Oz Blog News Commentary

What happened with the Chinese-Australian vote in the big cities?

May 24, 2022 - 17:34 -- Admin

One of the trends I’ve started hearing about over the last day or two, thanks to the very smart commenters on this blog, is that booth swings in a bunch of suburban seats in Sydney and Melbourne were particularly strong in the areas with a large population of Chinese-Australian voters. So I thought I would try and visualise this effect, or see if it was just anecdote.

We know Labor did well in seats with a large Chinese-Australian population in Sydney and Melbourne, such as Reid, Bennelong and Chisholm. Even in Menzies the race was surprisingly close.

The trend doesn’t appear to be the same across a seat, so I don’t just want to analyse the data at the electorate level. But I also don’t have election results data at the SA1 level, and it’s a bit complex to match census data to a booth. So instead I’ve amalgamated all of the election results at the suburb level, and the same for the census data.

I’m looking at two-party-preferred swings between Labor and the Coalition, so this analysis can’t include suburbs like Chatswood in the seat of North Sydney, which has an Independent vs Liberal count.

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The trend seems pretty clear to me. While suburbs with low proportions of people of Chinese ancestry moved in both directions, those with higher proportions almost entirely swung towards Labor, some moving quite far.

Next up, I thought I would try and map the booth swings across the seats with the largest Chinese-Australian populations in Sydney and Melbourne. For each of these maps, you can toggle from the 2PP swings to the 2PP overall percentage and the proportion of the suburb who have Chinese ancestry. Sorry these maps are big files and might take a little while to load.

For Sydney, I've included Banks, Barton, Bennelong, Blaxland, Mitchell, Parramatta, Reid and Watson.

Blaxland doesn't have a big Chinese-Australian population, but it connects Banks to the other seats, so I've included it.

Banks is particularly interesting. The eastern parts of the seat have much larger Chinese-Australian populations, and Labor gained swings across this area, while losing support in the west of the seat.

Further north, there were swings all across Reid, but they were particularly high in the Strathfield-Burwood and Rhodes-Wentworth Point areas, both of which have very high Chinese-Australian populations.

The swing in Bennelong was strongest in Eastwood, which has the biggest Chinese-Australian population. There were big swings in the safe Liberal seat of Mitchell, but they were strongest around Castle Hill.

I found Parramatta particularly interesting. This is the seat where the sitting MP Julie Owens retired, and Labor controversially preselected Andrew Charlton, an out-of-area former Kevin Rudd advisor, overriding a number of local candidates of colour seeking preselection in a very multicultural seat.

Charlton suffered negative swings across the west of the electorate, but gained small swings in the east, with big swings in his favour in the north-eastern corner around Carlingford, which is (you've guessed it) the area with the highest proportion of people of Chinese ancestry. This produces an interesting pattern when you look at the final percentages. The seat used to have stronger Liberal areas in the north and stronger Labor votes in the south, but now it is quite even across the seat.

Next let's look at Melbourne. I don't know Melbourne as well, so maybe I'm leaving off a few other seats, but it's generally a smaller area, focused on Chisholm, Deakin and Menzies.

There were swings to Labor across this whole area, but it was heaviest in the parts of Chisholm and Menzies with large Chinese-Australian populations, specifically Glen Waverley, Box Hill and Doncaster. The effect is not so obvious in Deakin.

I won't try and explain this effect, except to note that Australia's relationship with China was a major story early in the election campaign. I think there are probably other effects overlapping with these trends. Labor generally did well across the whole of eastern Melbourne, which tend to be relatively wealthy parts of the city, so the underlying large swings may be explained by the Liberal collapse with high-income voters, and is then enhanced in areas with a lot of Chinese-Australian voters.

What trends are you noticing in this data? And what other seats would you like to see similar maps for?