Newspoll undertook an interesting little survey over the weekend looking at the public’s perception of political donations. It ran from a sample of 1201 for an MoE that maxes out around the 2.8% mark. The public was fairly evenly split in terms of the allowable responses, but what was interesting was how the demographic composition of the answers changed as you moved up the age spectrum.

The first question and results came in like this.

donations1

The older the respondent, the more likely they are to be opposed to third party political donations. The gender breakdown was fairly equal, but the different responses between age cohorts was large, particularly between the 18-34s and the 50+. Unexpected (well, to me anyway) was how a majority of those aged 35 or more opposed third party donations.

We have a political system where a plurality of people oppose it’s funding structure.

A second question was asked on what should be the major funding source – again the answers are interesting. This time we’ll split the results up into two tables:

donations2

donations3

Something I found a bit amusing with the responses was that while  only 42% of the population actually favoured third party donations, 45% believed it should be the main source of funding! 😀    This disconnect seems to come from Coalition supporters, where only  43% favoured third party funding, but 47% believed it should be the main source.

Again, the breakdowns are where it gets interesting. Males prefer public funding over private donations while females take the opposite view. The younger the person, the more likely they are to believe that third party donations should be the primary source of funding for political parties, while the support for public funding as the primary funding source was pretty much equal across the age groups.

The over 50’s have a pretty large uncommitted level on this second question, which was also a bit unexpected.

Without some huge political donation scandal, its hard to see how political funding is ever likely to become a vote changer issue – but there is at least scope to gain a majority of public support for some kind of reform should the government feel the need to push hard on this.

One of the gripes I have about a pure publically funded system is the way it would inevitably stifle any new political party. Generally, public funding is doled out on the basis of previous electoral performance, which would be a huge barrier to new parties attempting to win seats on their first outing.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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