Federal 2019 – Swan’s booths move to the centre


Once you notice the trend of Liberal areas (particularly those with higher education and income levels) swinging towards Labor while Labor areas swing to the Coalition, you start to see the trend all over the place.

One particularly good example is in the marginal Liberal seat of Swan in the inner suburbs of Perth. Swan covers trendy inner-city areas like South Perth and Victoria Park, but also includes more suburban areas at the eastern end of the seat, such as Belmont, Cloverdale and Cannington.

I’m not particularly familiar with this area, but it appears that the eastern end of the seat has lower education and income levels compared to the west, and traditionally has voted more strongly for Labor. The western end of the seat includes the South Perth council area, which voted solidly for the Liberal Party in 2016 (66% 2PP), but also the Victoria Park council area, which narrowly voted for Labor (51% 2PP) while also having the highest Greens vote.

When you look at the swings, you see a similar trend to elsewhere in the country. The eastern end of the seat mostly saw small swings to the Liberal Party. Meanwhile there were bigger swings in the west and centre of the seat.

In most areas this wasn’t enough to flip the winner, although the Liberals did win the three High Wycombe booths at the far east of the seat. Instead it just reduced margins for both sides all over the seat.

It’s worth noting that this pattern isn’t as simple as “Liberal swing to Labor, Labor swing to Liberal”. The Victoria Park area looks a bit more like a typical inner-city progressive-voting area. It has a high Greens vote and is won by Labor (although not by much in 2016). A similar pattern can be seen in Macquarie, where Labor increased their margins in the upper Blue Mountains.

These swings ended up producing an overall seat-level swing of 0.8% to Labor, which wasn’t enough to overturn Steve Irons’ 3.6% margin. The seat-level result makes it look like not much happened here, but diving into the booths reveals a far more complex story.

I should acknowledge that Gareth Parker wrote a story about this specific trend in Swan in the Sunday Times on the weekend before last.

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  1. Ben

    I do not know much about swan but the trend noted is replicated big time in Ryan, which DID swing ALP by 2.95%.

    Previously solid ALP booth like Enogerra and Ferny Grove went to the ALP by 1-3% whereas the swing in the solid conservative booth like Brookfield went to the ALP albeit probably via the greens. Brookfield (and even more Fig tree pocket are the swanky section of Ryan whereas Ferny grove is more basic suburban.

    In leafy Rainworth there was an extraordinary 6.2% swing to the ALP candidate – 2% directly and 4% via the greens. Now rainworth/bardon is the place to be – schools etc, leafy green hills etc. it is a very high education area.

  2. Thanks Ben for this evidence based analysis. And Maverick, I agree Ryan is another great example!
    Surely this should put to bed the notion that it was the tax changes that hurt Labor. I maintain that the tax changes were a net positive for the ALP as the higher socio-economic groups targeted, could see the reasonableness of them while the battlers either couldn’t care or thought it’s good that the rich pay more.
    These results bear all the hallmark of a result influenced by culture wars, exemplified by the “Climate Change Election”. Would be remiss without also mentioning Shorten’s own goal in trying to link Morrison to the Israel Folau issue in the last week and the sleeper issue of the ALP promise to nearly double the refugee intake, which got a lot of attention on social media.
    With the battlers, these cultural issues appear to have drowned out all the good work the ALP put in on the economic front, yet the red meat traditional Labor economic message, seems to be the one getting most of the blame for this fiasco.

  3. I couldn’t agree more Peterjk23.

    If you look at seats across Melbourne too, the biggest swings against the Liberals happened in Kooyong, Goldstein, Higgins and Macnamara. If you look at Sydney, the biggest swing to Labor occurred in North Sydney.

    Hardly a sign that Labor’s policies on negative gearing and franking credits were “poison” as the media has made out, when the electorates who would have been most impacted by them are the ones that swung the most towards Labor.

    I completely agree that the election outcome came down to Scott Morrison successfully making the election more about culture wars – the perception that Labor would come for their utes and bibles, trash suburban Australian family values and have refugees crashing in their backyards. Which was complete garbage but it seemed to work, and the simpler messaging (aka. Scare tactics) drowned out the good work Labor did with their economic agenda.

  4. It certainly shows an interesting trend across the electorate. I’ve lived in Swan on and off for a number of years, and Labor’s campaign did not suit the Western Australian marginals.

    The ‘blue collar’ households in WA are generally quite aspirational, and don’t like class warfare rhetoric. The negative gearing changes weren’t well received by homeowners, investors or not. After 5 years of never ending house price falls in WA, anything that threatened to dampen property prices (whether real or perceived) went down like a lead balloon. A poorly designed, Eastern States-driven policy that was 5 years too late was never going to play well here.

    Thousands of people across the State have negative equity in their homes and are desperate for things to turn around. It’s killing the economy – consumer confidence is in a slump, WA has the lowest household consumption growth, the worst retail turnover figures, and the highest household savings ratio in the country. Nobody is spending.

    The areas that swung towards the Liberals in Swan were in the mortgage belt suburbs in the East of the electorate (where many FIFOs live to be near the airport). Threatening to rip money off granny, raise the tax rates of many blue collar workers who earn a decent living and potentially prolong the house price slump was just bad politics. Labor overplayed the class warfare rhetoric, which just doesn’t work in blue collar areas (especially not in WA). It works better for educated, inner city folk (of which I’m one) who enjoy their suspended coffee, low food miles cafe lifestyles; but it fails to impress Ron the Plumber, who’s working 60 hours a week and is $100K in the red on his home, or Bob who works FIFO in the mines and was facing a 49 cents in the dollar tax bracket.

    I personally don’t think social issues like religion or refugees actually had a significant impact on the result in seats like Swan – it was mainly Labor’s economic and tax policies that scared a lot of people (rightly or wrongly). They took a high risk agenda to the polls and played a lot of people off against one another (usually a specialty of the Liberals). A highly re-distributive agenda just wasn’t going to work in the WA marginals.

  5. “trash suburban Australian family values”

    You really are a nasty piece of work Trent.

  6. Why? I wrote that the perception was that Shorten would trash family values. How is that nasty???

    Although your dishonest paraphrasing makes it sound like I’m calling suburban family values “trash” which you know very well isn’t what was written….

  7. I’m more than happy to be corrected or debated on my thoughts, if you disagree with them feel free to offer a counter argument to my point, but don’t deliberately twist my words into something you know very well I didn’t say and attack that instead as an excuse to call me “nasty”.

  8. Trent
    “I completely agree that the election outcome came down to Scott Morrison successfully making the election more about culture wars – the perception that Labor would come for their utes and bibles, trash suburban Australian family values and have refugees crashing in their backyards. Which was complete garbage but it seemed to work, and the simpler messaging (aka. Scare tactics) drowned out the good work Labor did with their economic agenda.”
    The “economic agenda” you refer to has now been comprehensively REJECTED by the electorate 4 times. This is an inescapable reality, what will convince you ? The labor vote at 33% is an all-time low. Labor seem determined to convince themselves yet again that they are right, & the electorate are wrong. in 2022 they will be smashed completely.
    The ‘scare tactics” had credence because Labor WERE preposing a radical tax agenda, with retrospective aspects. A death tax was NOT incomprehensible, especially given Labor’s assumption of other radical Green policies. Personally given how much damage labor would wreak on the economy, i thought it possible, even imminently.
    I live in N Sydney. Believe me the swing here was caused by Zimmerman, & climate change hysteria. When nothing has changed other than energy prices in 2022, what do you think will happen ??.
    Here is a suggestion. When the public have been manipulated in their well intentioned idealism, they react with even deeper levels of cynicism, & disbelief. Not pretty is it ?

  9. Also in 2007, How on earth did the Liberal party win the seat when Labor achieved 40.65% of the Primary vote and the Green’s 10.13% of the vote, That adds up to over 50% of the vote, Because why would Green voters preference the coalition over Labor when almost all of the Green positions the Coalition opposes? there is no way 2% of more of their preferences went to the Liberal party.

  10. 73% of the Greens preferences flowed to Labor in Swan then, which added up to just over 48% of the 2CP. Most of the other preferences favoured the Libs.

  11. I agree very much with House of Cards assessment. The Shorten agenda clearly did not play well with blue collar aspirational voters.
    Swan not for the first time has shown a divergence between its inner-suburban boxes and its outer suburban blue collar component. In 2004 the Liberal Party lost Swan by little more than 100 votes, with consistent swings in “blue collar” Swan but some pro-ALP swings in some boxes in affluent or gentrifying areas – major issues like border protection did not play so well for the Liberal Party.
    However in 2007 with a 160 vote Liberal win, there were pro-ALP swings in blue-collar boxes counteracted by small Liberal improvements in “inner city” Swan. Swings are more consistent with a strong tide as in 2013.

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