Explaining Howard's success: Social structure, issue agendas and party support, 1993-2004

Murray Goot*, Ian Watson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


In this paper we re-evaluate explanations, derived from the Australian Election Study surveys, for the Coalition's winning office in 1996 and holding it ever since. We show that, in occupational terms, electoral support for the major parties is less distinct than it was in the Hawke and Keating years. We document the shift to the Coalition, net of other factors, among older respondents, those with little education, and Catholics. And we show the shift to Labor among respondents from non-English speaking backgrounds. At the same time, we point to the failure of respondents on low or middle incomes to move in either direction. This leads us to an explanation for the Coalition's success grounded not so much in Labor's eroding blue-collar base but in terms of Howard's ability to construct a form of populist politics. We also demonstrate the significance of various issues, the part played by perceptions of the economy and the state of household finances, and the importance of voters' thinking that election outcomes matter. If we are right, not only are earlier analyses mistaken, but much of the political history of the period needs to be rewritten.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)253-276
Number of pages24
JournalAustralian Journal of Political Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2007


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