One in four women work as professionals. Their support for Labor candidates steadily increased from 1980 under Coalition Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser and by 2004, this support had levelled off to split 50/50 between Labor and the Coalition.
However, the inner-urban professional seats – such as Melbourne Ports and Brisbane – swung to Coalition Leader Malcolm Turnbull in 2016, bucking the national swing back to Labor in 2016.
About one in four men work as Tradies and one in four women work in clerical and admin jobs.
Since the 1966 election, Tradies have been seen as the pro-union, working class foundation for Labor campaigns, with the politically non-aligned female clerks successfully targeted in 1972 and 1974 to provide the more volatile winning margin in the outer suburbs.
The political significance of these two demographics switched after the period 1977 to 1980, and by 1998-2001, we were more likely to see safe Labor seats dominated by female clerks than by male Tradies, as white-collar workers became more unionised, and many older, blue collar workers such as the Howard Battlers, switched to the Coalition in the outer suburbs.
These two groups have remained the ALP’s campaign focus as Labor’s Working Family Stereotype and in 2016 seats containing the highest proportions of Working Families -such as Burt and Macarthur – swung strongly to Labor and Bill Shorten, even as former pro-Labor professionals moved in the reverse direction towards, small-l Liberal Malcolm Turnbull.
So, the Coalition lost Working Family seats across Australia’s outer suburbs, but clung to power by its fingernails across wealthier, inner urban professional seats.
In this ADS update, we’re publishing the last instalment of John Black’s demographic profiles of Australian voting behaviour, stretching back to the 1966 Federal election.
This instalment covers the period of 1977 to 1980, the mid-point of Malcolm Fraser’s Prime Ministership, which marked a watershed era for the demographic alignments of Australia’s biggest occupational voting blocs: Tradies, Clerks and Professionals.
These three groups determined the outcome of the last election, and they are also likely to determine the outcome of the next election. Read how they came of age here.