John Black, a former Queensland Labor senator and managing director of Elaborate, a demographic profiling company, was interviewed on Counterpoint:
Former ALP Senator John Black suggests that green voters don’t conform to the popular stereotype. His research company has studied the demographic data and he offers a radical reappraisal of their attitudes and voting preferences. The richest voters in Australia he says are not Liberals but Greens.
Paul Comrie-Thomson: Let’s try and construct a profile then of a typical green voter in Australia in 2010.
John Black: I can’t tell you about 2010 but I can tell you about 2007, and if I can just read down the list…field of study, they’re defined by what they studied, and it was creative arts, your conventional arts degrees, both male and female. And then it gets quite interesting: females in their mid 40s with no kids, female professionals. Religion: other. They’re atheists, agnostics, there’s no religious faith there. And then you’ve got other age groups, female age groups, in their 50s with no kids. And then you’ve got graduates in society and culture type courses. Then you’ve got 40-year-old women with no kids. Then you’ve got male professionals, people who work in arts and recreation. Field of study: architecture and building, that’s another one. Field of study: eduction, industry education.
So you’ve got arts type graduates working in education, you’ve got professionals and overwhelmingly you’ve got no kids. And then you get down into the country of birth, green voters are overwhelmingly born in other countries, they’re internationally qualified, people born in the USA or Canada or Singapore, what have you. It would be no surprise to me, sitting in the senate listening to Norm Sanders. Basically they’re an internationally qualified group.
Paul Comrie-Thomson: Karl Marx wouldn’t be surprised by this, would he, in terms of base and superstructure?
John Black: Yes, well, the 18-year-olds who come out from the government system will be voting Labor. It’s interesting, when you look at teenagers, the ones with the private school backgrounds are the ones who are voting Greens, the ones who went to government schools are voting Labor, and then of course in their 20s people get married, they get a job, they get debts, they get liabilities, their votes are in a state of flux. And politicians have known this for years, which is why they tend to spoil them.
Paul Comrie-Thomson: That’s why you say that if we look at young professionals in the inner city they produced a time bomb for the ALP demographic base.
John Black: Yes, we started looking at the occupational profiles using census data in the mid ’70s and when we looked at safe Labor inner city electorates in those days you would find 60%, 70% of the male workforce, for example, would be employed in skilled blue-collar jobs or unskilled blue-collar jobs, and there was a perfect one-to-one relationship between that and the Labor vote. So there was a really rock-solid Labor vote, particularly at the federal level, it didn’t change, and you could just read it like a book. And in fact the percentage of working class jobs was a better guide to the next vote than the previous vote, it was a better guide than the pendulum, statistically. Rock solid.
And then over a lengthy period of time what’s happened is that the price of inner city real estate has gone up and these richer young professionals have bought back into those suburbs and have shouldered aside all the old working class people, and now these seats are still returning historically strong Labor two-party preferred votes, but the votes now are coming from rich young people who have absolutely nothing in common with the old social mores that typified inner city Labor seats in the ’70s. It’s a time bomb for the Labor Party and they’re just locked in this time warp where they’re still looking after what they think is still there.