Tuesday, 2 July 2013

It looks like people are going to vote for a party they don't agree with

Classified as: reflective journal - updates, politics, theory

I'm still working my way through transcribing tapes of focus groups and interviews, and I don't want to comment on emerging themes till that's completed and everyone has had a chance to view their transcripts.

So I thought today it might be interesting to look at the broader context of Australian politics. The opinion polls are predicting a Liberal National Party (LNP) victory in the coming federal election. Yet interestingly other surveys suggest the values of most Australians are at odds with the values of the LNP. Both major parties in Australia have been affected by the neoliberal agenda in politics, shown for example in competition policy and the privatisation of government services. This has been accompanied by an increase in income inequality in Australia over the past two decades. The LNP supports the neoliberal agenda more strongly than Labor generally, and is therefore likely to reduce government services and increase privatisation if elected in September.

Yet surveys such as the What Australians Believe survey and the ACTU survey on inequality show that most people don't support this agenda. The majority don't believe in cutting government services or privatisating them. They would also like wealth to be more equally distributed, and they believe governments should work towards this.

It's puzzling then that many Australians are apparently intending to vote for a party whose values they don't support. Of course the internal problems of the Labor party have something to do with this. I have strong opinions about what has happened to Labor over the past few years, and tend to agree with Anne Summer's thesis that what has happened to Julia Gillard is like a form of workplace harassment, or bullying. I won't go into that now however - maybe another time. Whether it is fair or not, clearly people's attitudes towards the Labor government and Julia Gillard are likely to be influencing their predicted voting patterns.

Objectively, it would seem the party that might be closest to the values of Australians is the Greens, and yet the Greens are seen as "too extreme" by a majority of people, according to Essential Media surveys. So what does this all mean?

I'm starting to form a theory, which is influenced by what's happened in the first stage of this project. I suspect people can hold certain values, such as wanting more equality and fairness (equity), but at the same time see them as impractical in real life and politics. For example, the decision by the ISEPICH executive in the first stage to stop supporting this project doesn't necessarily mean that they no longer believed in the importance of equity and sustainability. Rather they wanted to focus on things that saw as more practical, such as engaging with the Medicare Local (as they mentioned in their letter to me). I don't expect to confirm or deny this in the project as no-one from the Executive has been prepared to discuss these issues in detail so far. However it seems convincing and also seems to fit with what's happening in the broader political sphere where people are looking to vote for a government whose values they don't necessarily support - maybe because they see it as more practical or competent.

So on the one hand maybe we have people's values and ideals - and on the other what they think actually happens in the real world - and there's a conflict between them. Which means that any social movement to improve equity or environmental sustainability may be seen as impractical at first?

Links for more info:
What Australians Believe
ACTU surveys on inequality http://www.actu.org.au/Images/Dynamic/attachments/7484/ACTU_Report_Inequality_and_Progressive_Taxation.pdf
Essential media survey Greens policies (March 4th, 2013) http://essentialvision.com.au/category/essentialreport/page/13 (it's also worth looking at the March 11th survey on privatisation, same page)

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