The Labor Party’s attribution of its surprise 2019 federal election loss as being partly due to a disconnect with Christians is “seriously overstated” and “misguided”, says the author of a landmark report into religiosity in Australia.
In his presentation in the RSA Webinar on Wednesday night, Neil Francis said the data published in his Religiosity in Australia report undermine the widely accepted belief of a religious backlash against Labor.
Francis said a confluence of economic reasons drove religious Australians to vote in a certain way – more in favour of the Coalition – instead of there being a significant ‘religious vote’.
In the webinar, the RSA Fellow spoke about the findings of his report and focused on the views of Australia’s most religious – identified as the Regulars and Devouts.
Based on data from the Australian Election Study, Francis showed how religious Australians are significantly more likely to believe that Coalition governments are better at economic management.
Economic traits that are more common among religionists played into Scott Morrison’s economic messaging and attacks on Bill Shorten’s Labor Party. These segments have lower incomes, higher unemployment rates, higher concern that it would be harder to find a new job and, ironically, higher ownership of company shares
“The notion that the religious vote is really important is a bit of a misnomer,” said Francis.
“I’m not saying there’s no such thing as a religious vote. Of course, in circumstances where there’s a religious issue that arises in an election, you may well find religious voting. [But it] is to say that, in the ordinary course of events, what you think is a religious vote is actually [a concern for] financial and jobs security.”
Under Anthony Albanese’s leadership, the Labor Opposition has been trying to court Christian groups, consulting extensively with religious leaders and even offering a bipartisan approach on the proposed Religious Discrimiation Bill.
The RSA has emailed the Religiosity in Australia report to all federal MPs and Senators, while also sending hard copies to a select number, including Attorney General Michaelia Cash, assistant minister Amanda Stoker and shadow attorney general Mark Dreyfus.
RSA president Meredith Doig told the webinar that, in sharing the report with members of parliament, she pointed out to Labor members that their assumption about the significance of the religious vote was wrong. With coalition politicians, she corrected the mistaken assumption that conservative religious clerics and lobbyists represent the views of those they purport to lead.
Si Gladman is Campaigns & Communications Coordinator at the Rationalist Society of Australia. You can contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @si_gladman
Image: Anthony Albanese (Facebook)