Rich Liberal, Poor Liberal – The Poll Bludger
A beginner’s guide to debating the conservative side of politics on how the Liberal Party should react to its electoral defeat, and in particular the loss of its traditional strongholds to the teal independents.
In the wake of the defeat of the Morrison government, a culture war has erupted within the Liberal Party between those who see the recapture of blue independent seats as a necessary precondition for a return to power and those who believe they should be dropped to the political left so that the party could pursue different constituencies in seats that strayed away from Labor, including Hunter, Werriwa, McEwen and Gorton. Support for the latter notion was provided by former Morrison government adviser Mark Briers, who said the party “needs to shift our party’s attention, talent and resources from Camberwell and Malvern to Craigieburn and Melton ‘, and right-wing Victorian Liberal MP Tim Smith. , who says his party should ‘stop obsessing over the waking concerns and obsessions of inner-city elites’, and ‘take the focus away from Kew’ – its own seat, until at least November -” and focus on Cranbourne”.
Repudiating his future former colleague, former Victorian Liberal leader Michael O’Brien told The Australian there was ‘no route to 45 seats’ in the November state election ‘that doesn’t go through Malvern , Kew and Hawthorn”, the latter of which was unexpectedly lost to Labor in 2018. Similarly, Federal MP Paul Fletcher – who has an interest in the issue as an MP for Sydney’s Bradfield seat, the one of only two of the ten richest voters who remain with the Liberal Party – wrote in The Australian on Saturday that he had not heard contrary views “seriously put forward by fellow Liberals”, by which I believe that ‘He means he hadn’t heard it from serious Liberal colleagues. However, his prescriptions for accomplishment strove to avoid serious criticism of his own party and offered no suggestion of policy reorientation.
Scott Morrison, who clearly isn’t kept awake at night by teasing about being “marketing,” offers a middle way, apparently based on the idea that the Nationals’ brand damage has much to do with the defeat of his government. As reported by Sharri Markson of The Australian, Morrison offers the solution of a reforged coalition in which a Queensland-style Liberal National Party serves as the main brand, allied with a distinct “new progressive liberal movement” to run in the types of seats lost to the independents of the Sarcelles.
The loss of those seats has sparked much discussion about the disappearance of the socio-economic divide that has historically defined Australia’s party system, including an assertion in a Financial Review headline that “for the first time, Labor voters are winning more than coalition voters’ – later changed to ‘Labour voters win more than coalition seats’ after it was pointed out that the original claim was wrong. The problem with such analyzes is known as the ecological fallacy, whereby inferences about individual behavior are drawn from aggregate data – in this case, the notion that because the electorates held by the Coalition have seen their income decline, it follows that their support base has also diminished.
YouGov data scientist Shaun Ratcliff tackled this problem by drawing on the survey for the Pollster’s multilevel regression and post-stratification poll, which reached 18,923 respondents three to five weeks after the polling day. Ratcliff found that while the traditional income divide has narrowed in this election, it has certainly not disappeared. Among owners with $150,000 a year or more, 44% voted for the Coalition, 31% for Labor and 10% for the Greens; of those earning $50,000 a year or less who did not own a home, 40% voted Labour, 27% Green and only 16% voted Coalition. While the effect was somewhat weaker among those under 35, Ratcliff provides a series of graphs illustrating the clear tendency of wealthier voters to favor the Coalition over Labor and ‘others’ (the Greens’ support did not seem to depend on income).
This was also true in the teal independent seats, Kooyong and Goldstein in particular having seen an influx of apartment-dwelling “middle-income young professionals”, as noted by Remy Vega in The Australian. Data from the YouGov poll suggests that the Liberal vote in the twenty seats targeted by Climate 200 was about seven points lower among those with $50,000 or less than among those with higher incomes. More broadly, Ratcliff notes that “tenants have also moved away from the Liberal and National Party more than landlords, and the young more than the old.”