The type of voters who swept the “teal” independent MPs to power on May 21 has been revealed by a comprehensive new study.
Six independent candidates who campaigned on platforms of integrity and climate action toppled sitting Liberals in once blue ribbon seats, including former treasurer Josh Frydenberg in Kooyong.
But it wasn’t necessarily dissatisfied Liberal supporters who voted for them, according to new analysis of the election results.
The Australian National University (ANU) examined the political attitudes of more than 3500 voters before and after they went to the polls on May 21 this year.
The study found that teal voters appeared to more likely be tactical Labor or Greens voters rather than dissatisfied Liberal voters.
Among teal-voting respondents to the survey, 35 per cent had voted Labor in 2019 and 23 per cent Green compared with 19 per cent Liberal.
The study also found former prime minister Scott Morrison and his deputy Barnaby Joyce were the most unpopular party leaders in more than three decades.
Mr Morrison suffered a major decline in popularity from the time of his “miracle” election win in 2019.
Mr Morrison – under whose leadership the Liberals suffered a historic 20-seat loss – was ranked as the most unpopular Liberal Party leader since 1987, with a rating of 3.6 out of 10.
Mr Joyce was ranked as the most unpopular Nationals leader since 1987, with a rating of three out of 10.
Mr Morrison and Mr Joyce held onto their respective seats of Cook and New England, though both men have returned to the backbench.
This year’s election was widely regarded as having been fought largely on the personal qualities of Mr Morrison and Anthony Albanese.
Professor Ian McAllister, the co-author of the ANU study, said its results showed party leaders were more important than in previous elections.
“Our findings show both Scott Morrison and Barnaby Joyce were very unpopular, and both were especially not popular with their own voters,” Professor McAllister said.
“We also found the Labor leader and new Prime Minister was moderately popular across the electorate.”
Professor McAllister said voters were divided on how well the Morrison government had handled the Covid-19 pandemic.
“However, negative perceptions about the pandemic were channelled through Morrison’s leadership and were a major drag on the Coalition vote,” he said.
ANU professor Nicholas Biddle said the study found four key policy areas prompted Coalition voters to change allegiances.
These were dealing with climate change, improving disaster relief, improving the way the political system works in Australia, and addressing issues around race.
Professor Biddle said the Albanese government would be “very well placed” to win the next federal election if it could effectively address these policy concerns.
ANU PhD researcher Intifar Chowdhury said the study found young people were less likely to be partisan and more inclined to vote based on policy.
“Millennials and gen Z will make up about 44 per cent of the electorate in the future. This may lead to major generational replacement as the polls populate with more progressive, apartisan younger voters,” Ms Chowdhury said.
“Policy voting compared to partisan voting might become the norm in Australia. Parties and politicians are now on notice.”
The study was based on data gathered through a combined ANU poll and comparative study of electoral systems survey conducted in May.
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