AuSSA Insights profiles the latest results from the Australian Survey of Social Attitudes and other Australian and comparative social and political surveys.

The Australian Survey of Social Attitudes 2022 includes a core survey that regularly asks Australian voters about a range of social and political topics. 

There has been considerable recent interest in Australia and internationally about the intergenerational divides that are re-shaping social attitudes, voting behaviour, and material interests and wellbeing.

Younger Australians have tended towards centre-left voting behaviour—that’s nothing new or unusual in either historical or comparative terms. However, polling analyst Dr Shaun Ratcliff has shown that left-leaning younger voters may not be moving to the political right as they age, raising the prospect of structural problems in the conservative electorate in the longer-term.  

Rising support for a third party, the Australian Greens, is now so significant that it is achieving something close to ‘major party’ status among younger Australians. Like their counterparts elsewhere, the Greens have capitalised electorally on major and growing concerns about the environment, particularly the use of fossil fuels that are central to global warming. But they are increasingly focused on the material insecurity problems of younger voters – take note of the high-profile interventions into housing affordability policy.

Here, we consider several different sources of data on the deeper political party allegiances (rather than just voting trends) of young Australians defined as those aged between 18 and 34 years (see Figure 1). This age cohort includes the so-called Millennial or Gen-Y voters and the next generational group, Gen-Z.  The four survey sources compared here all ask slightly different questions about party identification (ID) or affiliation. The differences between them are revealing.

The Australian Election Study (AES) of 2022 asked a large sample of over 2,500 voters: ‘generally speaking do you think of yourself as Liberal, Labor, National or what?’. Not surprisingly, both major parties are attracting fewer loyal voters over time and this trend is driven by young people. The AES reports that in 2022 some 28% of voters identified as Labor while 33% of voters identified with the Coalition. The Greens have reached 10% on the same measure.

Among the 18–34-year-old cohort, the AES 2022 finds that Labor led on party ID among 18–34-year-old respondents with 29%. The Coalition achieved a much lower 20% while the Greens scored 19%. Some 28% of the sample did not nominate a party ID, higher than the 24% for the overall sample.

With a sample of almost 6,000 voters, the Australian Cooperative Election Survey (ACES) 2022 asked a slightly different question—one that excluded a no Party ID option: ‘generally speaking, which of the parties would say you’re closest to?’. That led a larger share of respondents to nominate one of the parties. When compared with AES 2022 findings, it showed much higher party identification with Labor (38%) among younger voters as well as for the Coalition parties (27%). But the largest increase came for the Greens—some 32% in ACES 2022 compared to 19% in AES 2022.

On the ACES results, the Greens attract the second highest largest party identification in the young cohort, ahead of the Coalition.

Australian polling agency, Redbridge, have also asked a version of this question recently in May 2024 with an (effective) sample of 1,376 voters. Their question asked, ‘Which of these political parties best aligns with your values?’. A couple of differences can be observed here—namely, that the identification question asks about party alignment based on ‘values’ and that ‘no party’ option is ‘none of these parties’. That isn’t quite the same as the ‘no party’ option available in the AES with Redbridge producing a lower ‘no party’ result than the AES 2022 (22% versus 28%).

Still, Redbridge’s results are broadly like the AES. One exception is a higher Coalition party ID at 27% among 18–34-year-olds. The higher Coalition result may indicate some recovery in the conservative base vote among these voters since the 2022 federal election.

Lastly, the International Social Survey Program (ISSP) included in the Australian Survey of Social Attitudes asks another version of the question included in Australia’s two election studies: ‘Do you usually think of yourself as close to any particular political party and, if yes, which party is that?’.

Notice that the question first asks voters to consider whether they even hold a ‘close’ political party affiliation. Not surprisingly, much larger numbers of AuSSA respondents in the combined sample from 2021 and 2022 didn’t feel they did. More choose ‘no party’ response—indeed, some 50% of the sample of younger respondents. In fact, no party affiliation remains high across the sample.

Sampling differences between the surveys (some mail, some panel) may account for some difference in these findings, but the results also demonstrate the importance of question wording on the results—and that respondents do closely interpret questions!

So, the AuSSA/ISSP question produces much lower party identification among voters overall, with particularly lower results for the two major parties. However, this did not occur for the Greens. They record similar party ID support at 21% of the sample.

Higher Greens support may be partly the result of AuSSA mail-based sample. But results also hint at something significant about the nature of Greens support. When we go back and look more closely at AES 2022 results, some 79% of young Greens identifiers declared themselves ‘very strong’ or ‘fairly strong’ supporters. By contrast, only 61% of young Labor identifiers described themselves as strong supporters and that figure was similar young supporters of the Coalition parties. If ‘strong’ supporters of the respective parties are tallied, the AES results still suggest more committed Labor identifiers than Greens, but the margin of difference is far smaller.

About AuSSA

The AuSSA sample was derived from the electoral roll and has a total sample of 2,195 respondents, the result of combining and then weighting the 2021 and 2022 samples. Data was weighted by Census 2021 age, gender, and education characteristics as well as last federal election vote recall (2019, 2022) to provide a representative sample of the Australian voting public. Totals differ from 100 due to rounding. 


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