Centre Alliance is a small, new party that voter are eyeing curiously but aren’t that sure about yet. Our short survey revealed no significant surprises about what one respondent likened to the IGA of political parties.
Only 104 people completed the Centre Alliance short survey – it wasn’t pushed to the panel, and as we (and everyone else) were a little occupied with the Wentworth By-election we didn’t push it as hard as we normally would online. However the sample is reasonably well balanced both demographically (a slight male bias, as there is across most of our surveys) and returned a range of views. South Australians have very different perceptions of the party to voters in other states, as you’d expect. As it is such a small sample, responses are only weighted on age and gender (not 2016 vote – although it is reasonably well balanced there too, in particular those who had voted for Centre Alliance or NXT previously comprise only 5% of respondents).
ABOUT CENTRE ALLIANCE
Beginning, as we always do, by asking what people thought of Centre Alliance in their own words, ‘viable alternative for protest’, ‘Liberal Lite’, or ‘just another minor party’ were the most common sentiments after ‘don’t know much about them’. There’s a reasonably widespread belief they are only a party for South Australia. Some of the more detailed comments went to ideological position and leadership:
“The party has potential to capitalise upon the centrist position of most Australians. At present they are lacking the leadership and political know how to have a significant impact.”
“They mean well, but are too disorganised to do much”
“I don’t believe they actually are in the centre of politics other than the fact they play each major party against each other. I don’t really know what they stand for other than trying to mediate both parties and increase their public image.”
“Very much a milder rebirth of the Democrats. As they stand I think they lack direction, but if they make it through this election, I think they will have good foundations to work on.”
We asked more specifically if people could identify what Centre Alliance stands for. Just over 50% of respondents had no idea, and about 20% said a variation of ‘centrist’ without saying what that meant. Some more specific responses were:
“They are a centrist party that I think is more right wing economic but slightly left wing socially”
“Rebecca Sharkie stands for us the people of Mayo. Policy wise, not sure. Virtually an independent.”
“Keeping the major parties honest and ensuring a balanced approach to decision and policy making”
This response was from a fan…
“Centre Alliance is a group of like minded individuals who want better representation for the Australian People. They sit roughly in what is known as the centre of Australian Politics, and largely hold socially progressive and economically conservative views. They are committed to assessing every issue on its merits and do not allow their thinking to be polluted by the century old ideological constructs of left vs right or capitalists vs socialists.”
CENTRE ALLIANCE POLITICIANS
We tested the name recognition of the three Centre Alliance politicians by directly asking if people had heard of them. Rebekha Sharkie’s numbers are quite respectable for a single term (with a by-election re-elect) lower house member from a minor party. Rex Patrick and Stirling Griff are less known than an average MP, no member of parliament should have ‘have not heard of them’ numbers above 50%. Although to be fair, Senators are generally less known than house members.
The structure of Centre Alliance is an unusual one, essentially an alliance of independents without a ‘leader’. We asked who people thought of as the leader to both test identification of leadership qualities (this is a tried and true political research approach – most great leaders are drafted by the people, rather than seeking the leadership) and, secondly, to see if people would reject the premise of the question and confidently assert the party has no leader. They had to work for it – by checking ‘other’ and writing an answer in… and 13% did.
Rebekha Sharkie is the clear leader in the public’s eye, which matches with her name recognition numbers. Interestingly, a few people still think Nick Xenophon is hanging around. It’s not a failure to keep up – the information that Xenophon had departed was volunteered at multiple points in the survey. They just aren’t buying it.
“I suspect Nick Xenophon is still the maestro behind the scenes.”
ABOUT THE PARTY’S STRUCTURE AND SUPPORT
We asked people what they thought of this unusual structure, and to answer in their own words whether they thought there was value in a party of independents, or they should just run as independent candidates. The views were mixed. Examples of comments below grouped into the dominant themes:
What’s the point?
- “A party of independents largely defeats the purpose of being independent in the first place. This is especially the case if party members are not given conscience votes on issues.”
- “I don’t see a benefit, they should either be a party with a common platform or stand as independents.”
- “EVERY party should fundamentally operate as a coalition of independents. The job of each and every member of the House of Representatives is to represent their constituents; NOT their party!!!”
Just be independent
- “No I think independents should just represent themselves and their electorates. They shouldn’t form alliance unless they want to block or support legislation as a block.”
- “No added value in small groups. Prefer an independent that can speak his/her own mind, and not some trumped up LNP speak”
- “I would prefer to see true independents. Answerable only to their electors.”
- “I think they should stand as independent candidates like Wilkie and McGowan or have a fully flesh out platform. The inbetween thing is silly.”
It might work, but…
- “Having a block to vote with is a good idea as long as it doesn’t restrict you representing your electorate and breaking from the group vote when needed.”
- “Voting as a bloc is always preferable to a multitude of independents, provided they espouse some sort of reasoning behind having that bloc in the first place.”
- “If there is no solid cohesion, they are bound to fracture”
Better to be a party
- “An alliance is better because they would have a better chance of forming government in the event that we as a society decide to cast aside the traditional Liberal/Labor two-party system.”
- “Of course there’s a benefit to having a party formed of people with similar views as none of them would stand any chance of being elected if they ran as independent candidates.”
- “I think that as an alliance of independents they have a greater chance of being heard than a single independent does, unless they hold the absolute balance of power.”
- “I think of IGA Supermarkets and how much stronger they all are with a collective brand as opposed to individual small businesses with less assistance. The Alliance is a great idea.”
As we do with all our party short surveys, we asked people why they thought people voted for Centre Alliance. There were really only three answers:
- Protest vote
- Voting for Nick Xenophon or Rebekha Sharkie personally (populist vote)
- Because they are South Australian (not a joke).
Many of the final comments were predicting the demise of the party after the next election – not unkindly, more stating sad reality – particularly if they continue to not have a leader.
Thanks as always to all our participants. Sign up to the Voter Choice Project panel to take part in our regular surveys.