Why are Liberal voters really unhappy?

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Crikey today reported on the Essential Report’s recent poll of voter attitudes towards the independents Oakeshott and Windsor’s decision to back Gillard. It found that the Liberal voters disapprove. A lot.

Tea bagger: This guy is really angry.

Indeed, Liberal voters are profoundly unhappy with the decision of the independents (and presumably Oakeshott and Windsor, specifically). Almost 90% of Liberal voters disapprove of their decision — perhaps not surprisingly — but the sheer strength of that view is interesting: 54% of Liberal voters strongly disapprove of the independents’ call, while 90% of Liberal voters also disapprove of the Greens deal with Labor, including 58% who strongly disapprove (the overall figure is 41-46% approval/disapproval).

The Essential Report’s results are here.

Why are Liberal voters so strongly disapproving?

Possum Pollytics has an excellent post that goes into the response from the conservative media.

Every policy and utterance the government or the Independents make will be creatively analysed, deliberately distorted and whose fabricated consequences will be shouted from the rooftops. This will not be an exercise in political analysis, but an infection of pathological political syphilis. It will not just be a campaign against the government, but one rolling, frenzied campaign after another, where each new contrived outrage will assume a greater level of mania than the last.

The Independents will be targeted in a way they are probably not prepared for – they will be demeaned, ridiculed and treated with contempt, where their honourable characters will be distorted into debased caricatures. The character assassination will be ferocious and their connection to their electorates will be serially brought into question, particularly from a group of ostensibly inner urban media elites whose acquaintance with New England and Lyne extends no further than peering down from 30,000 feet as they fly between capital cities.

But it won’t just be the usual suspects here. There will be an angry that we haven’t seen for a long time, from a group of disgruntled political zealots.

The Liberal and National parties have a profoundly successful ability at attracting a disproportional quantity of the most embittered, politically pungent elements of Australian society as supporters – a dark, angry, belligerent underbelly that believes the only acceptable outcome of any political contest is the one they believe in.

Possum is spot on.

The “unhinging” has already begun over at The Australian, with both Oakeshott and Windsor targeted as being “biased” toward Labor. The language of “legitimacy” is built into this. Although there has been an “official” acknowledgement that the government is “legitimate”, the media and the Coalition will continually discuss Gillard’s “mandate” and “legitimacy”.

But where does the unhinging come from? Why is there a growing army of disgruntled conservative zealots who energised the Liberal Party at the last election?

I’d be interested in seeing whether there is a correlation between areas and regions who have born the brunt of most social and economic change in Australia, and the rise of those who “strongly disapprove” of the independents backing Gillard.

This may not be the answer – I could be on completely the wrong track.

Australia has seen some significant changes in the last decade. Changes in job security, the increase in precarious, casualised work. The massive increase in immigration. The rise in the cost of living. The oil shock. Housing availability. The global financial crisis. The drought. Globalisation. Free trade agreements. Terrorism in Bali and the USA. Climate change.

A lot has happened. And for most of the last decade or two, there has been no compelling progressive narrative. The explanations for these changes to the fabric of Australian society and our economy have been predominantly conservative.

Blaming foreigners. Blaming dole bludgers, and greenies, and the politically correct bleeding hearts in the inner city.

Patriarchal, “traditional family” oriented values have been promoted. Flags and chaplains in schools. Private health insurance. Individual contracts. Turning back the boats or locking up asylum seekers.

Could right-wing radicalism be on the rise as a kind of psychological displacement activity for people who are struggling to cope with changes to their lives? And without a strong progressive alternative, could this explain the energy of the conservatives and the success of the Liberal party at the polling booth?

If this is correct, the strong dissatisfaction with the independents support of Gillard could be a manifestation at an individual everyday level as well as an ideological level of this displacement.

Robert Merkel over at Larvatus Prodeo also points to an interesting phenomenon:

In a series of studies in 2005 and 2006, researchers at the University of Michigan found that when misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to corrected facts in news stories, they rarely changed their minds. In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs.

This suggests to me (unscientifically) that the more the media reports on the outrages of Labor and the independents and other enemies of the Liberal Party – the more the conservative partisans and zealots are energised and reinforced in their views. As well as the more those same partisans encounter pro-Labor material, the more it reinforces their views. Its a self-perpetuating cycle.

My stream-of-consciousness post here has about come to an end.

I don’t really have a conclusion, just questions. Am I on the right track? I don’t know. I’d be interested to see some research into this phenomenon. I suspect that the conservative outrage movement in Australia will track along side the tea party movement in the USA – but not everything is comparable, so perhaps I’m wrong.

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