In the last Essential Report, there was a question on how religious belief played out with political affiliation that is worth going over in more depth.

Essential Media Communications – the company behind Essential Report – has clarified how the results were derived, which makes it even more interesting than in it originally looked (and it was pretty interesting to begin with!). First they asked respondents which party they felt “closest to”. This gives us an Australian equivalent of what you might see in US polls called “Party ID”, or “Party Identification”. It’s slightly different from voting intention, in that Party Identification is a slightly stronger, more distilled notion of political support. Rather than finding the proportions of people that would vote for each party were an election held today, it finds instead the proportion of people that see themselves being closest to Party X in terms of their own beliefs, values and policy dispositions.

Party ID removes the detached, marginal voter from the support equation – those people that don’t see themselves being closest to any political party, incorporating the “pox on all your houses”, the “not interested enough to bother” and other politically non-aligned demographic cohorts.

See how power works in this country.

News done fearlessly. Join us for just $99.


From that result, they then broke down the responses by a religious cohort – what religious affiliation respondents identified as.

This gives us the party identification levels of various religious groupings in Australia, summarised by the following table where all numbers are percentages and the sample size for each is given at the bottom:


If we take just the three major party groupings – the ALP, the Coalition and the Greens – we can chart them to give them a bit of visual horsepower.


In many respects, not a great deal has changed when it comes to sectarian politics in Australia. Catholics still support the ALP heavily over the Coalition, Anglicans still support the Coalition heavily over the ALP while the “Other” Protestant grouping is more evenly divided. It also highlights (as others have suggested) that most of the loudest Catholic voices in the media – the George Pells, the Tony Abbotts, the Christopher Pearsons of this world – don’t speak politically for the majority of Catholics. They aren’t politically representative voices by any yardstick.

If we break these down further in to respective ALP, Coalition and Greens charts that measure how many points above or below the party average each religious cohort is with Party identification, we get:

alpreldiffs coalreldiffs


The way to read these charts, using the ALP chart as an example, is that Catholics identify with the Labor Party 13 points higher than the average population, while Anglicans identify with the Labor party at a rate 10 points less than the average population.

The Greens are also pretty interesting on the religious front, which is something we’ve talked about before a few times, where their support is highest with atheists and non-Christian religions.

The data here suggests that religious affiliation has one of the largest demographic correlations with political support – interesting in a country that isn’t militantly, not even particularly overtly religious.


Andrew Norton has longer series from the Australian Election Study on Catholic political disposition.

See how power works in this country.

Independence, to us, means everyone’s right to tell the truth beyond just ourselves. If you value independent journalism now is the time to join us. Save $100 when you join us now.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
SAVE 50%