Data from the Australian Election Study reveals key insights about the 2022 Australian federal election.
ANU Reporter Deputy Editor
The polls have closed and the winners declared, but there’s so much more to know about the 2022 federal election.
Since 1987, the Australian Election Study has surveyed voters after every federal election. Based at The Australian National University (ANU), it’s the longest-running study on Australian elections and the data provides deep insights into voter behaviour and attitudes.
In the wake of the May ballot, researchers surveyed a nationally representative sample of 2,508 voters to find out what shaped their choices in the election.
Here’s what they found:
Former prime minister Scott Morrison was the least popular major party leader in the 35-year history of the study. He scored 3.8 out of 10, down from 5.1 in the 2019 election.
By comparison, Anthony Albanese was more popular than any political party leader since Kevin Rudd in 2007, scoring 5.3 out of 10.
Albanese outranked Morrison in eight of nine leader characteristics. Voters found the Labor leader to be significantly more compassionate, honest, trustworthy and sensible.
But to what extent does a leader’s popularity influence voters? Over the past 30 years, an average of 13 per cent of voters cast their ballots based on party leadership. In 2022, that number was 11 per cent.
Voters have been moving away from major parties over the past few decades. In 2022 this trend culminated in historic low support for Labor and the Coalition.
Almost one in three voters cast their ballots for a minor party or independent candidate. A total of 16 independents – including seven Teal candidates – were elected to the House of Representatives, up from six in 2019.
Who were the Teal voters? Most were likely to have voted Labor in 2019 (31 per cent) and only 18 per cent previously voted for the Coalition.
In the lead up to the election, the cost of living was raising concern. Data in April revealed an above-average jump in inflation, petrol prices hit record highs, and in early May, just weeks before election day, the Reserve Bank of Australia raised the cash rate for the first time since November 2010.
This had an impact at the polls.
In most elections, policy issues are the top consideration for voters, and in 2022 it was no different. More than 50 per cent of voters cast their ballots based on the parties’ policy positions. Nearly one in three voters said cost of living was the most important policy issue to them. Another 15 per cent mentioned management of the economy.
Environmental issues (17 per cent) and health (14 per cent) were other top policy issues.
Voters preferred Labor’s policies on the cost of living, education, health and the environment, and the Coalition’s policies on management of the economy, taxation and national security.
There were considerable gender differences in voting. Men were more likely to vote for the Coalition and women were more likely to vote for Labor and the Greens.
This represents a longer-term reversal of the gender trends in voter behaviour. In the 1990s, women were slightly more likely to vote for the Coalition, but have shifted to the left over time. Men were previously more likely to vote Labor, but have shifted to the right.
There were also considerable generational differences.
While the Coalition lost votes across almost all age groups, the decline in support among young people was significant and hit a historic low.
Only about one in four voters under the age of 40 cast a ballot for the Coalition. By comparison, more than one in three (38 per cent) supported Labor.
Coalition support among millenials, who began voting in the early 2000s, dropped significantly in just six years from 38 per cent in 2016 to 25 per cent in 2022.
The oldest members of Generation Z, born after 1996, have been eligible to vote in just the past three elections, so only the 2019 and 2022 elections provide meaningful data on their behaviour. But their support in the past two elections skews heavily to Labor and the Greens (67 per cent). Just 26 per cent voted for the Coalition.
Attitudes towards democracy reached record lows in Australia in 2019. This has recovered – slightly.
Long-term data shows a change of government usually leads to an increase in trust in government and satisfaction with democracy, although the 2013 election when the Coalition unseated Labor was an exception.
In 2022, 70 per cent of voters said they were satisfied with democracy, up from 59 per cent in 2019, and 30 per cent said government can be trusted, up from 25 per cent.
It’s the first time either metric has improved since 2007.
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.
The Coalition government was severely punished at the polls for perceived poor performance during the COVID-19 pandemic, paving the way for Labor’s win, Australia’s leading study on elections and democratic trends has found.