‘Seismic shift’ from major parties defines 2022 election

05 Dec 2022

Almost one in three voters cast their ballot for minor parties or independent candidates in the 2022 federal election, the highest number in almost 100 years, Australia's largest and longest-running study on elections has found.

Led by The Australian National University (ANU) with Griffith University, the 2022 Australian Election Study (AES) also found Anthony Albanese was the most popular party leader since Kevin Rudd in 2007.  

In contrast, Scott Morrison was found to be the least popular major party leader in the history of the AES, which has been tracking Australians' political opinions since 1987.

Study co-author Professor Ian McAllister, from ANU, said the 2022 federal election saw a "large-scale abandonment" of major political parties.

"The vote for the two major parties fell to historic lows in the 2022 election. The key beneficiaries of this seismic shift in voting behaviour were the Greens and independent candidates," Professor McAllister said.

"While the 2022 election might be heralded as a 'breakthrough' for the independents, the conditions for their election have been building over several decades. Voters are now less 'rusted on' to the major political parties and becoming more independently minded in their political choices.

"In 1967, 72 per cent of voters said they always voted for the same party. In 2022, this dropped to a record low of 37 per cent.

"This trend has been driven by wider societal changes, such as the huge expansion of higher education, the turnover of generations, the rise of social media, and shifting issue priorities.

"Support for independents and minor parties will only continue to grow."

Study co-author Dr Sarah Cameron, from Griffith University, said the conditions for the rise of alternative actors in Australian politics have been brewing for some time.

"However, voter disenchantment with the major political parties alone is not enough to see a change in outcomes; there also needs to be a viable alternative for these disenchanted voters to support," Dr Cameron said.

"The 2022 election combined several factors which supported the success of the so-called Teal independents. Voters were dissatisfied with the major parties generally, and the incumbent Coalition government and prime minister in particular.

"The Teals also ran well-funded, well-organised campaigns that were widely covered in the media. These campaigns tapped into frustrations with the incumbent Coalition government on issues where they were perceived as weak, including climate change, political integrity, and gender equality.

"The medium-term success of the Teals will depend on how much they can create a distinct political identity to carry to the 2025 federal election."  

The report found most Teal voters were not 'disaffected Liberals', but tactical Labor and Greens voters. Less than one in five Teal voters previously voted for the Coalition. And on average, Teal voters are ideologically close to Labor voters - placing themselves just left of centre.

The 2022 AES also shows now Prime Minister Albanese scored 5.3 on a zero to 10 popularity scale among voters. This ranks him as the 10th most popular party leader out of the 26 that have contested elections since 1987 and the eighth most popular election winner out of 13.   

"Labor entered the election with a leader, Anthony Albanese, who was more popular than both Scott Morrison, and his Labor predecessor, Bill Shorten," Dr Cameron said. 

"With Anthony Albanese as party leader, Labor attracted more votes based on leadership than in the 2016 and 2019 elections."

 Professor McAllister said: "Anthony Albanese was evaluated more favourably than Scott Morrison in eight of nine leader characteristics, with the biggest differences in perceptions of honesty, trustworthiness and compassion. 

"While Albanese scored 5.3 on a scale of 10 when it came to popularity, Scott Morrison became the least popular major party leader in the history of the AES, scoring 3.8. This was down from his score of 5.1 in the 2019 election."

The 2022 Australian Election Study, which includes a report on the 2022 federal election, as well as Trends in Australian Political Opinion 1987-2022, launches in full at Parliament House, Canberra on Monday 5 December.

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