A couple of weeks ago I reported that anecdotal evidence from my first-time voter daughter was that most of her peers intended to vote “donkey” in Queensland because they did not like Beattie but saw no alternative. Last night my daughter was on Messenger and a general discussion ensued about how young people were planning to vote. We ran a very informal count of the varying responses. Donkey scored a very respectable 91.8% with Independent at 6.1%. Labor, National, Liberal, Greens, Family First all barely rated a mention.

My daughter says that she doesn’t want to waste her vote but simply cannot vote for Beattie (he lies), Springborg (he’s a hick), Flegg (he’s a wimp) and wonders what choice she has. I’m not sure what percentage young voters make up out of the total electorate but is their “donkey” intention reflected by other demographics? If the donkey vote is sizeable does this mean that Beattie (the probable victor) won’t have a real mandate? I have to admit that my main interest in this election is to see the informal vote outcome. I too don’t know where my vote will go.

Crikey psephologist Charles Richardson writes:

The evidence over a long period is that the donkey vote in the strict sense — that is, people who just vote 1,2,3,4… down the ballot paper regardless of who the candidates are — is much smaller than commonly thought, generally less than half of one per cent. But clearly more people are influenced by the layout of the ballot paper; for example, if their preferred candidate is at the top, many will then just run their preferences down the rest in order even if that’s different from what the how-to-vote card says.

With optional preferential voting, as in Queensland, there is no need to number every square. That now seems to be well understood by voters, and substantial numbers just vote “1”: I’m not aware of evidence that people who just vote “1” are any more likely to do so for the top candidate on the ballot than for anyone else.

My guess is that voter disenchantment among the young (which I’m sure is real) is more likely to show up in informal votes, failure to vote at all, or votes for minor parties. Or else they will simply vote at random, which makes them impossible to distinguish from any other votes. Indeed, democracy is such a lottery that in a sense perhaps all votes are random.

Peter Fray

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