Class politics in Western democracies are changing - expert

Source: Q and A

New formations of voters are increasingly coming to the fore in deciding elections in Western democracies.

That's the view of international polling expert Dr Michael Turner, who recently visited New Zealand on a speaking tour and gave an exclusive interview to Q+A with Jack Tame.

Turner, who has worked on behalf of parties of both the left and right, said the recent Australian election and the 2019 UK election both offer insights into how voter behaviour is changing.

"It certainly felt like it was one of the first 'post-material' election in Australia," he said, with the rise of 'Teal' independent voters who prioritise issues like climate change and government integrity than hip-pocket concerns.

Turner said these more affluent voters would previously have been more likely to vote for centre-right parties, but are increasingly choosing independents or the centre-left.

File picture.

Conversely, the Conservative party in the UK achieved a massive victory in the 2019 election in part by sweeping through the 'Red Wall' - working class areas that have traditionally voted Labour.

"A little stat for you - there's possibly never been greater been greater support among Conservative voters for nationalisation of key industries like the railways," said Turner.

He said that would be "unthinkable in the 80s, but that's the nature of the electoral coalition the Conservatives have now."

In more general terms, Turner said there's evidence that traditional terms like 'left' and 'right' in politics have broken down, which means individual seats can swing in unusual ways.

However, he said in New Zealand's electoral system the effects of this could be less pronounced, because the overall makeup of Parliament is decided by the proportional MMP system.