For well over a decade, the Australian Labor Party has been in a wrestling match with its base. Gradually, it has lost ground within Tasmania’s north, parts of Queensland, Melbourne’s west and parts of western Sydney. This is a wrestling match being played out not just in Australia but across the world.
Lower education constituencies have slowly drifted to more conservative options, whilst more educated constituencies have drifted in the other direction, towards the Left.
Thomas Piketty’s work is a must read for anyone interested in understanding the drivers behind such dramatic realignments between class and voting behaviour. Piketty demonstrates this realignment, using empirical evidence, detailing how the Left used to be the political arm of the under educated, has now become the domain of the educated. This has less to do with the strategies of the Left but rather with deep structural changes in modern societies, which have reconstituted different social classes and political interests.
In Australia, the one criticism that can be attributed to the Australian Labor Party is its unwillingness even to accept that it, too, is not immune from these global changes. At the last Federal election, the Australian Labor Party was able to secure government via an incredibly low primary vote. It drove that victory bus up through highly educated electorates like Bennelong, Higgins and Reid. However, at the same time, it lost over 9% of its primary vote in Melbourne safe seats, it lost the once safe seat of Fowler to an Independent, it lost more ground in Tasmania’s north and Sydney’s outer west.
This country’s property boom, record levels of household debt, stagnating wages, countless interest rate rises and a political bubble more focused on social issues, has accelerated these trends. In our latest poll, the LNP has overtaken Labor amongst the less educated classes. Although this development will not pressure Labor in seats like Bennelong and Higgins, it will create a hotter environment for more results like Fowler and possibly losses to the LNP in seats like Werriwa and Blair – to name a couple.
On the LNP side, they still face a huge challenge of finding a credible pathway to victory. Without the seats lost to the Teals, ploughing through outer suburban seats, and looking for gains will be hard work and with small returns. The ALP/LNP conversion rate within these electorates is still very low, as former Labor voters tend to opt for Independents rather than switching across in significant numbers.
Our latest survey results, including full methodology, can be downloaded here. Vote intention – Nov 2023