Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Christian vote contributes powerfully to election result

Regardless of arguments for and against faith playing a role in the political process, one respected electoral analyst reports that the beliefs of both Christians and atheists strongly influenced voting patterns and results in the 2010 Federal Election.

Former Labor Senator John Black now runs Australian Development Strategies which includes a service called Elaborate, used to analyse the latest election results.

Elaborate is the name given to both the database and the analytical techniques developed by Australian Development Strategies principals during 35 years of experience in using demographic analysis, profiling and mapping.

Even in the the first paragraphs of he 45 page report, it becomes clear that the votes of Christians played a significant role in the election.

In describing the methodology for the 2010 election analysis, John Black's report says:

'Where we found more activist Christians, we found more voters swinging against Labor... The regression analysis weeds out the purely descriptive variables and uses only those variables which contribute real explaining power to the model. For example in the current election, the ALP copped an absolute caning in the regression analysis from activist Christian demographics in terms of both the vote and the swing. So the presence of an activist Christian vote in any electorate both described and explained behaviour.'

Australian Christian Voter's own research indicates that in the days after Julia Gillard became Prime Minister, thousands of people, presumably Christians, searched the internet for information about Ms Gillard's religious beliefs.

John Black's report confirms that this was an issue for many voters and this influenced electoral outcomes in certain seats.

'The anti Labor swing included the Christian evangelical faiths previously won by Kevin Rudd in 2007. While they were only one in ten voters on the faith spectrum, they live in the marginal Queensland and NSW seats.'

'At the same time, atheists also showed that the beliefs of prospective Prime Ministers matters. The big group of atheists and agnostics – one in three voters - swung heavily to Labor across Australia,' the report continues.

Christians, or church goers, may have had an influence in the election and re-election of independents, a factor assuming more importance than could have been imagined.

'This anti-Green, pro Independent group are older and live in more rural or outer urban blue collar suburbs where families have children and frequently attend Church. In these parts of Australia men have certificate qualifications and drive a truck to work and women stay home to mind the kids. There’s no spare money for the internet or Pay TV.'

But a key for the election result was that many Christians who swung away from the Gillard-replaces-Rudd ALP were in marginal seats.

'...regression modelling and simple seat swings show that the loss of Kevin Rudd’s pro-Christian, pro-family profile cost the ALP votes from Christians in marginal seats across the country. The top four Pentecostal seats in Australia included three in Queensland and one in NSW. The average anti Labor 2PP swing in these seats was 7.2 percent, compared to the national swing of 2.1 percent, a difference of 5.1 percent.

'Julia Gillard’s lack of religious beliefs – or the absence of Kevin Rudd’s Christian image - may have led to an increase in the swings to Labor candidates from agnostics and atheists.'

In terms of the growth in the Green vote, one interesting result is that in the seats won by independents, the Green vote it amongst the lowest in the nation. This could mean, for groups seeking to combat the rise of the Greens, that the most successful method might be to run a local, capable independent candidate.

'When we rank all 150 seats by their lack of 2010 Green voters we see the three independent MPs in the bottom five Green seats. If this lower income demographic does vote Green, they can cast up to 45 percent of their second preferences to the LNP,' the report says.

The stereotypical Green voter is described as:

'This is the Don’s Party group that used to be in the ALP in the sixties and seventies: young university students or graduates, frequently working and still studying in academia, no kids, often gay, arts and drama type degrees or architecture where they specialise in designing environmentally friendly suburbs, agnostic or atheist, often US or Canadian refugees from capitalism, but well paid in professional consulting or media jobs.'

Another unusual phenomenon is that the Greens and Liberals are battling for the richer demographic. In a section of the report examining anti-Green voters, Black's report describes a range of lower income voters and says:

'The Greens get none of these groups and... they lost even more of them in 2010, as their vote polarised around the inner city rich, the code word for which is apparently, "progressive".'

'...we see that the demographic groups swinging to the LNP also tended to vote Green and swing to the Greens. This includes big groups, like the inner city renters and those paying top quartile mortgages. So, while the LNP demographic may be anti-Green, apart from the self employed, many of those swinging to the LNP were also swinging to the Greens in 2010.'

Read the full John Black report.

In summary, it would appear that Christians are a strong part of the voter base for the three independents who are currently deciding who will be the next prime minister. In addition, many Christians swung away from Labor because of Julia Gillard's atheism and this swing had more of an impact than the atheist swing to Julia Gillard.

Particularly in Queensland, the swing was pronounced enough to say that seats that might have stayed with Labor, giving them a majority in the House of Representatives, went to the Coalition, bringing about a hung parliament.

An unexpected result has been that the balance of power in the lower house has assumed more importance than the Greens balance of power in the Senate.

And with the voting done (for the time being at least), Christians would be advised to focus their influence on doing good, loving justice and walking humbly with their God.
Peter Hallett


  1. As mentioned earlier, Australian Christian Voter was a federal election project and although following up on upcoming state elections would be fun,I simply don't have time to indulge. As for the federal election result, what can I say... If you want something to annoy you, visit my Utterance blog at Cheers

  2. I would say that atheists who swung heavily to the ALP did it more so because of Abbott's views which were a lot stronger than his predecessor than in the mere fact that Gillard is an atheist