Are the Liberals the Party of the Poor?

Dennis Shanahan today picks up Federal Liberal Party Director Brian Loughnane’s claim that the Coalition is winning a bigger share of the poor than ever before. In a recent paper, using post-election studies from 1966-2001, I found the opposite trend, which leads me to believe that Loughnane is merely trying to fool Labor into moving too far to the left at the next election (amazingly, Shanahan seems to treat Loughnane as some kind of unbiased observer). Those in the bottom income quintile (ie. the poorest 20%) were 15% more likely to vote Labor than those in the top quintile in 1996, 20% more likely in 1998, and 27% more likely in 2001. I’m sure my study isn’t perfect, but it’s a damn sight more solid than the evidence Loughnane and Shanahan are tinkering with, and until I see a massive turnaround in the 2004 post-election survey, I’ll stay sceptical.

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4 Responses to Are the Liberals the Party of the Poor?

  1. GARPET says:

    It is always the winners who tend to write history. The coalition were the winners – thus it is not surprising that they want to write their history of these events as they would like them to be remembered.

    That said, let us not forget that it was Bob Hawke and Paul Keating who led the ALP towards economic rationalism globalisation. I would be of the view that the ALP is reaping the harvest of what it has sown.

    It is also true that since the Democrats negotiated a deal about the GST, threw out their young and progressive (and I must say charismatic) leader only to replace her with a new leader who misbehaved in public, they have been losing votes.

    Essentially those votes had to go somewhere. The Greens, the coalition and the ALP were the major choices. Most seem to have gone to the Greens and the coalition.

    Perhaps the people who used to “keep the bastards honest” have grown more affluent over the years and now want to protect their interests?

    The coalition representing the workers? Only in the Tasmanian Forest I would think!

  2. Andrew Leigh says:

    Actually, my research points in the opposite direction to that which the critics of “economic rationalism globalisation” would predict. The poor are more likely to vote Labor in recent elections than in the 1970s or 1980s. If you believe voter support says something about party policies, then the ALP of today (relative to the Coalition) is more pro-poor than in the 70s & 80s.

  3. Garpet says:


    Fancy introducing facts and logic when all they do is to spoil a good story!

  4. John Quiggin says:

    The gap between the ALP and the Liberals is larger now than when Hawke and Keating were in office, I’d say.

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