Read the full background stories about the Aspirational Left Families now reshaping Australia
Three key decisions that adults in Australia are making about their own lives, and their families, revolve around choosing who to vote for in an election, staying healthy and giving their kids the best education they can.
Sarah Ho, who moved with her family from Hong Kong when she was five, and sends her kids to a private school, is an emerging type of voter who election analyst and political demographer John Black describes as the aspirational migrant population, is drastically altering the shape and direction of culture and politics.
Sarah Ho isn’t wedded to a particular party. The marketing executive and mum of three, who lives in Lidcombe in Sydney’s west, always votes for the candidate whose policies align most with the health needs of her ageing parents, the education outcomes of her children, and someone who has progressive views on climate change.
You can now read the full Australian Financial Review stories about our research into this big emerging demographic group, which is re-shaping Australian political parties and changing the balance between private and public consumption within Australia’s health and education sectors.
With the approval of the AFR and the ABC, we are posting the original March 2 AFR page one and page three stories, together with the feature article and charts covering the Aspirational Left, along with follow-up interviews with John Black by Radio National’s Patricia Karvelas and ABC Brisbane Drive Time host Steve Austin. An ADS (Australian Development Strategies) map of the distribution of the Aspirational Left stereotype across current federal seats is also found in the links below.
I got a great run in the Australian Financial Review on Wednesday this week on the need for a fair dinkum progressive economic reform package from the new Government, to pay for rising costs in Aged Care, Health, Defence and the NDIS, something that all income groups in Australia could support.
For those with an Australian Financial Review subscription you can see the article by Clicking Here. We have a PDF version of the article available by Clicking Here..
The Eden-Monaro by-election was held on July 4 and won by Labor’s Kristy McBain, despite a small 2PP swing to the Liberal candidate Fiona Kotvojs.
Notwithstanding the small net swing, the range of swings for and against the ALP were 25 percent, which indicated that there was a considerable range of political views about each candidate. Modelling of the booth returns showed strong demographic drivers underlying the swings.
As Eden-Monaro is an excellent representative sample of Australia, demographically, spatially and politically, we profiled the 2PP results by pre-poll and election day booth catchments and projected these onto all Australian federal seats.
We stress that the by-election results are only a snapshot of how individual candidates performed at a certain time and in a specific set of circumstances and these circumstances will have changed significantly between July 4 and the next election.
The booths swinging to Labor tended to contain higher percentages of lower-income families and retirees, often employed part time in tourism and hospitality jobs which had been heavily impacted by the Covid-related lockdowns impacting this sector.
Those booths swinging to the Coalition tended to contain higher income families in secure white-collar jobs, least impacted by Covid jobs lockdowns.
For seat by seat projections of the Eden-Monaro swings onto all current federal seats, see the attached map.
Comments from John Black, founder of ADS and Education Geographics and map from Dr Jeanine McMullan, CEO of Health Geographics.
The Eden-Monaro by-election will be held on July 4. With a week to go, Labor’s Kristy McBain is the bookies’ favourite on $1.70 to win, with published robo-polls giving her 53 percent of the two-party preferred (2PP) vote.
Despite trailing in the robo-polls and with Sportsbet paying $2.25, I think the Liberal candidate Fiona Kotvojs is pretty good value for money if you like a flutter. There are a few reasons for this, but first some background.
Eden-Monaro is pretty close to being Australia’s version of Magic Town, named after the 1947 movie featuring a fictitious version of one of the original United States polling companies. The pollster – played by James Stewart – is obsessed with finding a small town which is a perfect demographic and political sample of the USA. This meant it could be milked cheaply for perfect poll results on everything from toothpaste preferences to voting intention.
With similar demographics to Australia, Eden-Monaro tends to vote like Australia and return the same result: and this means the party winning Eden-Monaro tends to also win a majority of seats and form the Government.
Mike Kelly first won the seat for Labor when Labor’s Kevin Rudd won the 2007 election. He won it again in 2010 when Labor also held Government, and he lost it in 2013, when Labor lost Government. So far, so good for Eden-Monaro’s reputation as Australia’s political Magic Town.
But then the popular Dr Kelly stood again for Eden-Monaro in 2016 and won, despite Labor losing the national election narrowly to the Coalition. He eroded the Eden-Monaro’s Magic Town reputation further in 2019, by holding the seat on 50.9 percent 2PP vote, despite Labor’s failure to regain Government.
When we look into the demographics of Eden-Monaro, we see it’s very similar to Australia, in terms of its socio-economic indicators which cover job status, education status and income. It also contains some urban overspill from Canberra, some farming and fishing communities and a slice of tree-changing and sea changing retirement communities.
The differences between Eden-Monaro and Australia seem minor but explain why the seat went against the trends in 2016 and 2019, sticking to Mike Kelly as a well-regarded political identity.
Compared to Australia the seat, on average contains more farmers and farm workers and a disproportionate number of retirees. Our demographic profiling of elections back to 1966, shows farm workers and retirees have a weak class vote and are more inclined to cast a large personal vote for any effective MP seen to be doing a good job.
We did several national demographic models of the 2019 election and on the one we chose, Mike Kelly polled 6.6 percent more than the model predicted.
With a standard error of estimate of 4.5 percent, this was a strong performance and history tells us that when a popular sitting member like this retires, their personal vote tends to be redistributed back to the opposing party, especially when that party is nominating the same candidate.
In the case of Eden-Monaro, that party is the Liberal Party and their candidate is again, Fiona Kotvojs. It’s important to bear in mind we model 2PP votes, so one candidate’s overperformance, is also their opponent’s underperformance.
So, it’s statistically safe to say Kotvojs would have won Eden-Monaro in 2019 with up to 55 percent of the 2PP vote against a less effective sitting MP than Mike Kelly. Hence my tip earlier on the value for money bet.
But we’re now in 2020 not 2019. Relevant factors to consider since 2019 include.
Anthony Albanese is now the Labor Leader, not Bill Shorten. Both men were on similar levels of satisfaction – 41 percent – at similar stages of the election process, but Shorten was on a dissatisfaction score of 49 percent before the last election, compared to Albanese’s 38 percent.
Scott Morrison performed below par during and after the bushfires which devastated the east coast of the electorate over Christmas and this region was just getting back on its feet when it got whacked again with job losses from the Covid lockdown.
Labor now appears to be running an effective postal vote campaign in 2020 compared to 2019, when it ran no campaign at all. This is a sleeper for Labor.
The National Party and the Shooters are reportedly up to some preference allocation tricks in Eden-Monaro to disadvantage the Liberals. Even if true, I suspect these factors can be disregarded. Voters have more important things to worry about at the moment.
Favouring the Coalition:
Scott Morrison has performed above par during and after the Covid-Pandemic and lifted his personal pre-2019 election satisfaction score from 46 percent to 66 percent and his Better PM rating from 47 percent against Bill Shorten to 56 percent against Anthony Albanese. Tick one for the Liberals. But this is a pretty big tick, especially in a crisis such as we’re now facing, when voters tend to rally behind the Government of the day.
The big group relatively unimpacted by the Covid jobs Lockdown is of course public servants, and Eden-Monaro contains a lot of these, due to some fast-growing, high-SES, urban overspill south of Queanbeyan and this included some swings to the Coalition in 2019. I suspect this is a sleeper for the Coalition.
This leaves us to consider the Robo-polls now putting Labor’s Kristy McBain on 53 percent of the 2PP vote in Eden-Monaro. If you were one of the candidates, you’d rather be McBain on 53 percent, than Kotvojs on 47 percent.
But other pre-election Robo-polls overestimated Labor’s 2019 vote by three percent at the last election by oversampling IT-savvy, highly-paid professionals and younger highly-mobile, agnostic, Tertiary students, with strong dependence on social media, who love to fill in online media surveys and polls. These were the groups swinging to Labor in 2019. These are the groups now most impacted by the Covid Lockdowns.
The robo-polls in 2019 also under-sampled working families with two reasonably secure jobs, a mortgage to pay off and dependent school aged kids to look after, and they also under-sampled church goers, especially those on the fringes of our major cities. These are the groups which swung to Scott Morrison and the Coalition and they are the group least impacted by the current Covid Lockdowns.
The big unknown here are how the public votes during the Covid pandemic and associated jobs lockdown and none of us will know this for sure until we get the results on Saturday night.
But on the evidence, Fiona Kotvojs is good value at $2.25 for a win. Very good value.
We can tell from the online interactive map that the areas hit hardest in Eden-Monaro by the jobs’ lockdown in March/April, were those showing the strongest signs of recovery in May. You can track the impact of the changes by clicking on the stages from 1 to 5.
We also include map layers showing swings and votes at the 2019 election. The votes provided are based on modelling of all the votes cast in Eden-Monaro, not just the booth votes which are becoming increasingly irrelevant, due to major increases in pre-poll voting.
Comments from John Black, founder of ADS and Education Geographics and map from Dr Jeanine McMullan, CEO of Health Geographics.
Provided your humble correspondent is not eaten by a grizzly bear next week while trout-hunting in the wilds of northwest Canada, he will be back in time to help our team sift through the demographics of Super Saturday.
We will be looking for demographically driven swings across the booths in Longman and Braddon that are consistent with the swings we saw in New England and Bennelong; and tangible links between these patterns of swing and the policy offerings of the government and the opposition, especially as they relate to the hip-pocket nerve.
I’m looking particularly at swings by voters concerned with imputation tax increases for retirees and income tax increases for aspirational voters.
If we can see patterns among bigger demographic groups living in marginal seats then we can draw some inferences as to their impact at the next federal election. The other seats will provide a bit of a sideshow to the main event in Longman and Braddon.
South Australia’s Mayo, for example, is a seat a popular, local Liberal should have won back easily from former Nick Xenophon protege Rebekha Sharkie, who won Mayo from the less-than-popular local Liberal MP Jamie Briggs. However, polls show about 60 per cent of Mayo’s new generation of prosperous and professional commuters support Sharkie over the Downer dynasty’s Georgina Downer. After generations of political mulishness that has splintered the Coalition vote in South Australia — dating back to the original Liberal Movement — the Adelaide political establishment, like the old French aristocracy, learns nothing and forgets nothing.
The two West Australian by-elections of Fremantle and Perth will be interesting as a guide to how many intending Liberal voters, when denied a candidate, will vote for Labor over the Greens. Way too many to cancel the loss of Mayo, would be my guess.
Let’s look at what we know.
Last year’s by-elections in New England and Bennelong showed an average swing to the government of 1 per cent and a range of swings across the booths of about 12 per cent. The biggest swings against the government were in urban Bennelong booths dominated by progressive Left Sydney voters who hated having to vote yes in the same-sex marriage plebiscite and by conservatives who hated losing.
However, urban middle-class mainstream voters could not see what the fuss was about and quietly saved Liberal John Alexander.
In New England, Nationals flag-bearer Barnaby Joyce had his vote boosted by the big group of Howard battlers who had drifted back to Labor since 2007. We’re talking here about welfare recipients, tradies and hospitality workers living in rented accommodation in country towns where they can find affordable housing.
Battlers are also pretty thick on the ground in Longman in Queensland, a state where, in 2004, about one in seven electors voted for Labor premier Peter Beattie at the state election and then for Coalition prime minister John Howard eight months later at the federal election. This splitting of votes at state and federal elections is a characteristic of the Howard battler, a demographic that can be sentimentally supportive of favourite leaders but ruthless towards parties they regard as taking them for granted — especially with their Senate votes.
The trick for politicians is to match the sentimental rhetoric with what these voters see as their economic self-interest.
In Longman, they voted for Beattie because they saw themselves as Labor supporters and they voted for Howard because he stopped the boats, looked after their pensions and made the economy run on time. They had no problem holding what many commentators would regard as contradictory positions.
Plenty of Howard battlers are found in Braddon, where one in seven locals split their primary vote in the last state and federal elections. In mid-2016 the federal primary Liberal vote was 41.5 per cent for MP Brett Whiteley, but the primary vote for state Liberal candidates in March this year was 56.1 per cent.
In Longman and Braddon, polls are showing an average swing towards the Coalition of about 2 per cent, meaning both seats could go either way next Saturday. This is broadly consistent with the 1 per cent average swing to the government in New England and Bennelong, perhaps even a slight improvement for the Coalition.
Given some of the economic difficulties facing the federal government, compounded by its gaffes, even a small swing to the Coalition on its 2016 figures in these two seats would be exceptional, especially considering that Labor’s new MPs in Longman and Braddon would have seen their vote rise by a couple of per cent since 2016 because of the personal vote benefits of incumbency.
Any opposition should comfortably win by-elections in seats it already holds. It should come close to winning more marginal seats like Bennelong.
Hopefully the demographic range of swings across the booths in Braddon and Longman will shed some light on why the opposition is underperforming and tell us what this could mean at the federal election due before the middle of May next year.
I’ll be paying particular attention to the range of swings across booths dominated by the different income groups to see which tax policies look like winning the most votes — with the opposition favouring those earning below $90,000 a year and the Coalition favouring those earning above that amount, particularly up to $200,000.
Like my Canadian trout taking a breather in a deep pool on their upstream spawning run, taxpayers tend to concentrate in income tax ranges just below a big jump in their marginal tax rate, so we’ll check the reaction from working voters who aspire to earn more.
We will see if we can discern any impact from the reductions in dividend imputation for retirees, although this one could be messy in practice.
With this sort of research, we go where the evidence leads us and we could see, for example, some impact from the campaign run by Catholic education against some of the federal funding reforms, which would be easy enough to measure given the detail in our education database.
We may see some increased support for the government’s quiet cuts in immigration, which would show as an increased vote for the Coalition among the huge mainstream groups of English-speaking and Australian-born. It’s pretty hard to lose an Australian election when you’re getting a swing towards you from Australian-born voters.
My working hypothesis is that Labor is making gains among younger, professional voters, especially those benefiting from the opposition’s big spending promises on new jobs in health and education.
We find these voters in the high-priced houses of the inner cities, the city seaside suburbs or bigger blocks with a view in the outer suburbs. But the Liberals should be able to withstand this sort of movement in what are typically their more comfortable urban seats, unless they repeat the mistakes of Mayo.
Labor is also making gains in Sydney and Melbourne among some conservative, non-English speaking migrant groups living in safe Labor seats, who respond well to big-spending promises as they are direct beneficiaries. However, these gains in votes by Labor often don’t bring commensurate gains in seats.
The Coalition seems to be still going well among middle-class, Australian-born families in mainstream urban areas and among Howard battlers in the middle to outer suburbs and in some provincial city-rural seats. This is not the picture of a comfortable Labor majority, either in votes or in seats.
Roll on, Super Saturday, and I’ll report back if the bears don’t get me first.