"Why are Australians 'Switching Off' from Politics?"
In order to address this question in a meaningful way the questions must be asked which Australians are switching off from politics and if so which aspects of politics are they switching off from. What at first seems a simple question understates the complexity of Australian society and it’s political system. Using an institutionalist perspective on politics the premise of the question may be viewed as correct. Bean (1989) uses a narrow definition of orthodox politics, which is limited to campaigning, voting, communal activity and personalised contacting; however as Fyfe (2009 p37) contends that political participation is a contested term.
A review of articles around this topic will show there are great complexities in Australian politics and that Australian society which must be explored in order for this question to be addressed. There are a wide variety of factors why this is the case; examples include the complexity of the electoral system (Hill & Young 2007), demographic factors particularly the disengagement of youth from traditional politics (Fyfe 2009 p37). The large amount of informal votes is regarded as a sign of political disengagement, though the complexity of the electoral system must be considered as a contributing factor in informal voting. Pringle (2012) argues against the popular misconception that compulsory voting is an illusion in Australia.
This essay will examine the influence social, demographic and cultural factors on political participation; as well as that of the complexity of the electoral system. As well it will compare orthodox electoral politics and other forms political activism.
Orthodox Political Participation
Using sophisticated statistical analysis of orthodox political participation in Australia i.e. campaigning, voting, communal activity and personalised contacting (Bean 1989 pg 471-2) notes that when adequate controls are imposed the present study finds no effect at all for direction of partisanship at the individual level on any of the separate modes or on the overall measure of political participation; and in fact even the zero-order association between partisanship and participation is generally weak. In broad terms, therefore, neither major political party is likely to benefit at the expense of the other from differential rates of participation among different sections of the community in Australia. Similarly, religious denomination has little connection with activism in these data (save for a modest effect on electoral participation) Ethnic background is also somewhat surprising for its lack of effect. The image of the apolitical immigrant in the 1960s receives only scant endorsement from the current data. There is a narrowing of the gap in 'political awareness and involvement' between immigrants and native-born Australians from 1967 to 1979. It may be that the barriers to political participation felt by immigrants to Australia in a...