Recently commenter Robert asked about my views on Scott Steel’s demographic political analysis. Using 2007 polling data, Steel finds what several others – including me, Andrew Leigh, and Ian Watson – have found before: that the Coalition relies heavily on older voters.
While I agree with the broad thrust of Steel’s analysis, I have a slightly different way of looking at it. The 2007 polling results he reports are for me the combination of three different dynamics – long-term trends in party identification, medium-term trends in the issue cycle which affect what those with weak or no party affiliation want out of the political system (which I have discussed before), and shorter-term factors that may affect particular polls and elections but don’t necessarily in themselves affect long-term perceptions of parties (for examples, pick any newspaper from any day at random).
On party ID, as can be seen below the trends are very much against the Coalition, making elections increasingly difficult to win because base support is too low. On the other hand, the arguments that the Greens would emerge as the new third party don’t seem likely either. Even in the most indoctrinated and fashion-prone age group, the 18-30s, the Coalition has nearly three times the base support of the Greens. Labor’s security as the natural party of government comes not from an increase in its base, which apart from the Labor-leaning forty-somethings is consistent across age groups, but from its two major rivals hating each other more than they hate Labor.
Question: ‘Generally speaking, do you usually think of yourself as Liberal, Labor, National, or what?’, in the Australian Election Survey 2007 n=1,711
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