Informal votes could decide the election

informal1Consumer insights consultancy BrandHook has conducted a timely study into the voting habits of Australians and discovered that the number of people likely to be casting an informal vote at next week’s ballot is the highest in recorded history. An informal vote is a ballot paper which has been incorrectly completed or not filled in at all.

The BrandHook study shows 6.4% of Australians are planning on casting an informal vote next Saturday. According to the AEC, the previous record for informal votes was 6.3% in 1984, the year substantial and confusing changes were made to the ballot papers.

Paul Dixon, Partner at BrandHook says the political turmoil of the past few years has helped create this situation.

“We have done a lot of work into understanding people’s habits and how habit drives almost half of people’s daily routines. Voting is no exception – it’s a habitual behaviour. The current political landscape has led to people breaking their voting habits,” he said.

Given the high levels of informal voting predicted for this election, politicians need to remind people of their party’s traditional political values – a habit they have compromised in more recent elections. This is borne out by the fact that the 2010 election, soon after the displacement of Kevin Rudd as leader of the ALP, had the second highest recorded level of informal voting – according to the AEC, it was 5.5%.

“This election could be won by the party who convinces people to go back to their old voting habits. In order to do that, they need to remind voters why they used to feel comfortable voting on autopilot.

“Tony Abbott and Kevin Rudd have one week to convince people to move away from voting informally. The current personal attacks are just clouding the issue for voters, not giving them clarity about the essence of the party,” said Dixon.

The research also revealed 37% of Australians would probably choose not to vote if voting became optional. This was highest amongst the younger age groups: 18-24 year olds (52%), 25-34 (48%). This lack of interest could have longer-term ramifications for political parties – the young people of Australia are in danger of never forming a political alliance, and therefore a voting habit.

About the BrandHook study

BrandHook conducted the Voting Habit Study in August 2013 with a nationally representative sample of 1,280 Australians 18+. They were asked:

“How likely are you to vote informally in the upcoming election?”

“If voting wasn’t compulsory in Australia, would you vote in the Federal Election on September 7?”

Please note: Many respondents in the research groups confused ‘informal voting’ with ‘donkey voting’. Once the difference was explained, only those intending to legally fill in their ballot paper were counted towards the survey results.

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