The Inside Word
Insights from the 2022 Federal Election
The end of 2022 was a goldmine for political enthusiasts as three key reviews of the 2022 Federal Election were released. The first was the independent study conducted by the Australian National University and the other two were the Labor and Liberal reviews respectively.
In total, I have scanned through 325 pages of research and analysis in providing these insights. Many issues here have not been circulated widely in the media and yet provide important findings about the changing Australian landscape and what is means for future public debates.
- Labor – no longer the party of the low-income and working class…?
Self-identified working-class support for the Labor Party continues its downward trajectory from the highs of 60% in 1987 to just 38% at this recent election that saw the election of a Labor Government (p. 24). Coupled with the major parties being almost identical in support for those people earning less than $45,000 per year and Labor enjoying a five percentage point advantage over the Coalition for those earning over $140,000 per year, there appears to be a long term structural shift in the Labor Party’s support base from its working class roots to a high-income, high education demographic. In the long term, such a shift will influence the policy agenda and political priorities.
Figure 1 – Australian Election Study, p. 24
2. “Teal” voters are not simply disaffected Liberal voters
Only 18% of teal voters had voted for the Coalition at the 2019 election. The study correctly points out that tactical voting in these electorates is high. It appears that many, if not most, Australians do understand our electoral system well and are increasingly sophisticated in how they vote. People are paying attention to candidates in local electorates and can direct their preferences in such as way as to best remove a government they dislike or elect a government they support.
Figure 2 – Australian Electoral Study, p. 18
3. The Coalition has a generational voting problem
Among younger voters, Coalition voting support has dropped to about 25%. The Election Study states “At no time in the 35-year history of the AES have we observed such a low level of support for either major party in so large a segment of the electorate”. It appears that generational differences on matters such as the economy and social policy are widening and that it may be increasingly difficult to craft messages that resonate broadly across our communities.
Figure 3 – Australian Election Study, p. 22
4. People prefer lower taxes to increased social spending
While 2022 saw the election of a new Labor Government, the survey gap between lower taxes and increased social spending actually widened to 39% for lower taxes and 31% for increased social spending. On this basis the Government should retain the stage three personal income tax cuts.
Figure 4 – Trends in Australian Political Opinion, p. 115
5. Support for immigration is building
Support for immigration is increasing, to a level where the Australian public are roughly split between support for increasing and reducing immigration levels. 49% of survey respondents in 2019 wanted to see immigration reduced, with the figure reducing to only 30% in 2022. While the media commentary is abundant with calls to increase immigration levels to alleviate workforce shortages, it appears there is still hesitancy in the community.
Figure 5 – Trends in Australian Political Opinion, p. 128
6. Renters – a cohort not represented by the major parties
Support for the Greens was 9% for homeowners but more than doubled to 22% for those that rent. Some commentators have made similar observations in teal seats that third party candidates received significant support from those who rent. Renters who are increasingly disaffected with housing prices in key capital city markets and feel like they have not been listened to by the major parties are increasingly placing their support with third parties.
Figure 6 – Australian Election Study, p. 25
7. Queenslanders aren’t happy with the State Government’s COVID response
Worryingly for the Queensland Government, survey results show that Queensland’s COVID response is ranked between New South Wales and Victoria. While COVID is likely to not be a major issue at the 2024 election, it appears any goodwill from the response has evaporated.
Figure 7 – Australian Election Study – p. 32
8. Labor is rethinking its campaign strategy for three-way contests and expects more of these contests in the future
Given the results in the teal electorates and the success of the Greens, Labor is aware of the complex nature of these three-way contests and that its operations, messaging and campaign techniques will need to look different compared to contests that retain two-horse race characteristics. Coupled with the report raising the idea of a primary vote strategy, Labor will increasingly criticise third parties and develop policies that build support specifically for the Labor brand. (ALP Review, p. 50-51, p. 53)
9. The Liberal Party is deeply concerned about the data, digital, research and campaign capabilities of the “teal” independents
The Liberal Party acknowledges that the teal campaigns were at the forefront of modern political campaigning, admitting that teal campaign operations were cutting edge and that they assembled a team of volunteers who were large in numbers while also being highly trained on voter persuasion and messaging (Liberal Party review, p. 36-39).
The Liberal Party wants to dedicate significant time and resources to closing this campaign capability gap. It must also be noted that these teal candidates now have three years to cement their position in local communities and enhance campaign capabilities. Three years will likely not be enough time for the Liberal party to retake these seats, but the Liberal Party rightly point out the need to carefully record the statements and voting records of the teal MPs for use in the next election campaign.
The election reviews can be found here:
- The 2022 Australian Federal Election – Results from the Australian Election Study – https://australianelectionstudy.org/wp-content/uploads/The-2022-Australian-Federal-Election-Results-from-the-Australian-Election-Study.pdf
- Trends in Australian Political Opinion – Results from the Australian Election Study 1987-2022 – https://australianelectionstudy.org/wp-content/uploads/Trends-in-Australian-Political-Opinion-Results-from-the-Australian-Election-Study-1987-2022.pdf
- Report of the Review of Labor’s 2022 Federal Election Campaign – https://alp-assets.s3.ap-southeast-2.amazonaws.com/documents/ALP+CAMPAIGN+REVIEW+2022.pdf
Liberal Party of Australia Review of the 2022 Federal Election – http://cdn.liberal.org.au/2022/2022_election_review.pdf