I posted earlier this week about the number of candidates running for each party, with a breakdown of candidates by gender. I had a number of questions about how many of these candidates are running in winnable seats.
In this post I run through the number of male and female candidates running for the major parties, broken down by the type of seat (safe or marginal). In short, incumbent MPs are more likely to be men, while both major parties are running more women as non-incumbents than they have current incumbents. Labor is well ahead of the Coalition, and most of the women the Coalition is running for open seats are unlikely to be elected at this election.
I reused a method of analysis I used for this 2018 blog post. I break up candidates from the two major parties between incumbents and non-incumbents. I excluded any candidate running in a safe seat for the opposing party. Safe is defined as a margin of greater than 6% before the election.
Most of these categories look similar to the 2016 candidate data, but in most cases women are doing better than in 2016.
|Party||Seat type||Incumbents F %||Non-incumbents F %|
I have ignored 4 Nationals candidates, all men, running against Liberal incumbents in Western Australia and South Australia. It’s arguable if these people count as members of the Coalition.
Women make up a slightly smaller proportion of Labor candidates in safe seats (32% of incumbents and one-third of non-incumbents, down from 1/3 and half respectively). There are a lot more Labor incumbents in safe seats than in 2016 (44 up from 24) and slightly less incumbents in marginal seats (19 down from 22).
Women now make up a majority of Labor incumbents in marginal seats (58% up from 41%), and 60% of Labor non-incumbents running in marginal seats are women, up from 50% in 2016.
My assessment of this situation for Labor: the party has achieved parity amongst new candidates and sitting MPs in marginal seats, indeed has surpassed parity, but is still catching up amongst longer-serving MPs in safer seats. I would expect women will make up a larger part of the Labor caucus if they win this election, thanks to the number of women running in marginal seats.
The Coalition has gone backwards amongst incumbent MPs seeking re-election. Only 12.5% of incumbent Coalition candidates are women. This compares to about 20% of incumbent candidates at the 2016 election.
The Coalition did reasonably well in 2016 in running non-incumbent women for marginal seats, but most of these seats were Labor-held, and the Coalition did not elect many non-incumbents in marginal seats in 2016. So not many of these people ended up in parliament. Only two woman from this category were elected.
Interestingly, the Coalition is actually doing better at running women for open seats where Coalition incumbents have retired. Seven safe Coalition seats are without an incumbent. In these seats, three women were the previous incumbent, and four women are running. In the five Coalition-held marginal seats where the incumbent retired, two of those incumbents were women, and three out of six candidates this time are women (there’s both a man and a woman running in Gilmore).
Despite the rhetoric around the Liberal Party’s “women problem” when women such as Julie Bishop, Kelly O’Dwyer, Julia Banks, Ann Sudmalis and Jane Prentice walked away, the Coalition is actually running as many or more women for these open seats than there were incumbents.
The Coalition is also running a lot of non-incumbent women in marginal seats – but most of these seats are Labor seats, and it seems unlikely that the Coalition will many of these seats.
So while the Coalition is running women for about half of the theoretically winnable open seats, it is massively weighed down by almost all of their incumbent MPs being men. This is relic of past elections.
The real test for the Coalition will come at the next election where they are expected to gain seats. That will be when they will face a choice about who they put into open seats that they can actually win. There is less opportunity to change the demographics of a party when they are on the way down.
As a comparison, I looked at the same data for 2013, when the Coalition came back into power in a big way. The Coalition ran 8 women and 22 men for marginal seats, and 2 women and 12 men for safe seats (again, excluding incumbents). A lot of these people were elected, and thus created a flow-on effect as long as those people remain in their seats.