Australian Electorate Overview

I’ve spent the last several days building a data base of key demographic information at the district level. My goal is to build a model explaining variations in percentage shares received by each political party at the district level. While I still have a bit of work left to do to complete the model, I am able to provide the reader with some broad brush strokes of important demographic factors driving support for the two major party groups and the Greens in the 2010 election:

1. Labor’s support primarily comes from middle class people. Except in relatively poorer Tasmania, the party tends to do less well in districts with lower median incomes with the exception of districts with large populations of immigrants from non-western and/or non-English speaking countries. The party also does well in districts with relatively high concentrations of people who have never been married. However, Labor also competes with the Greens for this segment of the electorate. The party runs poorly in districts with high concentrations of professionals and managers. Labor’s electorate has some similarity to that of the Democrats in the US, particularly in it’s support from ethnic immigrants and young unmarrieds.

2. Liberal support comes at both high and low income levels. High income level support is urban based and is usually tied in with high levels of professional and managerial workers. Curiously, the Liberals appear to compete with the Greens for support from professional and managerial workers. Low income support is rural based especially in Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia, the latter two states where the Nationals usually run candidates in rural districts. The Liberals/Nationals base of support appears to have more than some affinity with the American Republicans.

3. Green support is concentrated in urban districts with high percentages of unmarrieds and high percentages of professionals and managers and relatively high incomes. The Greens are young and well-heeled and, as such, ethnic immigrants appear to find the party unappealing. The only clear exception to this general run is in Tasmania where the party is popular in spite of the fact that the state is rural and poor. Overall the Greens would appear to share a common bond with urban Democratic progressives in the US.

4. A common thread runs through the four districts that are held by independents. All are relatively poor with median incomes 20% to 40% below the national average. They have very low percentages of ethnic immigrants. Three of the four districts are rural (in New South Wales and Queensland) while the fourth is based in the small city of Hobart in economically distressed Tasmania.

More to come shortly.

The 2010 Australian House Election – National Level Results

In this post I will cover the exciting 2010 Australian federal House of Representatives election at the national level.

In my previous post I categorized Australian political parties into upstream, midstream and downstream groups. Major political parties are those parties whose candidates are typically first or second entering a given district’s final election round. Because these major parties are at the receiving end of preference flows typically coming from smaller parties, I call these major parties downstream parties. Midstream parties are those parties which tend to feed their preference votes into either the Labor or Liberal coalition groups. Upstream parties are those parties whose preference votes are fed to midstream parties and/or are divided relatively equally among the two major party groups.

As I noted in my previous post, upstream parties can be safely ignored by anyone interested in the big picture of Australian politics and I will do little more than note the first preference votes received by the candidates of these parties. Midstream parties on the other hand are, by definition, potentially important in every district they run candidates in as they may potentially hold the balance of power in that district. To simplify the analysis I will treat the three Liberal group midstream parties (First Family, Christian Democrats and Liberal Democrats) as a single unit. Likewise, I will do the same by lumping the three Liberal group parties (Liberals, Country Liberals and Nationals) and the two Labor group parties (Labor and Country Labor) into Liberal and Labor groups respectively. This will allow the casual observer to better grasp the big picture of the Australian electorate while avoiding details unnecessary for anyone other than political wonks.

This brings us to the independents, a group of candidates I have until now avoided discussing because they are as a group very difficult to classify. Not only do independents occupy the entire political spectrum, a few actually win elections (more so than the midstream parties) and a few more have vote distribution profiles similar to that of midstream parties. I classify those independents who either win or make a strong showing as downstream independents while those independents whose voter preferences are slanted towards either the Liberal or Labor groups I classify as midstream independents. Fortunately, there were only 4 downstream and 12 midstream independents in the 2010 election.

With these preliminaries out of the way we can now move on the analysis. The Labor party went into the August 21, 2010 Australian federal election with a solid 83-65 majority over the Liberal group with another 2 seats held by independents. Labor’s 18 seat majority was essentially reduced to zero in the election:

2010 House of Representatives Election

National

First Preference Votes

Group or Party

Candidates

Votes

% Share

Liberal Group

157

5,408,630

43.6%

Labor Group

150

4,711,363

38.0%

Greens

150

1,458,998

11.8%

Midstream Liberal Group

172

386,601

3.1%

Upstream Group

204

255,154

2.1%

Downstream Independent

4

148,434

1.2%

Midstream Independent

12

33,133

0.3%

Totals

849

12,402,363

100%

For those of you with a ravenous interest in the details of Australian politics, the Liberal Group total includes the votes received by the Nationals candidate, Tony Crook, in the Western Australian district of O’Conner. In the immediate aftermath of the election the Western Australian National Party, in a fit of opportunism, declared that the party was an independent organization and that there was no coalition agreement between the party and the Liberals. Shortly thereafter Crook declared his support for the Liberal group but also that he chose to sit on the crossbenches rather than formally join the Liberal coalition. In May of 2012 it was reported that Crook had formally joined the Liberal group fold.

The Liberal group had a clear 5.6 percentage point advantage over the Labor group in the first preference vote with the Greens running a strong third position with nearly 12% of the national total. However, we have noted earlier that the Greens preferential vote was strongly in favor of the Labor group. In counter to the Greens was the midstream Liberal group which received 3.1% of the national first preference vote. We also know that the preference distribution of this group of three parties was strongly in favor of the Liberal group. In the table below, I show the preferential vote distribution from the Greens and the midstream Liberal Group to the Liberal and Labor groups respectively:

Preference Vote Distribution 2010 Election

National

From/To

Liberal Group

Labor Group

Net

Greens

364,845

1,169,885

-805,040

Midstream Liberal Group

204,790

93,044

111,746

Totals

569,635

1,262,929

-693,294

 The Green distribution favored the Labor group by a 3 to 1 ratio while the midstream Liberal group distribution favored the Liberal group by a 2 to 1 ratio. The total distribution of these midstream parties favored the Labor group by about a 2 to 1 ratio. Let’s take these distributions and add them to the Liberal and Labor group total to get a sense of the national vote post the midstream party distributions:

2010 Vote Totals After Midstream Preferential Distribution

National

Group or Party Votes % Share
Liberal Group

5,978,265

48.20%

Labor Group

5,974,292

48.17%

Incredible. We can clearly see that the election was a dead heat. Indeed, the election ended essentially in a draw with neither party winning a majority of seats in the House of Representatives:

House of Representative Seats Won in 2010 Election

National

Group or Party Seats
Liberal Group

73

Labor Group

72

Greens

1

Midstream Liberal Group

0

Upstream Group

0

Downstream Independent

4

Midstream Independent

0

Totals

150

My following posts will break down the election results state-by-state.