Are young voters attracted to social conservatism?

Conservative and ‘progressive’ Liberals may disagree on much, but it seems they share at least one attribute – confusing their hopes with our reality. Last December Senator Judith Troeth called for a ‘progressive liberalism’ to restore the party’s electoral fortunes. As I pointed out at the time, the polling does not support Troeth’s conclusions.

And today NSW Young Liberal President Noel McCoy has an op-ed in The Australian arguing that John Howard’s social conservatism resonated with young people.

The evidence for this is rather thin, as McCoy effectively admits. That in 2004 the Australia Election Study found more young people voting Liberal than Labor ‘for the first time’. So the AES surveys in 1996, 1998 and 2001 (and no doubt 2007) are aberrations, and we should rely on the 2004 survey? McCoy is drawing on Clive Bean’s research, but Bean was relying on a sample of 121 persons aged 25 and under (see his chapter in Mortgage Nation). Ian Watson’s analysis of a much bigger sample of Newspoll respondents found the Coalition’s worst-ever result among the 18-24 year olds in 2004.
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