Trends in minor party voting in the Senate


On Sunday I published a post focusing on the chances for each party in the Senate. Unsurprisingly we are expecting a shrinking of the Senate crossbench due to the half-Senate election and the concentration of low-polling Senate crossbenchers, but it is interesting to examine the trends in how people voted.

We already know that there was a record high vote for minor parties and independents in the House of Representatives. The same is not true in the Senate, which has had a consistently higher level of support for the small players for decades. These parties and independents have polled over 25% at every election in the last decade, but support declined slightly in 2019, from 35% down to about 33.1% (based on data as of Tuesday morning).

This is still astoundingly high, and can partly be explained by the decline of specific parties. But there’s enough of them that it feels like a trend.

The Nick Xenophon Team, under their new name Centre Alliance, contracted to only run in South Australia, and dropped from a national vote of 3.3% to just 0.2%, but also suffered a catastrophic loss of support in their home state of South Australia, which bodes extremely poorly for their two incumbent senators in 2022.

The Jacqui Lambie Network also retracted to one state, but with more success than the Centre Alliance, likely winning a seat in Tasmania while making no effort to run elsewhere, effectively turning itself into a machine to re-elect Lambie as an independent and nothing more.

Cory Bernardi’s Australian Conservatives, which split off from the Liberal Party and then absorbed Family First, could only manage 0.7%, about half of what Family First polled in 2016.

The Liberal Democrats vote halved from 2.2% to 1.1% following the departure of David Leyonhjelm, and Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party also contracted to run in one state, and suffered a negative swing there.

Other parties which drew attention in 2016, such as the Glenn Lazarus Team and the Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party, have gone away entirely.

While the vote hasn’t gone down by much, it appears that there are a smaller number of minor parties who poll an amount worth noting.

One way to measure this is to look at the number of minor parties polling over 1% or 2% at recent elections.

ElectionParties over 1%Parties over 2%

There hasn’t been a dramatic shift, but it does appear to show some consolidation.

Another measure is to look at what percentage of the vote went to the three largest minor parties. The decline of support for other minor parties was partly hidden in the chart at the top of this post thanks to a big surge in support for the Greens, a small increase for One Nation and the spending-fuelled campaign of United Australia.

The Greens polled 10.95%, their second-best ever result and a swing of 2.3% compared to 2016. One Nation gained a small increase from 4.3% to 5.1% (much less than was often expected during the last term) while United Australia polled 2.2% which was still the third-largest minor party vote, despite being less than half what Palmer polled in his last serious campaign in 2013.

The vote for the three largest minor parties was around 17% in 2010 and 2013, then dropped to 16.2% in 2016 (reflecting the large number of parties pulling in votes last time), but in 2019 it has increased to 18.2%, despite the total minor party vote shrinking.

Finally I thought I would include a table showing the national Senate primary vote for the top 15 parties, including the swing compared to 2016. I haven’t been able to find this in an easily accessible format anywhere. Once again I should note this data is as of early Tuesday morning.

One Nation427,9895.1+0.8
United Australia182,5572.2+2.0
Help End Marijuana Prohibition155,6551.9+1.3
Shooters, Fishers and Farmers137,1121.6+0.2
Animal Justice99,8041.2
Liberal Democrats95,0231.1-1.0
Australian Conservatives61,2910.7-0.7
Democratic Labour75,9310.9+0.2
Christian Democratic58,3320.7-0.5
Conservative National (Anning)53,7170.6+0.6
Derryn Hinch48,1020.6-1.4
Rise Up Australia34,5990.4+0.1
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  1. HEMP performance is interesting, but perhaps they’ve just absorbed the votes of a few other minor left parties like the Sex Party, Drug Law Reform and Marriage Equality Party who aren’t there this time. The combined vote for non-Greens minor left parties is almost the same as 2016 – depending on what parties you include in that category, but I make it as being down 0.1% from that of the equivalent parties in 2016. The increase in the Greens vote not coming at the expense of the non-Greens left is a bit surprising to me tbh.

  2. What is a minor left party? AJR are self-proclaimedly a single issue party;- hence the name. This issue was never mentioned in the French Assembly benches, Left or Right. SUS are self-described light green, but like AJR, tend to throw preferences 40-45% to the Liberals/LNP 2PP.
    HEMP, climate parties (two new ones this time around, + SUS), Socialists, “Seculars”, Republicans, & the AD’s have franked (interesting word) their left-wing credentials with their preference flows.
    Until I can answer this original question, there’s not much point performing the addition

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