Howard might be pretty good at kissing babies; being in Parliament for 33 years will deliver those sorts of niche capabilities to people. But when it comes to those slightly older babies of the electoral system, the ones that vote, there just ain’t much love in the air anymore.
You may remember it wasn’t that long ago that such phrases as “South Park Conservatives” and Howard’s “Young Fogies” were cluttering up the opinion space of pop-politics analysis. It became the explanation de jour for Howard’s strong support in the 18-30 age group at the last election. The young folk, so the story went, were donning polo-shirts, taking up golf and aspiring to live in canal developments on the Gold Coast… or words to that effect.
But as is always the problem with this 18-30 demographic, a lot of churn goes on between elections as new voters push through from the bottom, and the older ones move on to more exciting things like mortgage burdens and arguing with the in-laws at Christmas.
Since the last election, this group has turned decidedly nasty for camp conservative. In June, Crosby Textor in their infamous OzTrack 33 research estimated that the 18-24s were swinging to the ALP by 18.9% on a two-party preferred basis, a 25% swing to the ALP since Rudd came along.
The last quarterly Newspoll breakdown estimated that the 18-34s are currently swinging by 10% to the ALP in primary vote terms.
This week’s Sun-Herald/Taverner poll had the swing for the 18-29 age group at 13% to the ALP on a two-party preferred basis.
The last ACNielsen is showing somewhere around a 15% two-party preferred swing to the ALP in the 18-24 age bracket.
Has this group turned into Howard’s very own Children of the Corn, becoming followers of the cult of Kevin, the “Rudd Who Walks Behind the Rows”? If so, it won’t be pretty for a number of Coalition seat holders.
So let’s use the 2006 census data to find the top ten Coalition-held seats that contain the highest number of 18-29 year olds as a proportion of eligible voters (the 18+ age group):
Proportion of 18-29
And here are the ten most marginal Coalition seats with their Children of the Corn proportions: