In an extract from his new Quarterly Essay, David Marr finds that One Nation voters are richer, more urban and more liberal than you might expect. But they are profoundly nostalgic, display an unusual gloom and share a vehemently anti-government streak [img]'https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/9e415c9f118005a04843faef018a22c42ef9b375/0_0_3900_2600/master/3900.jpg?w=1200&h=630&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=crop&crop=faces%2Centropy&bm=normal&ba=bottom%2Cleft&blend64=aHR0cHM6Ly91cGxvYWRzLmd1aW0uY28udWsvMjAxNi8wNS8yNS9vdmVybGF5LWxvZ28tMTIwMC05MF9vcHQucG5n&s=85cca8bab6dc3a7559fa3d9015ecc7ce' Australia came late to the game. Since 1948, Americans have been polled after each election to find out why they voted as they did. The Swedes started to take these national snapshots in the 1950s and the British in the 1960s. Belfast-born Ian McAllister began the Australian Election Study after Bob Hawkes third victory in 1987. From his post at the Australian National University where these days he is Distinguished Professor of political science McAllister has conducted a dozen of these big, after-the-event surveys over 30 years. We ask how people made their choices: the effect of the election campaign, the effect of the longer-term predispositions, the background characteristics, the political socialisation. Its about trying to unravel all of these various things that come together to make simply a choice on a ballot paper. McAllisters questions are controversial. The political science industry feeds off the Australian Election Studies. Dinner parties break up in confusion as pollsters and academics bicker over questions asked and not asked. McAllister told me: If I put in every question that everybody emailed me or wrote to me about, youd have a thousand-page questionnaire and nobody would fill it in. He says the point of the surveys sent to thousands of voters after each poll is continuity. When youve got exactly the same question being asked consistently over a period of time using essentially the same methodology, youve got an unusually reliable measure of something. The Australian voter is a species he has come to admire deeply. First of all they have to go to the polls more than any other voter in the world that I can possibly imagine. And secondly they have to deal with a range of complexity in electoral systems, in terms of casting a vote, which again defies anything in any other society. So the Australian voter, I think, is pretty overburdened by politics. Yet they remain thoughtful. People dont make whimsical choices by and large. They do look at policies. They are not volatile. We found in our surveys early in the piece about 70% of people never ever change their vote from the very first election they voted in to the last election before they died. These days its around about 50%. So basically most people dont change. And when people do change its a relatively small proportion that change from election to election. That weve been so stable makes McAllister particularly alert to the unexpected long-term decline of trust in the political class, in career politicians, in democracy itself. Australia has stood apart from a lot of other countries because its had very high levels of satisfaction with democracy historically, some of the highest in the world, second only to one or two Scandinavian countries. He dates the slide from 2010. Elections since then havent provided the usual upswings of faith and hope. The numbers have kept falling. One of the things I observe in our surveys is the proportion of people that believe the government would have a positive effect on the economy in the future year was at its lowest level weve ever recorded in 2016. So people dont have confidence in the government They see this quick turnover in leaders. They see scandals to do with expenses, and so on. And they become very jaded. And then I think weve had a lack of decisive leadership as well. I mean Rudd Mark I was the last popular leader that existed in Australia. We havent had one since.
[img]https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/7ca04ea3501e916b03acd36ee3aafae23b21f980/0_0_1620_1080/master/1620.jpg?w=300&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=c4056ad70a447d6e9aebcd351e44f01e One Nation supporters at a bowling club in Perth. Support among women for Hansons party has grown since the 1990s, when its voters were overwhelmingly men. Photograph: Rebecca Le May/AAP Reports from focus groups suggest these are working women, better educated than the men. They looked like nice Labor voters working in nice jobs, said one researcher. We had a childcare worker, two government workers, and I think there was a teacher. Yet they like Pauline. Other reports from focus groups suggest contradictions here: Women like her because shes a woman who speaks her mind. Men like her because shes a woman who stands up against feminism. That shes a woman from the life doesnt owe us anything school is a key aspect of her political makeup. Raising four children from two husbands hasnt softened her heart towards single mothers. Twice divorced, she backs men burnt by the divorce courts. She opposes extending paid parental leave by two weeks: They get themselves pregnant and have the same problems did with the baby bonus, with people just doing it for the money. Class Most One Nation voters see themselves as working class. McAllister calls that pretty clear. This hasnt changed in 20 years. Hansons people may have aspirations but they dont see themselves coming up in the world. Greens 24% identify as working class Liberal 32% Labor 45% National 46% One Nation 66% Religion Hanson is not pulling the religious vote. Rebecca Huntley, social researcher and former director of Ipsos Australia, says: Were a little shielded from the worst implications of the rise of the Trump vote by the fact that this is not a highly religious group. Hansons staunch defence of Christianity in the face of Muslim hordes isnt about faith but preserving our way of life. Hansons moral agenda is to punish welfare bludgers not perverts. One Nation voters rarely worship. While 48% of Australians never attend church not even for weddings and funerals the figure for One Nation voters is 60%. Breakaway Cory Bernardi is pursuing a tiny constituency who believe in small government and high Catholic morality. Hanson backs neither: shes a secular, big government woman. Thats a big constituency. Where do they live ? Both the city and the bush. One Nation has always had a strong city presence despite its image as a bush party. Labor party research and focus groups report strong growth of support for One Nation in seats on the fringe of big towns and capital cities, seats on the edge of but not actually among migrant suburbs. This appears to be a pattern across Australia. On the edge of Sydney in 2016, One Nation picked up more than 6% of the Senate vote in Lindsay (75% Australian-born) but only 3% a few kilometres away in Greenway (58% Australian-born). In Lindsay they have fears rather than experience. As one researcher told me: When you probe for personal experiences on anything they say about welfare or immigration, its always second- and third-hand. Where do One Nation voters live? Reports from focus groups suggest city folk most respect Hanson. The bush is more sceptical of One Nation than the cities, says one researcher. In the bush they tend to say she doesnt have the answers. Those in the cities are more in agreement with her. They rate her intelligence in the city. They say shes doing better, shes learnt a lot. In the country they think shes a bit stupid. How educated are they? Then and now, the figures show the typical One Nation voter didnt finish school. Yet they are not unqualified. They make an effort. Tradespeople are strongly represented in party ranks. But eight out of 10 have never set foot on a university campus. Thats the big political effect, says McAllister.
[img]https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/e9b4b2ea270faa18a32ee0e7d64339008d637e44/0_0_2048_1326/master/2048.jpg?w=300&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=5ca474e109bd30645bc103159630c057 Anti-racism protesters demonstrate outside a Pauline Hanson event in Perth. Those who see Hanson tapping into something murkier than mere disenchantment with politics fear One Nation will never be dealt with until the major parties find the courage to address the issue that haunts this country: race. Photograph: Richard Wainwright/AAP For most Australian voters the boats are a problem solved. Not for the Greens. They are appalled by Manus and Nauru and alone continue to oppose the policy of naval blockade and turning back the boats. What sets One Nation apart here is the near-unanimous support in party ranks for that strategy. It stands to reason: this unique policy began as a Hanson special. Those in each party who agree or strongly agree with turnbacks: Greens 10% Labor 55% Liberal 63% National 63% One Nation 90% One Nation is an anti-immigration party. There are, as we will see, a handful of other causes that unite Hansons people. But behind all the complex calculations about what drives people into Hansons arms, these figures speak with unmistakable clarity: One Nation voters loathe immigrants. Its an embarrassing challenge for a decent country to find such forces at work, but it is much too late to pretend that a party which displays such extreme hostility to immigration is not driven by race. Thats simply not facing facts. Anger with government One Nation is the Pissed Off with Government Party. It was so the last time, when Australians still trusted their governments. In those days, being ignored by politicians was the base complaint of the party. Hanson was the gutsy politician who listened. Twenty years later, with trust in government sagging across the country, One Nation is coming into its own as the party that accuses politicians of not listening. Its the brand. Nothing beats the hostility of Hansons voters here. This is the party breakdown of those who believe politicians usually look after themselves: National 39% Liberal 40% Labor 51% Greens 51% One Nation 85% McAllister rates this number real and something worth focusing on. He sees it as a measure of general dissatisfaction, not with government so much as the political class. This taps into Brexit, Trump, Italy this disaffection with the political class, that career politicians seem to be looking after their own vested interests and not looking after the interests of ordinary voters. This is a bigger issue than One Nation. Huntley reports: The general conversation from the community is that politicians seem like a kind of a club: they all know each other, they all went to university. They see them as highly educated, highly connected, an elite they have never been part of. Theres anger across the board at the failure of government to solve problems. They think, There are these problems, these problems didnt exist before, governments are responsible, I blame the government. So part of it is the easiest outlet for anger but also that kind of sense that politicians seem completely remote to them. Markus ran some figures for me from the Scanlon survey to show what those most angry with government are angry about. Gloom about the economy is clearly linked to dissatisfaction with government. But by far the most dramatic call for a shakeup of the system comes from those angriest about levels of immigration: Immigration position linked with dissatisfaction with government Immigration isnt everything in the current stew of discontent. Theres so much in there: scandal, logjam, a tepid economy, and the slaughter of prime ministers. But clearly on these numbers the nations discontent cannot be understood without facing the role played by minority rage over immigration. And the AES figures show no issue so unites One Nation as immigration. McAllister calls it the touchstone. Other issues that fire up One Nation voters Hansons people are not implacable conservatives. They arent hostile to unions and they believe this figure in the AES is quite clear that big business has too much power. Nor is One Nation preaching family values. They are not lining up against equal marriage. (In focus groups they say, Why not let them get on with it?) Hansons people are second only to the Greens in wanting marijuana decriminalised: 68% of Greens to 49% of One Nation. Not that theyve given up on the War on Drugs. They loathe ice and fear it as a source of crime and violence. And Hansons people are absolutely of one mind on allowing the terminally ill to end their own lives with medical assistance: support in the party runs at 98%. On the other hand, Hansons people are particularly tough on crime. One of her causes back in the late 1990s was the right of parents to spank their children. She believes in the rod. But thats only a start. Heres the breakdown by party of those in 2016 calling for stiffer sentences for law breakers: Greens 9% Labor 24% Liberal 30% National 31% One Nation 50% And their faith in the gallows is complete. Twenty years ago, when the member for Oxley stormed into Canberra, there was a strong majority across the community for bringing back the noose for murder. That support has fallen, according to the AES, to 40%. But among One Nation voters, the passion for the death penalty is undiminished: Greens 15% Labor 40% Liberal 42% National 54% One Nation 88%