Yay, we’re back to everybody in the one survey, and we have our fingers crossed for no more by-elections! Response was a little low this month, with a notable drop in Victorians – who we guess are a little pre-occupied with this weekend’s State election. That’s fine, keep your head in the game Victorians. Remember, it’s not a problem if you miss a survey or two, just rejoin us when you’re ready. And new people are always welcome to join the Voter Choice Project Panel by signing up here. This month’s survey had some fascinating insights into how we discuss politics, and revealed two thirds of you have a ‘political friend’.
1084 voters participated in the November survey, including 882 from the panel. For the record, there are now more than 1,700 people who have signed up to the panel, so the non-completion rate is slightly worrying, but they aren’t unsubscribing in huge numbers so I’m guessing they intend to rejoin us as the election nears. We have had an average of 28 participants drop out each month, and more than that sign up each month (mostly from the short surveys) which is just fantastic, and we’re grateful to all of you. Still need more younger women and Liberal Party supporters to sign up, and I’d love the 5 final weeks of the election to have a panel closer to 5,000 – so tell your friends. Please. Thanks.
As participants know, we changed the survey quite a bit this month to make it shorter. Read more about those changes here. We also changed the way we were asking about and analysing preferences from the Inferred Two Party Preferred (I2PP) experimental model, to the ranking system we used in the Wentworth by-election. This method came about through necessity where there were 3 leading and 2 other substantial candidates, and there was no good way to ask ‘who are you going to preference’ with a single answer. It worked *marvellously* well, so we developed a version for a federal survey, with 6 hypothetical candidates. This was the question:
The feedback in testing was, unlike every other attempt to ask about preferences, the question made sense, the respondents understood what was being asked of them, and they liked that the drag and drop was easy to use – automatically renumbering the entire candidate list in order, like this…
However, we did get quite a few comments in the survey that people would need to know what the Independent candidate stood for before they knew where to put them. Also, we heard your feedback that you weren’t happy with Centre Alliance being in the same box as minor left parties like the Science Party. We’ll work on that. All told, it was a far more effective and reliable way of assessing preferences and calculating a 2PP number. Here’s the result:
The big winners this month are the ‘I’m not sure’ and Independent columns, which I think we need to call the Wentworth Effect. Quite a number of people – outside of Wentworth – are now having a look around to see if there’s a decent Independent they can vote for, or making comments to the effect of ‘I want to see who all the candidates are before I commit to a decision’. Welcome the Liberal Democrats back to the big board with their numbers back above 1% (just). If you’re curious, KAP is at 0.5. Pauline Hanson’s vote has fallen for the third month in a row, but it was fairly minor fall this month in comparison to the last two. We also registered vote intentions for newcomers to the study – Conservative Coalition for Australia which I think is a breakaway group from Australian Conservatives, and the Country Democrats (new name of CountryMinded following their merger with the Australian Democrats so they can get themselves re-registered) made an appearance in their first month of existence, although votes for both the Australian Democrats and CountryMinded have been registered before, it was interesting to see the new name so quickly.
That’s a long way of saying the vote was a little volatile this month, and the move away from undecideds last month was more than reversed – but hit the minor parties the hardest with the general trend of people moving towards the majors intact, so our assessment from last month that Australia is getting ready to vote and are ready for the election is probably still fair. Note, this excludes Wentworth, and the non-panel members, with a total sample of 619. Read across the rows to see where they have gained votes from, down the columns to see where they have lost votes to, percentage shown is the percentage of last month’s vote of the party that lost the votes (or how much of their own vote they retained down the diagonal), colour is who they are voting for now.
We do actually have two months that didn’t have a by-election. Which means for the first time in the entire study history, we can begin to do meaningful comparisons. I know right? Exciting. So, let’s look at the same graph, but this is the movement from August to November, all electorates included.
Holy movement Batman. We see more clearly here that the vote of the major parties is relatively stable. 90% or more of people that were voting Labor or Coalition in August are still with them. Greens and Centre Alliance are little more soft, but the real instability is in the right wing minor party vote. 20% of Hanson voters have moved to Australian Conservatives, nearly 29% of Conservatives voters have moved to the Coalition, Labor is picking up significant votes from everyone except those two (this game is called spot the momentum). The independent numbers bounce around a lot, but they can’t be assessed in the same way: some voters are referring to a specific independent (say if you’re in Indi and voting for Cathy McGowan), but most are referring to the concept of a decent independent… those numbers aren’t real until the election is called and ‘an Independent’ becomes ‘the Independent’.
I know these heat maps aren’t the easiest thing in the world to read if you aren’t used to them, but they are the most valuable, because you can see fairly quickly when a line lights up – as the ‘I’m not sure’ and ALP lines have – where the movement and momentum is. Big squares indicate big shifts. And, by reading the percentages down the diagonal, you can get a quick idea of how volatile each party’s vote is. The lower the number on the diagonal, the more unstable their vote is. The more unstable the vote, the more likely that’s where the movement (usually down, there are exceptions) will be.
POLITICAL DISCUSSIONS WITH FRIENDS AND FAMILY
This month we asked about the political discussions you have with friends and family. This was a fascinating insight into the social construct that political messages are given and received. It may sound obvious to state, but we don’t get political information in a bubble – it comes to us from people we either trust (or don’t), in contexts we consider appropriate (or not), when we are open to receiving new ideas (or not).
We began by asking how often you discuss politics and what role you take in those conversations. Now, obviously a panel of people that have signed up to do political surveys are going to be above average, so take this as a reflection of the panel more than the community at large, but there’s still some diversity here.
The others here were interesting – a couple of public servants talking about the restrictions on them discussing politics, and in terms of the role people take, a number of people saying they are one way in context a, a different way in context b. This was a noticeable theme in answer to the open text question: Some believe voting is an intensely personal and private thing, others campaign loudly and often for their party, and most of us fall somewhere in between. In your own words, how would you prefer the people in your life talked about their voting choices?
Responses to this question fell into 6 categories:
- Don’t talk about politics/voting is private
- Voting should be optional so that those who don’t care don’t have to talk about it while those who do care can speak as much as they like.
- I’d prefer to discuss issues but keep actual voting choices private.
- I would like people to be respectful in discussing politics, and think that it is a mostly private matter
- Right place, right time
- I believe there is a right place and time. I’m not a fan of big political posts on social media
- I prefer it to be private in general, unless with a group who can accept choices. It’s difficult to gauge people’s passion and commitment, and voting for the ‘wrong’ party can carry a social cost. One needs to be sure one won’t pay it first.
- Happy to discuss with my kids to ensure they’re understanding topics and behaviours. Then it is up to them how they vote. Tend to limit political talk outside home.
- In my personal life? Loudly. Causes would be better campaigned for and I would know who was an idiot I needed to stop being friends with. At work? Not at all please. I don’t want to hate my colleagues.
- Work people I don’t talk political positions other than generically. With friends talk passionately about my preferred political choices.
- I believe there is a right place and time. I’m not a fan of big political posts on social media
- Up to them/don’t like to dictate how others should behave
- I’d be interested to know who they were planning to vote for and why, however it is indeed a personal matter and I totally understand if they didn’t want to discuss it.
- People can talk about it as freely as they wish, it’s their right to vote for who they wish.
- It’s up to them, as long as we can respect each other’s opinions and choices
- Avoid arguments
- I’m happy to discuss politics as long as it is a brief conversation. I do not like getting embroiled in political debates.
- I don’t enjoy discussions with people who have opposing views to me – I find these conversations become very combative.
- I don’t believe who you vote for is a private matter however if people are in strong disagreement I don’t find it makes for enjoyable or pleasant conversations with friends, family and colleagues.
- Back it up with facts
- I think my Facebook friends would have a fairly good idea of how I vote, based on the things I post. I feel like if you’re public about your political choices, you should be able to defend your stances.
- Talk about political opinions is fine as long as it’s backed with facts.
- I prefer they take it seriously and back their choice with sincere reasoning.
- I like to discuss things, but don’t campaign at me or try and change the way I think
- Would like to know their thoughts but don’t need someone campaigning at me…
- I like to hear their opinions but I don’t like it when they try to convince me who to vote for.
- Openly, but not in a ‘campaigning’ sort of way. Talk about what you think and why, don’t be a screaming partisan zombie.
- I’d like people to openly talk about issues but party shilling is annoying.
- Be open, honest and respectful
- With knowledge, passion and humour. Being politically involved is an essential part of living in a democracy, but it needs to be done with respect and an open mind. Knowledge provides the vehicle; Passion provides the motivation; and humour the steering wheel.
- It’s important to me to know how my friends vote, so I would prefer open discussion of politics
- I wish people would be honest and just say who they vote for, I don’t understand why it is seen as so personal. Maybe to avoid fights… but if people got used to discussing it respectfully it would be better for everyone.
- Be open about who you choose to vote for, but also be respectful. Don’t be-little or denigrate someone else’s choice of party or policy.
Open and honest was the most frequent answer. With a ‘but’… a number of people indicated that there’s a particular person in their life they find it difficult to converse with on the subject. People don’t generally want to get into an argument or destroy relationships, which is understandable.
- rationally, we are all aware that we see and interact with information differently and attempt to respect a view or opinion, however, it can get difficult with the elders of the family
- I am happy for those family members closest to me to be open and honest – I tend to not discuss politics with the extended family
- I have conservative friends, I prefer not to argue with them. I know who thinks like me, share more with them.
- I struggle because a lot of my family are conservative and I’m not. I’ve found it easier not to talk about it.
- The members of my family who are died in the wool Nationals, I don’t bother. Don’t like family feuds!
- In an ideal world, I would prefer people talked loudly and openly. In the world in which we actually live, I would prefer people kept it private, because if their decisions were based on misconceptions, mistakes or self-deception, then I would not be able to stay quiet, and I like having friends.
You’ll not there a bit of concern about conservative voters not being very tolerant of other views. This comment from a Coalition voter I think is the most illuminating as to what’s at the core of the problem there (and possibly why we have such trouble getting Liberals to participate in the study):
- In my experience the “loud and proud” are Labor voters, the “private” are LNP voters. It is generally socially unacceptable to be an LNP voter unless you know that others are also LNP voters. It would be better if we could all talk about it, but the majority of left voters “know” they are right – which makes it difficult to talk about it.
So it seems conservative voters feel like they’re under attack and react defensively, other voters see this as hostile and that they aren’t open to discussion. More research required, but we might be getting somewhere here.
For the politics students (and we know there are many following along with the study – hello there!) this dynamic where a person of one political persuasion has a significant family member or number of family members, friends or colleagues of a different political persuasion is called ‘cross pressures‘. That’s your homework for the week.
THE POLITICAL FRIEND
Creighton Burns (yes, the same on that was editor of The Age) noted in his study of the 1960 La Trobe By-election, and it was further noted by Alan Davies who re-interviewed the same people in 1962, that many voters had a ‘political friend’, a designated someone in their life that they had political discussions with. We directly tested that idea this month, and it is most definitely a thing.
Almost two thirds of respondents had a political friend; some (particularly women) had more than one, most noting the different areas of expertise of their various political friends.
Political friends are most likely a family member (total 43.3%) or a friend (41.4%), coworkers only making up 7.1% of the political friends. (All of the results we have seen so far indicate work is not a strong place of influence.) They are slightly more likely to be male, but there is little correlation between the genders of the participant and their political friend – that is, you are slightly more likely to have a political friend of the same gender, but they could just as easily be a different gender. And while family obviously often lives in the same household, political friends are more likely to not be nearby, but in a different suburb or town.
Most people have know their political friends a long time – if we exclude the family members who have known each other their whole lives, the average is 18 years. There is a strong correlation in age, which is not that surprising given the dominance of friends and partners; the little surges at 25 -30 years older or younger is parents and children (usually adult children) of the respondents.
Most interestingly, people look up to their political friends. While we didn’t go digging for it, but in response to that probing ‘anything else’ text box we put at the end of each section, in this case asking if there’s anything else you’d like to tell us about your political friend, many respondents commented with things like ‘She’s amazing‘ or ‘They’re the smartest person I know‘.
This is remarkably similar to the findings of Burns and Davies in the 1960s. This passage is from Davies, A.F. (1962) ‘Politics in the New Suburb’, Australian Journal of Politics and History, Vol 8, Iss 2, pp.214-233 (p.219).
More research required here too – I think you could do an entire PhD just on political friends.
THE HYPOTHETICAL POLITICAL CONFRONTATION
We threw in a hypothetical question which, just quietly, I have been desperately waiting to do because in early testing this was the one question that always illicited a reaction from otherwise very bored people reading through 30 odd surveys. This was the question:
Let’s say, hypothetically, you’re at a small party at a friend’s house. A guest – someone you don’t know very well – starts talking very loudly about their political views, saying all kinds of things you strongly disagree with. What would you do?
This hypothetical was to try an get at what I was talking about right at the beginning of this very long post. Political communication doesn’t happen in a bubble, it happens in a social context… so to what extent do people consider where they are, the others around them, how people react, social norms and customs, and many other things when being presented with confronting political information? The short answer is most do take some or all of that into consideration. These are examples of the kinds of detailed answers we got:
- With someone I don’t know well at all, I would probably not say much and try to get out of the situation because it would make me feel awkward/uncomfortable. Having said that, it is just so dependent on many things. If it was a straight, white, heterosexual male, I would be very unlikely to argue with him. I might be more likely to say some things relatively politely if I feel like it is a genuinely safe social situation. If know the person fairly well, I am very likely to argue. Although I don’t feel it at the time, I can be aggressive/overly passionate in stating my opinions. But this side of me rarely comes out unless I know the people quite well.
- If it was directed at me or in my direction, I’d probably tell them that I don’t agree and that a friend’s gathering is not the place to “mouth off” Then I’d move away. Otherwise I’d ignore it. I tend to only join in if I feel someone else is being harassed and they need defending…I stand up for others like that, whether I agree with the person or not.
- If it is an area I’m confident in debating I try to respectfully share my thoughts … for example when people complain about how much tax they pay I share how much I benefit from the tax I pay. Sometimes I see people recognise a different understanding. They may not agree totally however if done in a calm, humorous and informative way they may go away and think about what I have shared.
We coded the answers into the general gist of what were mostly quite long and revealing responses, however, because of the length of the responses, coding was difficult, so let’s stick to the highlights package. The most common responses were:
- Leave the situation
- Stay quiet
- Tell them it is not appropriate
- Try and change the subject
- Express my disagreement, but respectfully
- Ask questions about how they came to that view
- Debate or argue the point
- Respond with humour
- Return in kind
- Most had limits to what they would ignore
- Put up with it unless it is regarding race or refugees. In the case of racist or homophobic comments, even if veiled as political comment, I will challenge them.
- Depends – anything racist or inaccurate I would speak up. Otherwise walk away, not to cause conflict in someone else’s home.
- Depends on how I am feeling and the content of what is being said. If the person attacks others on the basis of race, religion or gender I would step in and tell them to stop.
- The host of the party was often the paramount concern
- Tell them they are embarrassing their host and let them know politics should perhaps not be discussed. If they continued, I would apologise to the host and other guests and leave.
- Depending on the host’s reaction to the guest, if it was seen by them as appropriate type of conversation I would voice my opinion
- Would tend to avoid argument out of respect for friend. Might diplomatically suggest alternative view subject to the tone and manner of the protagonist.
- Don’t take any notice. It is a friends home and this is a party. Not the time or place to have a political discussion
- Probably not engage too much as it would be rude to ruin a friends party by arguing about politics
- Staying calm and not getting into a heated argument was considered the ideal by many
- Casually bring up my opposing view but don’t push it/try not to create drama
- Counter their arguments but stay quiet and civil
- Engage, but stop if it got shouty.
- Alcohol consumption was a factor for some people
- Depends how many drinks I’ve had, but probably try and convince them why they’re wrong. Possibly ignore them.
- I would not engage. If someone is drunk talking about politics, chances are they aren’t up for having their mind changed.
- Depends if they are drunk, leave it. If I think I could have a discussion I would try.
A number of respondents retold stories of something like this hypothetical actually happening – the one of a Nazi being thrown out of a party was particularly entertaining.
I hope you liked answering this question as much as I liked reading your answers. (For the record: I’m a disappear to the kitchen to help with the dishes kinda person.)
Results of the NBN and Katter short surveys will be up by the weekend.