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Polling

Sep 9, 2009

Religion and Party Identification

In the last Essential Report, there was a question on how religious belief played out with political affiliation that is worth going over in more depth. Essential Media Communication

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In the last Essential Report, there was a question on how religious belief played out with political affiliation that is worth going over in more depth.

Essential Media Communications – the company behind Essential Report – has clarified how the results were derived, which makes it even more interesting than in it originally looked (and it was pretty interesting to begin with!). First they asked respondents which party they felt “closest to”. This gives us an Australian equivalent of what you might see in US polls called “Party ID”, or “Party Identification”. It’s slightly different from voting intention, in that Party Identification is a slightly stronger, more distilled notion of political support. Rather than finding the proportions of people that would vote for each party were an election held today, it finds instead the proportion of people that see themselves being closest to Party X in terms of their own beliefs, values and policy dispositions.

Party ID removes the detached, marginal voter from the support equation – those people that don’t see themselves being closest to any political party, incorporating the “pox on all your houses”, the “not interested enough to bother” and other politically non-aligned demographic cohorts.

From that result, they then broke down the responses by a religious cohort – what religious affiliation respondents identified as.

This gives us the party identification levels of various religious groupings in Australia, summarised by the following table where all numbers are percentages and the sample size for each is given at the bottom:

partyidreligion

If we take just the three major party groupings – the ALP, the Coalition and the Greens – we can chart them to give them a bit of visual horsepower.

partyidreligion2

In many respects, not a great deal has changed when it comes to sectarian politics in Australia. Catholics still support the ALP heavily over the Coalition, Anglicans still support the Coalition heavily over the ALP while the “Other” Protestant grouping is more evenly divided. It also highlights (as others have suggested) that most of the loudest Catholic voices in the media – the George Pells, the Tony Abbotts, the Christopher Pearsons of this world – don’t speak politically for the majority of Catholics. They aren’t politically representative voices by any yardstick.

If we break these down further in to respective ALP, Coalition and Greens charts that measure how many points above or below the party average each religious cohort is with Party identification, we get:

alpreldiffs coalreldiffs

Greensreldiffs

The way to read these charts, using the ALP chart as an example, is that Catholics identify with the Labor Party 13 points higher than the average population, while Anglicans identify with the Labor party at a rate 10 points less than the average population.

The Greens are also pretty interesting on the religious front, which is something we’ve talked about before a few times, where their support is highest with atheists and non-Christian religions.

The data here suggests that religious affiliation has one of the largest demographic correlations with political support – interesting in a country that isn’t militantly, not even particularly overtly religious.

UPDATE:

Andrew Norton has longer series from the Australian Election Study on Catholic political disposition.

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17 comments

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17 thoughts on “Religion and Party Identification

  1. Kevin Bonham

    I don’t think the figures show that the Greens are the party of hard science. What they suggest to me is primarily what we already know: that rather than getting atheistic votes by appealling to science, the Greens generally struggle to get Christian votes because of their positions on social/moral issues.

    If the non-Christian group surveyed is representative then about a third of its members are Islamic or Jewish and the Greens would likely suffer with those voters for much the same reasons. Not sure how Hindus vote but I suspect the main reason the non-religious Green vote is at least high-ish is that Buddhists, New Agers, pagans, wiccans etc are much more strongly Green than atheists. That said, the MOE on that 17% is 8.8% (it’s only 70 voters) so not too much should be read from it, even with whatever adjustments should be made for the other moral monotheisms.

    There are also people on the atheistic left who don’t fully agree with the Greens on scientific issues or know all that much about environmental stuff but who like them more than the main parties in other policy areas. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve argued with Tasmanian Times green (small g) voters who reckon that because Labor has sold out on environmental issue X that there will be really drastic changes in the %age of Green supporters preferencing Labor at the next election. They’re always wrong about that. The extent to which environmental issues – even big-ticket ones like AGW – drive the Green vote is often overestimated IMO.

  2. Bogdanovist

    The Greens are certainly not the party of ‘hard science’. They are as pragmatic when it comes to scientific ‘facts’ as any other party. Certainly on AGW, they are all for ‘the science’ but when in comes to Nuclear or GM issues the scientific consensus is rejected in favour of a minority view aligned with the Greens’ ideology.

    I’m a non-religious rationalist, but I’m more comfortable with an intelligent well informed non-fundamentalist religious person than a crystal gazing non-religious trend follower. The Greens contain people from all three of these groups.

  3. EnergyPedant

    Kate that’s not actually what I said. I was more thinking that science is morally ambivalent and claiming strict (blind) adherence to the dictates of science isn’t actually a realistic position.

  4. Daniel B

    Sad to see so many people here seem to have been hurt by others acting in the name of religion.

  5. Andrew Norton » Blog Archive » Which party do Catholics support?

    […] blog today reports on an Essential Research survey on religion and party affiliation. It finds that the religious […]

  6. gryphon67

    Note the sample size. 404: Religion not found.

  7. fredex

    Good catch kate, that one was sailing over my head but you nailed it.

  8. kate

    “Decisions made on the basis purely of science and fact can tend to be a bit morally unpalatable.”

    The old “you can’t be moral without god” furphy. Rubbish.

  9. calyptorhynchus

    Decisions taken on the basis of morality are often a bit immoral too…

    “Honour killings” for example.

  10. EnergyPedant

    I’ll point out that the highest rate of support for the Greens comes from the non-christian religious, make of that what you will….

    deconst, I’d be very wary about claiming the mantle of “hard science”. Decisions made on the basis purely of science and fact can tend to be a bit morally unpalatable.

  11. deconst

    Interesting things I personally take away from this:
    More than 1/3 of voting populace are a-religious.
    The Greens are the party of hard science: more a-religious people (56) than Christians (32) identified themselves with Greens. I believe they are the only major party to be that.

    As for the ‘No religion’ have a higher rate of ‘None’ and ‘Don’t Know’, I suspect that’s because the ‘Case Is Open’ people probably are lumped in here.

  12. calyptorhynchus

    “If you suggest that the “No Religion” cohort are basing their existence on facts and reality they have a suspiciously high rate of support for None and Don’t Know.”

    That would argue their sanity, wouldn’t it?

  13. lindsayb

    I am terrified of political leaders who are devout followers of any religion. I don’t understand how anyone could trust a beliver in armageddon followed by devine rescue to be in charge of a cake stall, let alone a country. The thought of GeorgeW having access to the big red button still sends chills up and down my spine.

    EnergyPedant, crystalology, auras etc are called new-age religion for a reason. They are another belief system that does not attempt to fit fact and reality into the belief system, just like all of the other major world religions.
    On the other hand, all of the Greens that I know are practical people trying to work out how humans can live sustainably on this planet alongside the other life forms that live here.
    If people worked out that the chances of devine intervention to rescue us from the mess we have made of our planet were approximately zero, we might see an increase in the green vote. If we don’t see some pretty radical changes occurring soon, our future on this planet may be short and painful.

  14. EnergyPedant

    Barking, I would have thought that people who’s basis is crystalology, auras, tarot and smoking weed are most likely to vote green.

    If you suggest that the “No Religion” cohort are basing their existence on facts and reality they have a suspiciously high rate of support for None and Don’t Know.

  15. Barking

    One of the standouts here is that people who have as a basis of their life a delusional belief system around virgins and fairies tend to be less likely to vote Green. People who base their decision making around facts and reality vote Green at a far higher rate. Need I say more.

  16. Hamish Coffee

    I would say that it is more to do with demographics than religion. Anglicans are traditionally more anglo and middle-upper class. Catholics and others tend to be more working class and less likely to be Anglo.

  17. EnergyPedant

    I’d never really thought the base of the liberal/nats was Anglican/Protestant. Does that have something to do with an age bias in those groups? Are they disproportionately composed of Generation Blue?

    Although I’m not sure that I would expect the Anglican age demographics to be substantially different to the Catholic.

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