To grow the vote we need to appeal to wider sections of the electorate. The Scanlon Foundation found that the two most important issues identified by voters were the ‘economy’ and ‘trust and integrity’. Protection of the environment was identified as the 6th most important issue with 5.3 percent of people identifying as the most important.
Exit polling by Lonergan from the 2015 NSW State Election shows that key issues among former Greens voters and those who considered, but didn’t, vote Green were the economy and jobs.
In contrast, our top campaign messages that were able to be recalled when prompted by former Greens voters and those who considered, but didn’t, vote Green were banning fossil fuels and promoting clean energy. Put simply, relying on those messages alone didn’t, and won’t, get them to vote for us.
Issues that were of more concern than the environment to former Greens voters and those who considered but didn’t vote Green, such as education, health and privatisation, were viewed as better handled by the Labor Party.
Exit polling from the 2016 Federal Election shows that 28 percent of voters considered housing affordability important when deciding their vote. This accords with the 24th ANUPoll - Attitudes to Housing Affordability from March 2017 that found that around 87 percent of people are either ‘very concerned’ or ‘somewhat concerned’ that future generations will not be able to afford to buy a house.
Because the system is rigged against young people housing affordability will continue to be an issue of concern for voters headed into the next state election. It is noteworthy that only 7 percent of former Greens voters or those considering voting Green think the Greens are the best party to handle housing.
Voters, especially young ones, are experiencing the lowest wage growth in a generation and dealing with increased scarcity and insecurity of work, coupled with huge jumps in the cost of living. We need to be directly relevant to these people in our campaigning.
The Greens need to link environmental concerns to the economic and social inequality that people are experiencing. The Greens are trusted to stand up for the environment, but we can’t protect the environment without challenging the political and economic system, rigged in the interests of the corporate elite who own both major parties.
Unless we fix the economic and political system, then dangerous climate change, environmental devastation and worsening inequality is guaranteed.
The Federal Election exit polling shows environmental issues like climate change, saving the Great Barrier Reef and mining and coal seam gas rated below social and economic issues for voters. Mining and coal seam gas came in at number 20. In contrast, the perceived key messages of the Greens’ campaign were Saving the Reef and no new coal mines.
There is a false perception that the Greens focus almost entirely on the environment at the expense of other economic and social issues, which are more important to likely and former Greens voters. This perception is a barrier to growing our vote. 37 percent of those considering voting Green and 38 percent of former Greens voters said the principal barrier to voting Greens was policies or a perceived lack of policies. The environment must always be in our party’s DNA but we can’t be limited by it in our campaigning.
We need to broaden public understanding of our credible economic and social justice policies while remaining true to our environmental values.
If one of the aims of the party is greater electoral success we need to change the perception that we are just an environment party, that stopping fossil fuels is our only concern. This doesn’t mean a realigning of the party's goals and principles. Having more Greens in Parliament and a wider activist base helps us achieve environmental wins. We don’t need a realignment of the party’s core values we need a realignment of our electoral strategy.
The 2015 NSW election exit polling shows former Greens voters placed significantly less importance on the environment when deciding who to vote for compared to Greens voters. Economic and social issues were ranked well above the environment as the most important issue to this cohort. Former Green voters identified environmental issues as the one they heard and saw the Greens campaign on the most and 38 percent of them said they didn’t vote Green because they perceived we had a lack of policies. This suggests that they, like the wider voting public, perceive our predominant focus on the environment as limiting.
In recent years we’ve seen how campaigns without an effective social justice agenda have failed to excite the public. In Tasmania for example Greens support at a state level has halved from 21.6% in 2010 to 10.3% in 2018.
We should not be concerned that a shift to include economic justice issues along with the environment as issues on which the Greens campaign will lose us the environment vote. The fact is we have a proven track record of standing up for our environment. We are synonymous with action on climate change and environmental concerns.
The Queensland Greens in the recent state election made the same deliberate shift and scored the highest Green state election vote that QLD has ever seen plus their first MP. We can hold true to our environmental record and principles and also prioritise fixing a system that is causing dangerous social and economic inequality and fuelling climate change and environmental devastation.