How A Voter's Social Class Affects Their Choice Of Political Party

2333 words - 10 pages

The reasons why people vote as they do are many and varied. A person's choice of political party can depend on their occupation, upbringing, environment, religion or education - in short, which social class they belong to.As McAllister states, the modern way of life has brought with it the notion of voting according to class. "Class has formed the basis for party political divisions for most of the twentieth century. Since the industrial revolution, occupational class has been the most ubiquitous of social divisions." (1992, p. 152).The two major Australian political parties - Labor, and the Liberal/Nationals Coalition - have been dividing votes for most of the twentieth century, and into ...view middle of the document...

A positive stance on private ownership, private enterprise, and a long-standing coalition with the National Party (which was formed to represent the interests of rural voters) has meant that the party is attractive to business people and farmers.Of course, there are other parties in Australia's political system, and each of them can be said to represent the interests of a particular social class. The Australian Democratswere formed by Don Chipp in 1977, as a protest or reform party. The Democrats are unique in that they have a history of female leaders, and it is this - along with the reform aspect of the party - that makes it appeal to the less traditional voter, usually tertiary educated and small 'l' liberal.The Greens also appeal to the non-traditional voter, being a party concerned with environmental and peace issues. Rural voters are very unlikely to vote for the Greens; rather, their voter base is made up of those that would generally be dismissed by the major parties - the dissidents, non-conformists, and activists.The other smaller party which must be mentioned is the One Nation Party, particularly as its voters can be generally said to belong to a particular class. One Nation was started by Pauline Hanson in 1996 after she lost Liberal pre-selection. As a party that somewhat proudly stands for anti-globalisation, anti-immigration (especially of those migrants of Asian origin), anti-multiculturalism and anti-welfare (especially to those of Indigenous descent), One Nation's appeal is to a class of voter that is perhaps the most easily identifiable of all the parties. These voters are more likely to be older, male, with less formal education than average, and working in a blue-collar job. (Goot, 1998, p. 57). They are of a class of voters who "would have come to political maturity in a country where White Australia was still the official policy." (Goot, 1998, p.72).Australia's electoral system is one of party voting. The party system means that voters choose a party that they identify with, one that they feel will best serve their interests. Once they identify with a particular party the voter tends to remain loyal to that party. "The majority of Australian voters are very consistent in their party choice at elections, most stating that they voted the same way at every election." (Jaensch, 1995, p. 139).As Jaensch further points out, this consistent party loyalty finds its roots in a person's "family, personal and social background" (1995, p.123); that is to say, in their social class.The question of how a voter initially identifies with a party is a crucial one. Among the models used by political analysts and sociologists to explain voting behaviour is the class voting model. This model proposes that social class is the main determinant of voter choice, and that "politics is essentially a formal incarnation of the conflict between social classes." (McAllister, 1992, p. 152).Going by this model, a person born into a working class family...

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