The geography of public opinion in Australia

The maps below are preliminary results based on work done with Simon Jackman and Luke Mansillo on ways to obtain estimates of public opinion in smaller geographic areas using unconventional data. We use data collected over the 56 days of the 2016 Australian federal election. Each of the maps below shows the probability that voters in each electoral division (the districts represented in federal parliament) will choose the conservative position on one of four different policy issues that were salient at this election. These policy questions are that:

  • the government should reinstate the construction industry watchdog, the ABCC.
  • boats carrying asylum seekers should be turned back.
  • the federal budget deficit should be reduced, even if it means fewer public services.
  • marriage should only be between a man and a woman.

These maps are dynamic. To access the interactive versions, simply click on the static images below. You can zoom in to view smaller areas at high resolution, and move from one part of the country to another. In doing this, it becomes clear that there was a general pattern of support for conservative positions in rural inland divisions (particularly in the north of New South Wales, and south-western Queensland). Voters in urban and coastal areas, particularly in the south-east, were less likely to support right-of-centre policies.

If you move in for a closer view of the metropolitan areas, it can be seen that there was generally a much lower level of support for conservative policy positions in the inner-cities (and some suburban areas). This is particularly true in the Melbourne metropolitan area (Australia’s second largest), while public opinion across much of the Sydney metropolitan region (the largest) is somewhat more moderate. Sydney looks like Melbourne on economic issues (cutting the deficit and the re-introduction of the construction watchdog), but — besides the left-leaning inner-city — its voters look somewhat more like those in the generally conservative Brisbane and Perth metropolitan areas on asylum seekers and same-sex marriage.

These are the early results of a new project. Future work will involve finalising these results, and then expanding this project to a larger set of issues, and other jurisdictions, including the US. This higher granularity measure of public opinion will help us better understand voters’ policy preferences, and the functioning of democracy in these countries.

 

Re-introduction of the construction industry watchdog

Public opinion on the construction industry watchdog across electoral divisions is represented by shading, with regions that have a higher proportion of voters taking conservative positions (supporting the re-introduction of the watchdog) coloured green, and those with fewer conservatives purple. These results are estimates, produced by a multilevel regression model fit to data collected at the 2016 Australian federal election by Vox Pop Labs, and post-stratified using the 2011 census. The estimates contain error from model error, sampling error and non-sampling error. The map was made using the leaflet function in R. A dynamic version can be access by clicking on the map.

 

Turning back boats carrying asylum seekers

Public opinion on asylum seekers across electoral divisions is represented by shading, with regions that have a higher proportion of voters taking conservative positions (supporting boat turn backs) coloured green, and those with fewer conservatives purple. These results are estimates, produced by a multilevel regression model fit to data collected at the 2016 Australian federal election by Vox Pop Labs, and post-stratified using the 2011 census. The estimates contain error from model error, sampling error and non-sampling error. The map was made using the leaflet function in R. A dynamic version can be access by clicking on the map.

 

The tradeoff between reducing the budget deficit or maintaining services

Public opinion on the federal budget deficit across electoral divisions is represented by shading, with regions that have a higher proportion of voters taking conservative positions (supporting deficit cuts) coloured green, and those with fewer conservatives purple. These results are estimates, produced by a multilevel regression model fit to data collected at the 2016 Australian federal election by Vox Pop Labs, and post-stratified using the 2011 census. The estimates contain error from model error, sampling error and non-sampling error. The map was made using the leaflet function in R. A dynamic version can be access by clicking on the map.

 

Same-sex marriage

Public opinion on same-sex marriage across electoral divisions is represented by shading, with regions that have a higher proportion of voters taking conservative positions (opposing same-sex marriage) coloured green, and those with fewer conservatives purple. These results are estimates, produced by a multilevel regression model fit to data collected at the 2016 Australian federal election by Vox Pop Labs, and post-stratified using the 2011 census. The estimates contain error from model error, sampling error and non-sampling error. The map was made using the leaflet function in R. A dynamic version can be access by clicking on the map.

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