University of Tasmania
whole_AustenBrianEdward1981_thesis.pdf (11.38 MB)

Australian voter, parties and the federal system of government : a study of party preference, perceptions of political parties and the salience of national and state governments in Denison, Tasmania

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posted on 2023-05-27, 00:54 authored by Austen, B. E.(Brian Edward)
Australia has both a federal system and parliamentary government. One result of this combination is that at any point in time an election is likely to be a focus of attention, particularly by party activists, somewhere within the system. More importantly, the same major political parties are the main contenders for control of both state and national governments. Thus irrespective of the particular electoral arena, the voter is confronted with a partisan choice comprising essentially the same parties. A sample survey of the Tasmanian electorate of Denison was undertaken to examine the way voters perceive this political environment. The data generated by the responses to questions on the parties, party preference, party competition, the structuring of the political system and of respondents' perceptions of their self-identity within a system which encourages both national and state loyalties are presented and analysed. A federal system provides the opportunity for voters to maintain attachments to different parties simultaneously. Party identification and reported voting behaviour are used as measures of party preference to indicate the extent to which voters maintain the same partisan attachment across both spheres of the system. The patterns of party attachments which emerge lead to an analysis of perceptions about party competition at each sphere and to a comparison across spheres of party images. The images and response patterns provide evidence indicating the extent to which the party system is perceived monolithically. Patterns of perceptions about party competition in the federal context are revealed and differences relating to socio-economic variables and partisanship are indicated. Party competition occurs in the context of constitutionally and politically defined spheres of governmental jurisdiction. Perceptions about the structuring of the system in terms of the relative importance of state and national governments are used to indicate the salience of each sphere. Three orientations are evident, and are examined in relation to socio-economic variables and partisanship. Each respondent's orientation to the system is crosstabulated to his political identity. The resultant patterns indicate a mix of orientation and identity ranging from fully national to fully state. Orientations toward the system are also used as independent variables in a further examination of perceptions of party competition. Perceptions of party competition in relation to each sphere are examined and compared for each orientation. In addition important partisan differences are revealed and some comments are offered about the consequences of these differences in relation to Tasmanian state elections. The response patterns which emerge from the analysis of the survey data indicate perceptions about the parties and the political system which challenge the appropriateness of assumptions and assertions prevalent in the literature. The mix of perceptions that are revealed suggest a need for further research on citizens perceptions, and in particular different models of the system should be utilized to fully explore the consequences of these perceptions on the functioning of the federal system.


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Copyright 1979 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s). Thesis (M.A.)--University of Tasmania, 1981. Bibliography: l. [237]-242

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