How Australia Votes

Web-surfing psephologists might be interested in a study I presented today on voting patterns in Australia. A quick preview of results, from the media release that ANU put out.

· In 2001, richer voters were more likely to vote for the Coalition. The richest fifth of voters were 28 per cent more supportive of the Coalition than the poorest fifth. The gap in voting patterns between rich and poor also seems to have widened over time.
· Women were 10 per cent more likely than men to vote for the Coalition in the 1960s, but this partisan gender gap appears to have disappeared in recent elections. In line with trends in the United States and Europe, Australian women have steadily become more left wing.
· In 2001, voters aged 50-59 were 18 per cent more likely to vote for the Coalition than voters aged 18-29, while voters aged 60 and over were 25 per cent more likely to support the Coalition. This partisan age gap has more than doubled since 1966.
· Foreign-born voters are now 15 per cent more likely to support Labor than Australian-born voters. In the 1960s, there was little difference in voting patterns between these groups.
· Neighbourhood also appears to have an effect on voting patterns. Voters in more affluent neighbourhoods are likely to support the Coalition, while voters in more unequal or ethnically diverse neighbourhoods are more likely to support Labor.
· About 10 per cent of the population “swings” (changes their primary vote from one election to the next). Younger voters, male voters and overseas-born voters are more likely to swing.

One way of looking at the shifts over the past three decades is to assume that voters consistently support the party that best serves their interests. Relative to Labor, this suggests that the Coalition’s policies today favour the rich, elderly and Australian-born more than in the past.

UPDATE: Peter Hartcher made some nice use of the findings in this article on 29 September, in which he assessed the chances that Latham’s “Medicare Gold” policy will win him enough votes among the elderly.

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