Further to last post I continue examination of the beliefs of Australians as revealed in the Australian Election Survey from 1998 to 2010. Asking voters were they position themselves on a left-right spectrum where 0 is furthest to the left and 10 furthest to the right might seem abstract but analysis suggests that these classification does match to views on public policy. It may be more directly relevant than the liberal-conservative classification favoured by American scholars. A substantial portion of self-identified American conservatives hold liberal views.
Throwing analytical caution somewhat to the wind I have produced some estimates of the average ideological position of Australian voters (and of their evaluation of various parties) by simply taking the average of ideological scores in the AES. Lets start with voter descriptions of their own ideological position. Green voters moved to the left 1998-2010, we could attribute this to their emergence as aleft alternative to Labor rather than just an environmental party. 2001 is clearly the turning point here. Labor voters showed a slight drift to the left as well despite the Greens’ growing appeal to left-wing voters. The Nationals drifted to the right perhaps consistent with their tendency to define themselves as the anti-Green party. is this evidence of political polarization on the American model? Perhaps but more research is required.
Across this period voters saw Labor as moving to the left. Liberal and National voters saw Labor as further to the left than did Labor and Green voters. Interesting to observe that although Green voters reacted against Labor in 2001 clearly in response to the Tampa traumas by 2010 Labor and Green voters agreed in their evaluation of the ALP. National voters see Labor as increasingly left-wing, a manifestation of the Nationals’ self-definition as ‘conservative’ which has come to supplant their rural appeal.
Voters saw the Greens as moving to the left. Curiously this was particularly the case in 2004. The move by the Liberals to preference against the Greens is consistent with their changing view of the Greens.
What about Labor and the Greens? Green voters used to see the Greens as too right-wing and Labor voters used to see Labor as too left-wing. However these gaps have notably closed. Part of this would be due to the Greens winning votes to their right from former Labor voters but the remaining Labor vote is not becoming more conservative. Labor and Green voters both see the other party as too conservative or too radical but feelings have become much more positive since 2001.
Some big picture interpretation. Is the real line of ideological conflict on the left between most Labor and Green voters and smaller groups to their right and left? There are Labor partisans who hate the Greens with a passion and there are Greens bitterly resentful of Labor’s perceived betrayals but are they are a minority in both parties?