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Looking back, and angry: what drives Pauline Hanson’s voters

In an extract from his latest Quarterly Essay, David Marr comments in The Guardian (27.3.17) on the profile and characteristics of many of the supporters of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation.

‘Australia came late to the game. Since 1948, Americans have been polled after each election to find out why they voted as they did. The Swedes started to take these national snapshots in the 1950s and the British in the 1960s. Belfast-born Ian McAllister began the Australian Election Study after Bob Hawke’s third victory in 1987. From his post at the Australian National University – where these days he is Distinguished Professor of political science – McAllister has conducted a dozen of these big, after-the-event surveys over 30 years. “We ask how people made their choices: the effect of the election campaign, the effect of the longer-term predispositions, the background characteristics, the political socialisation. It’s about trying to unravel all of these various things that come together to make simply a choice on a ballot paper”.

‘… Ever since McAllister gathered the first set of One Nation numbers in 1998, political scientists have been disputing what they mean. Do they show people flocking to Pauline Hanson because of the flags she flies – particularly on race – or are they falling in with her simply because they’re disenchanted with the political system? McAllister sees a shift from one to the other: “My sense this time is that ONP#2 doesn’t really stand for much, other than being anti-establishment, whereas ONP#1 had a more definable policy basis. So Pauline Hanson is tapping into the prevailing political distrust in career politicians from both sides.” But others citing the same material come to the opposite conclusion. More of this dispute later. It’s fundamental to understanding the challenge Hanson poses to public life in this country. Is she a party of policy or protest? Hanson is a puzzle with consequences.’

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