The 2010 election and Labor’s near defeat have been endlessly discussed by the media but until now we little clear evidence as to exactly what happened. After each federal election a comprehensive survey is undertaken by the Australian National University. The dataset for the 2010 survey was made available in late December. However it was then withdrawn due to the identification of sampling problems (I did hear that response levels were disappointing), perhaps because of these the database did not identify respondents by occupation. However an analysis of the available data is interesting and sheds light on the 2010 election and on the future prospects of the Greens.
Some commentary suggested that Tony Abbott has reassembled a Howardian coalition with pride of place given to the ‘aspirational’ self-employed. However the shift against Labor (and against the combined left vote of Labor + Greens) was similar across different employment types.
|2007 ALP||2007 Greens||2007 ALP + Greens||2010 ALP||2010 Greens||2010 ALP + Greens|
|Family or farm||42.3||7.7||50||30||3.3||33.3|
The family/farm shift is notable but there were under a hundred in this category at both surveys. However other research I have done suggests that workers in this category swung strongly against the Coalition in 2007 perhaps WorkChoices was a particular issue among workers in smaller businesses?
In 2007 Labor rallied union members with 62.6% voting labor and 8.3% for the Greens but in 2010 Labor polled 53.9% among unionists and the Greens 11.3%. This suggests particular erosion among union members in 2010.
What about the issues? No huge surprises here. 54.9% of voters wanted to turn back boats carrying asylum-seekers, 46.3% of Labor voters, 67.4% of Coalition voters and 29.1% of Green voters. Respondents were asked about the importance of the resources tax. 80% of Coalition voters considered it to be important issues, as did 79.8% of Labor voters (although fewer considered it very important). Seems clear that the tax cost Labor votes.
The other plank of the Coalition campaign was an appeal to concern about living standards. 51.3% of respondents felt that their standard of living had stayed the same since 2007, however 32.4% felt their standard of living had fallen and Labor polled only 25.9% among this group and the Greens only 5.25. The left did well among those who felt their living standards had increased but this was 16.3% of respondents.
Personalities: 83% of Coalition voters considered Julia Gillard untrustworthy, as did 30.3% of Labor voters. However Tony Abbott didn’t do very well on this indicator either with 84.1% of Labor voters considering him untrustworthy and 30.5% of Coalition voters agreed.
Overall then the story of the election is that Labor lost the WorkChoices advantage it had in 2007, that the mining tax and its policy on asylum-seekers were unpopular and that many voters felt their living standards were under pressure.
What of the future? One topic often debated is the extent to which the Greens can continue their erosion of Labor’s vote. The AES asked voters to place themselves and various parties on left-right spectrum from 0 furthest to the left and 10 furthest to the right. This is an Australian equivalent of the American pattern of asking voters whether they are liberal or conservative. Coalition voters saw the Greens as party of the radical left their median evaluation of the Greens was 2 on the left-right spectrum. Labor voters however placed the Greens at 4. Green voters placed themselves at 3. The median self-positioning of Labor voters was 5 and of Green voters 4. However voter evaluations tend to cluster in the middle of the spectrum. 29.8% of Labor voters did place themselves within 0-3 on the spectrum when it came to evaluating their own ideological position. Labor voters put Labor at 5 on the spectrum whereas Greens put Labor at 4. All this sheds light on the evaluation of the Greens’ appeal to left-wing voters as discussed by Tad Tietze. Have I found my 2010 APSA paper topic?