What is the Voter Choice Project?

The Voter Choice Project is a research project on the next Australian federal election (due to be called between August 2018 and May 2019) investigating why people vote the way they do.

It is an opportunity for you to be more than a number at the election by have your reasons for voting heard.

Results from the Voter Choice Project will be used to inform both media and political operatives on what voters want, and what information they use in their decisions, with the goal of making election campaigns more useful and less annoying.

We will also work on improving understanding of Australian voters, regional and other differences in Australian politics, and there are a number of experimental features in the surveys as we search for better polling methods.

What does the Voter Choice Project involve?

The Voter Choice Project is mainly a panel study. We will deploy a minimum of seven questionnaires or ‘waves’ to a panel of respondents in an effort to capture what forces or influences are shaping voters decisions. Specifically the study will look at:

  • personal conversation and influence of workmates, friends and family;
  • media consumption and influence, including social media;
  • direct contact with the campaigns of political parties and any influence they have; and,
  • vote intention at each wave – including level of commitment to that vote intention – to determine the time in the electoral cycle at which a voter’s decision is made.

A number of baseline political, personality and demographic questions will also be asked to assist in the interpretation of results.

From time to time we will also issue short surveys, including some that you can do anonymously, and other research into voters and voting in Australia.

Background of the Voter Choice Project

There is a significant body of academic research and polling done on ‘who’ votes for which Australian political parties, their social and demographic characteristics, and their attitudes to the dominant political issues. However, the deeper question of ‘why’ people vote for a particular party or candidate, and ‘how’ or ‘when’ they came to that decision, is not well researched in Australia. This project is seeking to answer some of the ‘why’, ‘how’ and ‘when’ of Australian voter decision.

In 1940, a team of researchers at Columbia’s Office of Radio Research, headed by Paul Lazarsfeld, conducted one of the first major studies in voter behaviour in Erie County, Ohio. Published as The People’s Choice (Lazarsfeld, Berelson & Gaudet 1968 [1944]), it dispelled a number of myths about why people vote the way they do, including discovering that swinging voters were largely apathetic and disinterested (rather than highly interested and intelligent, as was believed by political operatives at the time), that media had a very limited effect on influencing people’s votes, and that personal connections were the most influential force.

A second study on the 1948 Presidential election in Elmira, New York, confirmed and deepened the understanding of voting as an inescapably social act (Berelson, Lazarsfeld & McPhee 1954). Over the years the Columbia theories have both been supported and challenged by numerous studies; however, their methodology, a multi-wave panel that tracks each individual’s vote decision process for a number of months in the lead up to the election, is used all over the world. To date, it has never been used in an Australian study.

The Voter Choice Project will be the first multi-wave panel study, or Columbia Study, of voter behaviour in Australia.

Who is behind the Voter Choice Project?

The Voter Choice Project is lead by Raphaella Kathryn Crosby, a former political and communication strategist who has worked on many election and other campaigns in Australia, the US and Israel. She is best known in Australia for her time running the Australian Democrats, but has worked on all sides of Australian politics, counting organisations as diverse as Agribusiness Australia and the ACTU as former clients.

Raphaella is a member of the International Association of Political Consultants. You can connect with Raphaella on LinkedIn or Twitter.

There are a number of technical people who help keep the surveys up and running, and other academics or specialists consulted for their areas of expertise on a particular issue. If another researcher is added to the team on an ongoing basis their details will be added to the website.

The Voter Choice Project is an independent initiative to research voter behaviour and advocate for voters. It is not funded by, nor affiliated with, any political party.