It’s not easy being Green.
A surprisingly high level of thought and engagement was displayed in the quite lengthy responses to our short survey about the Australian Greens. There were a couple of themes that emerged, and more than a few surprises.
A total of 806 people completed the Australian Greens short survey; 648 being Voter Choice Project panel members and 158 being anonymous respondents. They are well balanced on age, gender and drawn from every state and territory. All numbers below are weighted by age, gender and reported 2016 vote.
The three main themes that emerged from the results were:
- The party has lost its way. Burdened by disorganisation, becoming more mainstream to appeal to a broader base, it is ignoring core environmental issues to promote social issue policy that the majority of respondents – including strong supporters of the party – were uncomfortable with. The unwillingness to compromise and grandstanding to get media attention was clearly identified as a symptom of the deeper issue. Specific mentions of issues in the NSW party, mismanagement of sexual harassment allegations, and other infighting like the dispute over Alex Bhathal’s candidacy in Batman, as well as over the top media stunts (‘enough with the crying‘), were all noted as evidence of an organisation in trouble that needs to ‘grow up‘. A minority, however, liked that the party had become more mainstream.
- ‘I like them but…‘ The mixed views of the party weren’t necessarily an indictment, more disappointment, or detailed analysis of where the party needs to improve. ‘
- I like their climate change and refugee policies, but everything else is a bit scary‘;
- ‘They are the most ethical party with a great deal of integrity, but they focus on the inner city too much and are out of touch with particularly rural Australia‘;
- ‘I really like their values, but feel if I voted for them my vote would be wasted‘;
- ‘I really want to support them but their refusal to compromise on climate change policy has cost them their credibility‘…
Almost every response was unique, citing a different thing they liked and didn’t like, which of course makes it very difficult for the Greens as an organisation to remedy, but the theme was undeniable.
- They are a good influence on the parliament, notably on climate change and refugees. There is a perception they act as a kind of parliamentary conscience and force the major parties to think about issues they would otherwise ignore.
The four big surprises were:
- Hardcore environmentalists are some of the party’s biggest critics, linking to the ‘lost it’s way’ theme. They were most critical of the ‘ego’ and grandstanding of Greens Senators, disorganisation in the party, and the move away from its environmental roots.
- ‘I am an organic farmer & environmentalist… the Greens have mostly abandoned any commitment to a pro-environment stand and instead been captured by an extremist left faction…’;
- Like most parties, they started off with good intent … now been hijacked by extreme leftists are well off the rails and out of touch with real greenies…’
- The WA Greens seem considerably happier with being a Greens member than the eastern States, and at the same time more moderated and balanced in their views. Further research is really required to understand it, but it seems that they feel less under attack – it’s not their branch dealing with sexual harassment, bullying or ugly internal wars – thus feel less of a need to forcefully argue the Greens case.
- The similarities between core hard right voters and core Greens supporters are *stunning*. The Greens are 100% right, everyone else is 100% wrong, and if anyone reports different it’s fake news (at the extreme… of course most people are a couple of steps in from that particular edge). There has been much written about blind partisanship in the Trump era, but it’s usually an exclusive discussion of the right… and the identical language patterns I’m seeing from the the Hanson survey and this one explode that myth.
- ‘I think if people read Greens policies instead of listening to Murdoch press commentary their opinions would be very different.’;
- Their policies are ethical but are very much maligned by the Murdoch media’;
- ‘I believe that while some policies appear radical, they are vitally necessary, and much of the media concern about their consequences is manufactured and/or disingenuous’
- 49% of people have at some point voted 1 for the Australian Greens in a federal election (weighted by age, gender, and reported 2016 vote)*. Which is extraordinary if you consider their highest ever vote was 11.76% in the House and 13.1% in the Senate in 2010. This indicates their churn (the number of voters lost and the number of new voters gained) in each cycle must be enormous – unfortunately the only way to properly measure that is a longitudinal, multi-election panel study, of which we have… none. The Australian Election Study is doing a panel of sorts, re-interviewing some respondents from the 2016 study in the next election study, but the sample will be small… so I don’t have high hopes they will be able to confirm this kind of minor party voting pattern.
The graph below gives an indication of the kinds of sentiments expressed. Note: these codes are broad groupings; the ‘Really don’t like them’ is in brackets because it’s a catch-all coding for the highly entertaining thesaurus of negative descriptions people had for the party… it needs to be re-coded properly, as ‘f**king spineless c**ts‘ doesn’t really mean the same thing as, say, ‘Traitorous ignorant buffoons who try to shame others into believing their nonsense touchy feely crap‘ or ‘Fairies at the bottom of the garden hellbent on screwing us all with their looney tunes, f**ked up, stupid ideas’. But for the moment, forgive my slackness in favour of timeliness.
Policy is the clear divider in attitudes about the Greens – if you care about policy, you have a position on the Greens, usually a strong one, or are confident enough in that position to express support for this policy or that, but not this… If you don’t care about policy, then you’re unlikely to have much of an opinion about the Greens at all. Or maybe you just hate them, but can’t express why. There were two common sentiments about Greens policy – the some good some bad, two faces of the Greens – echoing the ‘I like them but’ sentiment; and, that although they have good ideas, most of their policies are unrealistic or unworkable, and they get away with it because they’ll never be in Government.
The opinions of Richard Di Natale were far less entertaining than the opinions of the party. Greens supporters largely find him intelligent and compassionate, but ‘no Bob Brown’. Those who don’t support the party largely reported that they don’t think about him much at all… ‘who?’ was a common response. There was a smaller group that didn’t like him, but their sentiments usually mirrored what they thought of the party – i.e. if they said the party were a bunch of hypocrites, they’d say Di Natale was a hypocrite. This indicates that people aren’t thinking about the Greens leader that deeply, or separately from thinking about the party.
We asked two questions about the section 44 disqualifications, which continues to be a very fascinating subject in terms of how much people think about each disqualification differently. A much higher proportion of respondents blamed the individuals in comparison to the Hanson survey.The vast majority of respondents thought Scott Ludlam and Larissa Waters immediately resigning was the right and honorable thing to do, even if they admitted that begrudgingly.
The open comments field was well used (you lot really did have plenty to say about the Greens…) with comments either reiterating their impassioned views about the party from the first question, or commenting on particular personalities. Many were sad Scott Ludlam was gone (me too), conversely, plenty were happy Lee Rhiannon was gone. Some mixed comments about Sarah Hanson Young – she appears to be a polarising figure for the party, with the extremes of ‘Sarah Hanson Young for PM’ and naming her as the worst culprit in the stunts to get media headlines. (Savvy observers would note the parallels with Pauline Hanson there.)
Next up in the party short surveys: Centre Alliance. Sign up to join the Voter Choice Project today.
*There was an error in the short survey which affected about 110 respondents, not allowing them to select ‘yes’ for both the House and Senate. These respondents are removed from that figure, but I have manually recoded them back to being prior Greens voters or not if I can determine it from what was captured. Sincere apologies for this.