Election 2022 the issue of security and defence


I've just released the second piece of our research on the federal election which looks at the security issue. There will be a final piece after the election is over, based on our exit survey, and looking at what was in voters minds on election day. To read the whole of the research, please click here to download the report.

The research finds that Australians are extremely united in imposing sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, with 89% supporting, and only 6% opposing. There are also high levels of support for military aid with 75% supporting and 12% opposing.

On both questions, while Liberal Party supporters were the most supportive Labor and Greens supporters were not far behind. Most of the resistance was from Nationalist voters where only 52% supported sanctions and 43% supporting military aid with 31% and 38% respectively, being opposed.

This is significant, because it is these voters who will determine the fate of quite a few seats, and whose preferences the government needs to counter the flow of Greens preferences to Labor.

There was an increasing concern about the security position in the Indo-Pacific, with Liberals the most concerned, followed by the Nationalists. Greens were the least concerned.

Support for an increase in defence spending was 52%, with only 10% opposed. This means that the overwhelming majority of Australians are happy with defence expenditure maintained at least at current levels. Again Liberals and Nationalists were the most supportive of increased expenditure.

Labor voters had more in favour of an increase than against (35% to 15%). In the case of the Greens only 6% supported an increase, with 28% opposed. However 61% of Greens were happy with current expenditure.

When asked who was the best to handle defence, the Coalition only marginally beat the Labor Party (41% to 36%). Reasons for supporting one or the other varied. Some respondents rated the diplomatic skills of the ALP more highly than the Coalition, and thought the Coalition were more likely to get us into a war. Others looked to history as a guide.

Labor received marks for performance during WWI, WWII and Vietnam, and lost them for being too close to the Chinese (who were perceived as the major danger) and for their recent positions on border security. The Coalition was marked well for being strong on China and for borders. They didn't do well on the question of the effectiveness of the defence spend, or their diplomatic efforts in the Pacific, and were frequently criticised for cutting foreign aid. There was also a view that we relied so heavily on defence that it really didn't matter which party was in power, their effect would be negligible.

On the question of how important defence was for their vote, 49% said important and 19% unimportant. However it was only the Coalition supporters and Nationalists where more than 50% said it was important.

This is what makes it a crucial preference issue for the Coalition, but not such a crucial issue for Labor.

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