot of explaining to do

An overview of an Australian National University study based on surveys of the same voters at the start of the election campaign and immediately after it.

The Australian National University’s Centre for Social Research and Methods has published a study entitled Explaining the 2022 Australian Federal Election Results, which seeks to live up to its name by analysing two surveys, one conducted from April 11 (the day after the election was called) to April 24, the other from May 23 (two days after the election) June 5. The sample for the latter was 3556, of whom 3350 completed the former survey, providing an invaluable insight into how voting intention and related attitudes changed over the course of the campaign. Excitingly, the data from the May survey “will be available for download through the Australian Data Archive at the end of June 2022” – the April survey data is already available here.

The analysis uses a statistical model to analyse relationships between various voter characteristics and vote choice, together with straightforward breakdowns of vote choice by various demographic variables. Notable findings from the report:

• As well as associating positively with conservative voting, age was significant in that younger Coalition voters from 2019 were more likely to defect.

• Consistent with what polling breakdowns were showing, women as well as younger voters voted further to the left than men, which in both cases manifested in lower support for the Coalition, higher support for the Greens and little difference for Labor.

• Voters with university degrees likewise defected from the Coalition in greater proportion than those with less education. Income did not have a statistically significant impact on vote switching independent of education, and being in the bottom fifth on household income continued to associate positively with voting Labor (and also with voting for “others”, namely everyone but Coalition, Labor and Greens, nearly half of which was One Nation and United Australia Party).

• Of those who changed their minds between the start of the campaign and election day, the largest movement was from Labor to the Greens, accounting for 4.0% of all voters, with 2.4% going the other way. The difference in flows between the two major parties fell well short of statistical significance, with 3.0% going from Coalition to Labor and 2.0% vice-versa. A similar exercise from the 2019 election found the biggest flow during that campaign to be from “others” to the Coalition.

• The statistical model found that speaking a language other than English associated negatively with non-Coalition voting. While this may seem counter-intuitive, the model measured the effect independently of many other explanatory variables, notably those relating to income and living in “the most disadvantaged areas”. So while non-English speaking voters were undoubtedly less likely to vote Coalition in aggregate, they seem more likely to have done so than English-speaking voters with the same demographic profile. It would be interesting to have seen the results with Chinese language speakers, who are typically more conservative but seem to have swung heavily to Labor at this election, considered separately from those of other backgrounds.

• An explanatory variable confusingly identified as “lives in another capital city” recorded a strong negative association with voting for Labor and the Greens. It would make all sorts of sense if this should in fact say “lives outside of a capital city”.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

6 comments on “A lot of explaining to do”

  1. It’s interesting to see how wide the gap is between people >65 with 49% voting Coalition but only 27% of <65 and 18% <35. Definitely expected to see more LNP voters among older people but not to this level. The ANU study looks to have relatively more Greens and Labor participants and less LNP and others when compared to the election. Even if you a another 4% to the above Coalition figures to account for underrepresentation in the study it is still a bad portent for their future prospects.

  2. How much of that “language other than English” swing was the Fowler effect?

    A couple of tidbits from today’s finalization (give or take a few data entry errors) of the 2PP count:

    Labor ends up winning 52.13 to 47.87 (give or take a few hundredths caused by data entry errors).

    Melbourne, despite a ho-hum Greens win, swings more than 10+ to ALP on 2PP while next-door Cooper dead-cat bounces 0.75% to the Coalition (to a whopping 24.54%). Obviously neither seat is competitive but the contrast is worth digging into for folks on the ground.

    The Coalition has a serious problem with districting as it stands. If we assume a uniform swing of 2.13% (so a completely null result, 50-50 on 2PP), they probably only win six additional seats (Lingiari, Lyons, Gilmore, Bennelong, Curtin, and Higgins, the latter being incredibly close at that point). Even with confidence and supply from Lib-in-all-but-name Le, the remaining Teals (not bloody likely), Sharkie and Katter, they’re nowhere close to 76 seats.

  3. Pi yes, the LNP voter base is not going to be around forever Covid or otherwise. The LNP need to modernise, remain relevant and reflect younger voters but there are no signs they will move that way. I wouldn’t be surprised if the teals are the catalyst for a new liberal conservative party or movement that replaces the current LNP.

  4. I probably have brain worms from living in the US for too long, but to me the Teals just seem like Democrats, albeit of the more pro-capitalist variety. Isn’t Joe Biden pretty much a Teal?

  5. Paul Thomas you’re not just out of touch, the teals are essentially US style pro-capitalist social progressives that are comparable to the dominant wing of the US Democrats like Biden or Pelosi. The Democrats are a VERY broad church atm.

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