Demographic problems for the Liberals

I have long been pessimistic about demographic trends in Liberal support. Last May Ian Watson, using data from both the Australian Election Survey and Newspoll, clearly showed problems for the Liberals in that their support was concentrated in older cohorts.

This week, Watson has updated the Newspoll part of his analysis, which confirms the pattern of results in previous studies. Of course in a year the Coalition was defeated that’s hardly surprising in an analysis based on voting intentions. When general swings are on they usually cut across all age groups. The yet-to-be-released 2007 Australian Election Survey, which by asking also about party identification can get beyond some of the transitory factors affecting election outcomes, will be more interesting.

With this proviso, they key figures in Watson’s analysis look at the voting intentions of people in their 50s. We can see the political effects as the dreaded Whitlam generation comes through, replacing more conservative voters born in the 1930s and 1940s (Watson’s data goes back to the 1987 election). A whole generation of Russells!

Fortunately younger Labor politicians are on average far more sensible than their Whitlam-era equivalents, so the effects on public policy shouldn’t be too serious. But it confirms that elections will be harder for the Coalition to win in the future than they were in the past.