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Australian Journal of Political Science
ISSN: (Print) (Online) Journal homepage: https://www.tandfonline.com/loi/cajp20
Populist attitudes in Australia: contextualising the
Glenn Kefford, Benjamin Moffitt, John Collins & Joshua Marsh
To cite this article: Glenn Kefford, Benjamin Moffitt, John Collins & Joshua Marsh (2022): Populist
attitudes in Australia: contextualising the demand-side, Australian Journal of Political Science, DOI:
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/10361146.2022.2122401
Published online: 01 Oct 2022.
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Populist attitudes in Australia: contextualising the
, Benjamin Moﬃtt
, John Collins
and Joshua Marsh
School of Political Science and International Studies, The University of Queensland, Saint Lucia, Australia;
National School of Arts and the Humanities, Australian Catholic University, Melbourne, Australia;
Mannheim Centre for European Social Research, University of Mannheim, Mannheim, Germany
The study of populist attitudes is a burgeoning area of scholarship.
While the manner in which populism is measured and the concepts
underpinning it are continuously updated, much work remains. In
this article we consider the way populist attitudes are associated
with key issues in Australian politics and the way these issues
shape voting behaviour. We demonstrate that populist attitudes
are associated with dissatisfaction with the functioning of liberal
democracy, as well as negative attitudes towards Indigenous
peoples. However, we ﬁnd it is not strongly associated with
economic anxiety. We argue that measuring populist attitudes in
isolation from other national level contextual factors is
problematic and can lead to ﬂawed assumptions about the
drivers of voting behaviour.
Accepted 30 August 2022
Populism; political attitudes;
voting behaviour; Australia
Populism is one of the deﬁning political phenomena of the contemporary era. While cer-
tainly not new, there has been an explosion in scholarly research on populism in recent
years as scholars and commentators have sought answers to questions about surprising
election results, changes in the political landscape, and the rise and fall of various political
movements. One of the most signiﬁcant recent strands of populism scholarship is that
which has attempted to understand what is often referred to as ‘populist attitudes’:in
other words, whether citizens have a set (or sets) of attitudes which are associated
with populism and how these attitudes shape, correlate with or contribute to diﬀerent
forms of political behaviour, such as voting for populist parties or candidates. While
still in its infancy, the populist attitudes scholarship suggests that citizens who possess
attitudes associated with populism are more likely to vote for a populist party (Van Hau-
waert and Van Kessel 2018); that these attitudes form an underlying latent dimension in
the attitudes of voters (Akkerman, Mudde, and Zaslove 2014); and that these attitudes are
relatively widespread across advanced democracies (Hawkins and Riding 2010; Hawkins,
Riding, and Mudde 2012).
Despite these advances in understanding the ‘demand-side’of populism, many ques-
tions remain. In particular, signiﬁcant gaps remain in our understanding about how atti-
tudes associated with populism are related to a range of attitudes towards other pertinent
© 2022 Australian Political Studies Association
CONTACT Glenn Keﬀord g.keﬀord@uq.edu.au
AUSTRALIAN JOURNAL OF POLITICAL SCIENCE
political issues. There are also questions about the way that diﬀerent conceptualisations
of populism –and their associated attitudinal measures –interact with issue positions
and perceptions of democracy. Hence, in this article, we aim to deepen understanding
of populist attitudes and Australian democracy, more generally. This includes whether
populist attitudes are associated with: dissatisfaction with liberal democracy; economic
anxiety; and negative attitudes towards Indigenous peoples. Moreover, we are also inter-
ested in how populist attitudes and these other attitudes interact with and aﬀect voting
behaviour in Australia. In doing so, we achieve two things. First, we signiﬁcantly
improve understanding of diﬀerent types of populist attitudes and the ways that these
attitudes interact with and drive various forms of political behaviour in Australia. Sec-
ondly, we contribute to the burgeoning literature on populist attitudes and show that
populist attitudes by themselves provide insuﬃcient detail to understand political behav-
iour. Instead, context, institutions and political culture must be accounted for, and this is
especially the case when dealing with a multi-dimensional concept such as populism.
The rest of this article is structured as follows. We begin by outlining the literature on
populism and populist attitudes. We then set out our theory, hypotheses, research design
and methods. We then move on to our ﬁndings, results and analysis. As will be shown,
we demonstrate that populist attitudes are not correlated with our measure of economic
anxiety, but are correlated with dissatisfaction with democracy, as well as for negative
attitudes towards Indigenous Australians. We also consider how these factors operate
in concert and analyse how they aﬀect voting for parties across the political landscape
in Australia. Namely, we show that voters who score highly on negative attitudes to Indi-
genous peoples have a higher likelihood of voting for the Coalition and One Nation, but
that holding a combination of these attitudes signiﬁcantly increases the likelihood of sup-
porting the latter party. We conclude by discussing the implications of these ﬁndings for
the populism literature and for the literature on Australian democracy.
Populism and populist attitudes
While traditionally, research on populism has focussed on ‘supply-side’aspects of the
phenomenon, such as leaders, parties and movements, the populist attitudes literature
instead focuses on how citizens may hold populist views, and whether this correlates
with vote intention or the issue positions that citizens may hold. The assumption under-
lying much of this literature is that populism is an ideational phenomenon –that is, a set
of beliefs, however ‘thin’or underdeveloped, about the relationship between ‘the people’
and ‘the elite’. Now widely accepted as the hegemonic position in the populism scholar-
ship, this ideational approach suggests populism is a ‘a thin-centred ideology that con-
siders society to be ultimately separated into two homogeneous and antagonistic
groups, “the pure people”versus “the corrupt elite”which views politics as an expression
of the volonté générale: the general will of the people’(Mudde 2010, 1175). However,
recent work has also shown the value and promise of exploring the value of attitudes
based on other theoretical approaches, including those which consider populism as a
communicative, performative or discursive phenomenon (Laclau 2005;Moﬃtt 2016;
Ostiguy 2017; Stavrakakis 2017). Hence, some recent contributions have speciﬁcally con-
sidered attitudes towards populist communication (Keﬀord, Moﬃtt, and Werner 2021),
measuring preferences about how politicians should act, communicate and conduct
2G. KEFFORD ET AL.
themselves. According to Keﬀord, Moﬃtt, and Werner (2021, 16), ‘attitudes towards
populist communication exist independently of populist ideational attitudes …. [and]
make an independent contribution to the measurement of latent populism attitudes’.
While debate about how to deﬁne populism has been happening for over half a
century (see, for example, Ionescu and Gellner 1970), understanding the way populist
attitudes are related to and are aﬀected by other sets of attitudes or forms of political
behaviour is a more recent development. In the initial work in this vein in the late
2000s, much of the focus of this scholarship was speciﬁcally on the populist radical
right and attitudes to issues such as immigration or Islam (see, for example, Ivarsﬂaten
2008; Oesch 2008). More recent demand-side analyses, however, have sought to unpack
and understand the underlying dimensions of populism as a stand-alone concept. Begin-
ning with the work of Hawkins and Riding (2010), Stanley (2011), Hawkins, Riding, and
Mudde (2012), and Akkerman, Mudde, and Zaslove (2014), it was demonstrated that
populist attitudes were able to be measured empirically through survey research. Since
this time, the study of populist attitudes has exploded, spawning an avalanche of
cross-national and single country case studies, attempts to improve the scales and ques-
tion items used and broader methodological debates on the measurement and the
concept (Bernhard and Hänggli 2018; Van Hauwaert and Van Kessel 2018; Castanho
Silva et al. 2019; Wuttke, Schimpf, and Schoen 2020).
While there is recent work which has examined populist attitudes in Australia
(Keﬀord, Moﬃtt, and Werner 2021;Keﬀord and Ratcliﬀ2021), none have thus far
explored the relationship between these attitudes and issue positions.
these contributions have improved understanding of populism in Australia, they have
not considered the ways in which other forces commonly theorised to be associated
with populism drive political behaviour. Two of these signiﬁcant forces are economic
anxiety and dissatisfaction with liberal democracy, both of which have been theorised
for decades to be signiﬁcant drivers of de-alignment and an increase in support for popu-
list parties, candidates and movements (Norris and Inglehart 2018). Likewise, while there
has been signiﬁcant analysis of the relationship between populism and nativism (often in
the form of anti-immigration sentiment), analysis of the relationship between populist
attitudes and attitudes to Indigenous peoples in Australia has been lacking. Thus, by
examining how populist attitudes interact with issue positions and other signiﬁcant
forces commonly theorised to aﬀect voting behaviour, we can gain a potentially fuller
picture of how populist attitudes operate, and how they shape and aﬀect political behav-
iour in Australia.
One of the longest-running debates in the populism scholarship is the eﬀect that econ-
omic crisis and economic anxiety have on populist attitudes. This was especially the
case following the Global Financial Crisis (GFC). While cultural explanations are now
dominant (Mudde and Rovira Kaltwasser 2018; Norris and Inglehart 2018), questions
remain as to the role that economic anxiety plays. Hence, we argue that it is signiﬁcant
to explore the relationship between populist attitudes and economic anxiety to provide us
with a baseline understanding of that role. This is especially the case given that, until the
Covid-19 pandemic, Australia had the longest unbroken run of economic growth –thus
AUSTRALIAN JOURNAL OF POLITICAL SCIENCE 3
avoiding a recession –of any advanced democracy, yet populist attitudes have still been
relatively widespread (Keﬀord and Ratcliﬀ2021). Thus, our ﬁrst hypothesis based on the
orthodox theory is:
H1: Populist attitudes and economic anxiety will be weakly correlated
While the literature on populist attitudes is ever-expanding, one aspect of the debate
which has been insuﬃciently explored is how and whether attitudes to Indigenous
peoples in settler-colonial societies aﬀect, shape or even correlate with populist attitudes.
Indigenous aﬀairs are often framed in Australia and other settler-colonial societies as
something of an ‘elite’issue by the both the media and populist politicians –something
that can be seen in the recent debates in Australia about the Voice to Parliament propo-
sal. As such, we might expect that those with populist attitudes may hold negative views
towards Indigenous peoples, seeing them as disconnected from the ‘real’concerns of ‘the
people’championed by an out of touch ‘elite’. On a more speciﬁc level, we would cer-
tainly expect supporters of PRR parties to hold anti-Indigenous attitudes. The PRR ideo-
logically combine populism, nativism and authoritarianism (Mudde 2007), and while
those who support PRR parties are likely to exhibit negative out-group attitudes in
line with this nativism, most existing measures focus solely on attitudes towards immi-
gration and refugees.
As Mudde (2010, 1173) has said, nativism is an ‘ideology which
holds that states should be inhabited exclusively by members of the native group (“the
nation”) and that non-native elements (persons and ideas) are fundamentally threatening
to the homogenous nation-state’. In the Australian context, and in many settler-colonial
societies, the way the ‘nation’is constructed and operationalised is such that it frequently
excludes Indigenous peoples (Moﬃtt 2017, 132). Hence, our second hypothesis is:
H2: Populist attitudes and negative attitudes towards Indigenous peoples will be strongly
Another of the key debates in the literature on populism has been what role dissatisfac-
tion with democracy plays in either holding populist attitudes or voting for a populist
party (Bowler et al. 2017; Voogd and Dassonneville 2020). This makes sense as at its
core, populism hinges on a divide between ‘the people’and ‘the elite’, with the perception
that ‘the elite’have unfairly captured power and purposely stopped the voice of ‘the
people’from being expressed. Moreover, populism often takes aim at liberal representa-
tive democracy, claiming that the system unfairly privileges minority groups who are
aligned with ‘the elite’, instead of the will of the majority being rightly respected.
Thus, it is expected that voters who are dissatisﬁed with the institutional architecture
and functioning of Australian democracy are likely to possess a set of attitudes that
align with populism –either in the form of a set of ideas or set of preferences about
the way politics is communicatively performed. In the context of some surveys
showing a precipitous decline in satisfaction with democracy in Australia since 2007
(Cameron and McAllister 2019),
it is important to consider whether dissatisfaction
with democracy correlates with also holding populist attitudes. Thus, our third hypoth-
H3: Populist attitudes and dissatisfaction with Australian democracy will be strongly
4G. KEFFORD ET AL.
Our next set of hypotheses deal with the relationship between these attitudes and vote
intention. In particular, what we are especially interested in is the way these sets of atti-
tudes correlate with support for diﬀerent parties and Independents (or both). The ﬁrst of
these relates to supporting the major parties/coalitions in Australia.
Whilst an argument
could be made that some voters who support the Coalition, especially those who histori-
cally may have voted for the Nationals, have the best of both worlds in that they can
support a party of government while simultaneously being dissatisﬁed with parts of
the political establishment, including some of their Coalition partners, it theoretically
makes sense that voters who support the Coalition or Labor will be more satisﬁed
with democracy than supporters of minor parties and Independents given that their
parties are well-represented in the Australian political landscape. On the ﬂipside, we
expect voters for minor parties or Independents will be far more likely to be dissatisﬁed
with the state of aﬀairs, and will hold some populist attitudes as a result. Our next two
hypotheses, therefore, are:
H4a: Supporting a major party will be weakly correlated with populism and dissatisfaction
H4b: Supporting minor parties or Independents will be strongly correlated with populism
and dissatisfaction with democracy
Finally, we are interested in the relationship between holding anti-Indigenous attitudes
and voting behaviour. Earlier work on the attitudes of One Nation voters suggests
these issues are important for the populist radical right in Australia –over two
decades ago, Goot and Watson (2001a) showed that anti-Indigenous attitudes was one
of the deﬁning features of One Nation voters. However, we are also interested in
whether these attitudes also increase the likelihood of supporting other parties in the
party system. This is especially important in the Australian context given debates
about the mainstreaming of radical right attitudes, particularly the notion that the
parties making up the Coalition ﬁlled the ideological space left by One Nation after
their ﬁrst period of success –and that even after One Nation’s re-emergence, they
have not moved (Wear 2008; Snow and Moﬃtt 2012). Hence, our ﬁfth and ﬁnal hypoth-
H5: Supporting the Coalition and One Nation will be strongly correlated with anti-Indigen-
Methods, data, research design and case
Our study has drawn on what has become the orthodox set of questions for measuring
populist ideational attitudes in the scholarship which revolve around the three populist
sub-dimensions of anti-elite attitudes, people-centred attitudes, and a Manichean world-
view (Castanho Silva et al. 2018; Castanho Silva et al. 2019). Of the populism items we
used, four were exactly the same as the suggestions in Castanho Silva et al. (2018), two
were amended slightly from Castanho Silva et al. (2018), and three items were derived
from Akkerman, Mudde, and Zaslove (2014).
To measure attitudes towards populist
communication we used three items that have already been shown to exist independently
of populist ideational attitudes and which have been shown to have a signiﬁcant eﬀect on
AUSTRALIAN JOURNAL OF POLITICAL SCIENCE 5
voting behaviour in Australia (Keﬀord, Moﬃtt, and Werner 2021). We indicate in Table
1which of the three underlying subdimensions of populism each item should theoreti-
cally belong to.
In addition to the question items which deal with populism, we included a further 10
questions which deal with economic anxiety, dissatisfaction with democracy and atti-
tudes towards Indigenous peoples. These ten question items were all original question
items that we designed for this survey and which we developed with the goal of better
understanding their relationship to populism. Thus, the questions about dissatisfaction
with democracy are shaped by the institutional context of Australian governance, with
questions about the major parties’relationship to ‘ordinary Australians’, the relationship
between politicians and media in Australia, and the decision-making capacity of ‘the
Australian government’in general. The questions about Indigenous peoples, likewise,
are designed to better understand the way populist attitudes interact with attitudes
related to a particular stand of nativism in a country like Australia and to move the
debate beyond the lens of immigration because Indigenous peoples are just as likely,
Table 1. Survey items.
Survey items Source
Politicians need to follow the will of the people (people-centred) Adapted from Castanho Silva et al. (2018)
The people, and not politicians, should make our most important policy
Akkerman, Mudde, and Zaslove (2014)
Many of our elected oﬃcials are corrupt (anti-elite) Adapted from Castanho Silva et al. (2018)
I’d rather be represented by an ordinary citizen than an experienced
Akkerman, Mudde, and Zaslove (2014)
Elected oﬃcials talk too much & take too little action (anti-elite) Akkerman, Mudde, and Zaslove (2014)
Government oﬃcials use their power to try to improve people’s lives
Castanho Silva et al. (2018)
The people I disagree with politically are not evil (Manichean)* Castanho Silva et al. (2018)
You can tell if a person is good or bad if you know their political views
Castanho Silva et al. (2018); Akkerman,
Mudde, and Zaslove (2014)
The people I disagree with are just misinformed (Manichean)* Castanho Silva et al. (2018)
I prefer politicians that are entertaining rather than the usual boring
People should be able to say whatever they like without worrying about
oﬀending others (communication)
Politicians should speak like ordinary people (communication) Original
The major parties don’t care about the plight of ordinary Australians
Australia’s media are more interested in keeping their political mates
happy than reporting on the real issues (dissatisfaction)
In the last two decades, the Australian government has mostly made bad
Australian politics would work better if we had diﬀerent parties and
Government help for Indigenous Australians has gone too far
Australia should do more to celebrate Indigenous culture and history
Indigenous people need to do more to build relations with mainstream
How worried are you about losing your job in the next 12 months?
How worried are you about having enough money to retire on?
How worried are you about paying your rent or mortgage? (economic
*The responses to these survey items were inverted so that a higher value indicates a higher magnitude of this attitude.
6G. KEFFORD ET AL.
ironically, to be seen as part of the out-group and a threat to the ‘nation’as it is
Likewise, the economic anxiety questions, while only dealing with objective measures
of economic anxiety are especially signiﬁcant in a country such as Australia which had
the enviable record of avoiding a recession for over two decades. Hence, if there was a
country in which economic downturn should theoretically not be a factor in the
success of populists or the activation of populist attitudes, it would be Australia. Of
course, this is a simpliﬁcation in a globalised economy and there are always cohorts
who are doing better or worse, but the ‘losers of globalisation’thesis has been debunked
time and time again (Norris and Inglehart 2018). In order to test our hypotheses, we
ﬁelded our questions as part of the Australian Co-operative Election Survey, which
also included questions about a range of demographic characteristics and respondents’
political preferences and behaviours. This survey was ﬁelded between 18 April and 12
May 2019, during the Australian federal election campaign, through YouGov, who pro-
vided a non-probability sample of enrolled voters based on their panel of volunteer
survey respondents, stratiﬁed by age x gender, and gender x region. Our sample consists
of 1049 respondents asked a selection of items speciﬁc to our research questions.
Our study focusses on Australia for a few reasons. First, it has been shown that populist
and populist radical right (populist, nativist, authoritarian) attitudes exist and are inﬂuen-
tial, to varying degrees, in shaping voting behaviour in Australia (Keﬀord, Moﬃtt, and
Werner 2021;Keﬀord and Ratcliﬀ2021). While not measuring nativist and authoritarian
attitudesexplicitly here, the fact that a moderatelysuccessful populist radicalright party has
been present in the party system over the past quarter century, means we can better under-
stand the way populist attitudes and a range of issues in the body politic shape voting in the
party system. Indeed, Australia’s multi-party system is important as we can test whether the
institutional architecture of Australian democracy aﬀects how satisﬁed citizens are with
democracy, and the way this correlates with holding populist attitudes.
To evaluate H4a, H4b and H5, we pooled the voting intention data so that respondents
who indicated they would vote for Labor or the Coalition parties were classiﬁed as major
party supporters. Respondents who indicated they would vote for other parties or candi-
dates were classiﬁed as minor party or Independent supporters. Respondents who indi-
cated they did not intend to vote were omitted. We then ﬁtted a binary logistic regression
to analyse which variables have a signiﬁcant correlation with support for each of these
two pooled groups. Table 2 shows the resultant odds ratios and which variables had a
p-value greater than 0.05. Odds ratio values greater than 1.0 indicate that higher levels
of this variable are correlated with greater likelihood to support a major party,
whereas odds ratios less than 1.0 indicate a greater likelihood to support a minor
party or Independent. Table 2 indicates that only democratic dissatisfaction and
income are signiﬁcantly correlated. Higher democratic dissatisfaction correlates with
higher likelihood to support a minor party and not a major party, while higher
income correlates with higher likelihood to support a major party.
Likewise, to evaluate H5, we pooled the voting intention data so that respondents who
indicated they would vote for either the Coalition parties or One Nation were classiﬁed
into a single category. All other respondents were classiﬁed together into an opposing
category. We then ﬁtted a binary logistic regression model to analyse which variables cor-
relate with likelihood to support Coalition or One Nation.
AUSTRALIAN JOURNAL OF POLITICAL SCIENCE 7
As the populist attitudes of Australian voters have been previously measured (Keﬀord,
Moﬃtt, and Werner 2021;Keﬀord and Ratcliﬀ2021), we do not intend to repeat this
step to show that populist ideational and populist communication attitudes exist inde-
pendently of one another or that they aﬀect voting behaviour. Instead, we conducted
an exploratory factor analysis (see Table 3) to conﬁrm our survey items relate to the dis-
tinct, although correlated, constructs. From this analysis, we can conclude that demo-
cratic-dissatisfaction, anti-Indigenous attitudes, economic anxiety, Manichean, and
people-centeredness are distinct factors. Anti-elitism and populist communication
survey items are more disbursed across factors, so this analysis does not indicate they
are distinctly unrelated to the other factors. We proceed to separate survey items into
the categories indicated in Table 3, and reduce these 22 variables down to just ﬁve, by
taking the average score in each category. This results in the study variables we will
take to test the study’s hypotheses. These variables are: populist communication, populist
ideas, economic-anxiety, anti-Indigenous, democratic-dissatisfaction.
We then move directly to our ﬁrst three hypotheses. In these results, we separate
between populist ideational attitudes and populist communication attitudes. To test
these relationships, we calculated correlation coeﬃcients
(see Table 3), and this suggests
that H1 –populist attitudes and economic anxiety will be weakly correlated is supported.
Economic anxiety correlates weakly with populist ideas (corr = 0.17), and even more
weakly with populist communication (corr = 0.06). We then move on to H2 –populist
attitudes and negative attitudes towards Indigenous peoples will be strongly correlated.
As is evident in Table 3, both populist ideas (corr = .09) and populist communication
(corr = 0.34) correlate at a statistically signiﬁcant level. The strength of the correlation
between populist communication and negative attitudes towards Indigenous peoples is
especially strong and suggests a meaningful relationship exists between anti-Indigenous
Table 2. Logistic regression and odds ratios for likelihood to vote for the Coalition or One Nation.
Variable Odds Ratios (*p< 0.05)
Coalition & One Nation Coalition One Nation
Populist Communication 2.6084* 0.8552 3.0345*
Populist Ideas 0.1921* 0.2700 1.4079
Democratic-Dissatisfaction 0.3375* 0.2359* 3.4929*
Anti-Indigenous 10.7919* 2.1489* 2.5935*
Economic Anxiety 0.8887 0.6799 1.6783
Age 1.6657* 1.2088 1.1456
Income 2.3418* 1.5831 1.0489
Urban 0.9280 1.0249 0.9023
Gender 0.8867 1.0755 0.8100
Year 12 or equivalent 1.2286 1.0432 1.1421
Advanced Diploma and Diploma 1.0321 1.2328 0.7619
Bachelor Degree 1.1063 1.7492* 0.4326*
Graduate Diploma and Graduate Certiﬁcate 1.1014 1.3574 0.6983
Postgraduate Degree 1.0621 1.1773 0.8356
Working part-time for pay 1.3133 1.3159 0.8135
Unemployed & looking for full-time work 0.9966 0.7725 1.3303
Unemployed & looking for part-time work 0.7611 1.1189 0.6572
Retired from paid work 1.5704 1.1998 1.1127
A full-time school or university student. 0.2844* 0.6642 0.6002
Keeping house 0.5916 0.7364 0.9983
Other 1.1384 0.7223 1.7022
8G. KEFFORD ET AL.
attitudes and a preference for a populist mode of communication. This remains the case
when controlled for age and gender. H2 is therefore supported from these ﬁndings. Next,
we move to H3 –Populist attitudes and dissatisfaction with Australian democracy will be
strongly correlated. As is evident in Table 3, dissatisfaction with democracy and both
populist ideas (corr = 0.54), and populist communication (corr = 0.24) correlate in a stat-
istically signiﬁcant way, with the correlation between populist ideas and dissatisfaction
with democracy being the strongest in the study. These results also stay consistent
when controlled for age and gender.
In the next step of our analysis, we test H4a and b, which posited that support for
minor parties and Independents will strongly correlate with populism and democratic
dissatisfaction, while it will be weakly correlated for the major parties/coalitions. These
hypotheses are partially supported. Dissatisfaction with democracy is positively corre-
lated with voting for minor parties and Independents, and it is signiﬁcantly, negatively
correlated with voting for major parties (Table 4). As expected, voters dissatisﬁed with
democracy tend to support minor parties and Independents. However, populist attitudes
were not signiﬁcantly correlated with either form of voting behaviour. The weak corre-
lation between populism and minor party support may be explained by the fact that this
Table 3. Factor analysis results.
Questions F1 F2 F3 F4 F5 F6 Uniqueness
Eigen values 4.16 2.18 2.04 1.6 1.26 1.01
Australian politics would work better if we had diﬀerent parties
In the last two decades, the Australian government has mostly
made bad decisions
Australia’s media are more interested in keeping their political
mates happy than reporting on the real issues
The major parties don’t care about the plight of ordinary
Many of our elected oﬃcials are corrupt 0.56 0.65
I’d rather be represented by an ordinary citizen than an
Politicians need to follow the will of the people 0.54 0.54
The people, and not politicians, should make our most
important policy decisions
Politicians should speak like ordinary people 0.68 0.48
People should be able to say whatever they like without
worrying about oﬀending others
Government help for Indigenous Australians has gone too far 0.86 0.24
Australia should do more to celebrate Indigenous culture and
Indigenous people need to do more to build relations with
Having enough money to retire on 0.83 0.29
Losing your job in the next 12 months 0.79 0.34
Paying your rent or mortgage 0.89 0.2
The people that disagree with me politically are just
Government oﬃcials use their power to try to improve people’s
The people I disagree with politically are not evil 0.75 0.42
You can tell if a person is good or bad if you know their political
I prefer politicians that are entertaining rather than the usual
Elected oﬃcials talk too much and take too little action 0.77
AUSTRALIAN JOURNAL OF POLITICAL SCIENCE 9
approach aggregates the results for all the minor parties and Independents. Hence, a
more granular analysis is useful. In Table 5, we can see attitudes to populist communi-
cation correlate with a lower likelihood of voting for the Greens and a greater likelihood
to vote for One Nation. Therefore, the evidence suggests populism does not drive voting
for all minor parties but does drive voting for One Nation.
In Table 4, we explore the eﬀect of disaggregating Labor, the Coalition, minor party
and Independent voters. Table 4 indicates that satisfaction with democracy drives
higher likelihood to vote Coalition but has no signiﬁcant correlation with a tendency
to vote for Labor. H5 –the notion that supporting the Coalition or One Nation will
be strongly correlated with anti-Indigenous attitudes –was also supported. Anti-Indigen-
ous attitudes signiﬁcantly and positively correlate with a likelihood to vote for the
Coalition and One Nation. Table 2 shows each variable’s odds ratios.
Drawing these ﬁndings together, there are several points worthy of further discussion.
The ﬁrst is that populist ideational and communicative attitudes do not correlate uni-
formly with diﬀerent attitudes about economic anxiety, Indigenous peoples, and demo-
cratic dissatisfaction. On one hand, this is not surprising, given these separate kinds of
populist attitudes exist independently (Keﬀord, Moﬃtt, and Werner 2021). On the
other, however, it is useful to look at what speciﬁcally they do correlate with, and impor-
tantly, consider why they might be diﬀerent from one another.
Economic anxiety was weakly correlated with both ideational and communicative atti-
tudes towards populism. This makes sense given cultural explanations, rather than econ-
omic ones, have become increasingly dominant; and speciﬁcally because, at least on the
supply side, populism in Australia has been most dominant on the ideological right of
Table 4. Logistic regression and odds ratios for likelihood to vote for a major party.
Variable Odds Ratios (*p< 0.05)
Major parties Labor Coalition Minor & Ind’s
Populist Communication 1.218 0.853 1.3621 0.860
Populist Ideas 0.4372 2.0770 0.2495 1.9295
Democratic-Dissatisfaction 0.1175* 0.6948 0.3030* 4.7483*
Anti-Indigenous 1.1531 0.3139* 4.3019* 0.7404
Economic Anxiety 0.8165 1.0745 0.7874 1.1817
Age 1.263 0.8202 1.3126 0.9288
Income 1.9878* 0.9043 1.7747 0.6231
Urban 1.064 1.0628 0.9837 0.9563
Gender 0.8000 0.8974 0.9796 1.1373
Year 12 or equivalent 1.1858 0.9711 1.0906 0.9441
Advanced Diploma and Diploma 1.2751 1.0379 1.1393 0.8456
Bachelor Degree 1.1048 0.8300 1.2255 0.9830
Graduate Diploma and Graduate Certiﬁcate 1.4066 1.0376 1.2252 0.7865
Postgraduate Degree 1.241 1.0806 1.1947 0.7744
Working part-time for pay 1.0741 0.8420 1.2742 0.9320
Unemployed & looking for full-time work 0.6371 0.9011 0.8809 1.259
Unemployed & looking for part-time work 0.870 0.924 0.961 1.124
Retired from paid work 1.371 0.961 1.366 0.760
A full-time school or university student. 0.923 1.654 0.479 1.26
Keeping house 0.956 1.360 0.683 1.074
Other 0.775 1.000 0.854 1.169
10 G. KEFFORD ET AL.
politics (Moﬃtt 2017), meaning issues around immigration, national identity and secur-
ity have been most salient, rather than economic issues (which tend to be salient on the
populist left). This being said, it was ideational attitudes towards populism that were
slightly more strongly correlated with economic anxiety than communicative attitudes,
which may be a reﬂection simply that economic anxiety and preference for brusque
populist politicians do not necessarily go together, whereas there might be some slight
contiguity between economic anxiety and a platform that sets ‘the people’up against
While both ideational and communicative attitudes towards populism were correlated
with anti-Indigenous attitudes, it was the latter that correlated particularly strongly. This
may suggest that anti-Indigenous attitudes have less to do with the populist ideational
notion of ‘the people’versus ‘the elite’–that is, less about setting Indigenous peoples
as directly outside the characterisation of ‘the people’that a populist invokes –than
being used to invoke one’s anti-politically correct and ‘shocking’communicative
values. Here, anti-Indigenous attitudes may be a proxy for showing that a populist will
not be ‘told how to speak’, and is willing to ‘tell the hard truths’, rather than forming
a core plank of their ideational framework (Table 6).
It is the diﬀerence between ideational and communicative populist attitudes when it
comes to their correlation with dissatisfaction with democracy that is perhaps most strik-
ing. While both were positively correlated with democratic dissatisfaction, it was very
strong for ideational attitudes –indeed, this was the strongest coeﬃcient in the entire
study, at 0.54. It makes sense that democratic dissatisfaction correlates with both
forms of populist attitudes. But why is it so much stronger for ideational attitudes
towards populism? On the one hand, democratic dissatisfaction is baked into populist
ideology –populism hinges on the notion that ‘the people’s’voice is not being expressed
in a democratic system, and that this needs to be addressed given that ‘the elite’have cap-
tured power. We thus would expect that people who hold populist ideational attitudes are
Table 5. Logistic regression and odds ratios for voting outcomes.
All odds ratios (*p< 0.05) Lab Coalition Green ONP Other Will not vote
Populist Communication 0.781 1.339 0.371* 4.008* 0.865 0.741
Populist Ideas 1.638 0.202* 1.997 1.2269 0.982 1.254
Democratic- Dissatisfaction 0.407 0.173* 1.113 2.979* 3.528* 1.209
Anti-Indigenous 0.266* 4.013* 0.121* 4.423* 1.080 1.605
Economic Anxiety 0.917 0.685 1.309 1.6372 0.672 1.101
Age 0.987 1.632 0.527* 1.533 1.696* 0.452*
Income 1.117 2.271* 0.549 1.3820 0.865 0.599
Urban 1.086 0.994 1.068 0.8727 0.955 1.038
Gender 0.811 0.882 1.156 0.6740* 1.100 1.627*
Year 12 or equivalent 1.072 1.210 0.957 1.3123 0.922 0.664
Advanced Diploma and Diploma 1.129 1.233 0.794 0.7688 1.061 1.107
Bachelor’s Degree 1.181 1.668* 2.484* 0.4152* 1.035 0.474*
Graduate Diploma and Graduate Certiﬁcate 1.215 1.438 0.710 0.7285 1.278 0.863
Postgraduate Degree 1.033 1.115 1.045 0.7994 0.592 1.749
Working part-time for pay 0.877 1.335 1.004 0.825 1.037 0.990
Unemployed & looking for full-time work 0.7036 0.7047 0.623 1.2151 1.199 2.217
Unemployed & looking for part-time work 0.9506 0.9499 1.849 0.613 0.837 1.164
Retired from paid work 0.968 1.357 0.804 1.235 0.584* 1.310
Full-time student 1.6737 0.465* 1.921 0.495 0.704 1.910
Homemaker 1.318 0.666 0.971 0.926 1.072 1.180
Other 0.873 0.765 1.012 1.744 0.827 1.021
AUSTRALIAN JOURNAL OF POLITICAL SCIENCE 11
not happy with the way that democracy is operating. On the other, a reason why people
with preferences for a populist communicative style may be more satisﬁed in Australia
than those with populist ideational attitudes is that they are quite well served in the exist-
ing party system. If one wants a politician who is willing to ‘break the rules’and act in a
populist manner, then you are not exactly left wanting: not only are there a number of
minor parties (One Nation, United Australia Party, Katter’s Australia Party, and the
Jacqui Lambie Network); there are importantly key actors within the parties of the
Coalition, who act in a populist manner, such as Matt Canavan and Deputy Prime Min-
ister Barnaby Joyce. As Moﬃtt has argued, ‘[i]n this regard, the Coalition functions
somewhat like the US Republican Party –it is able to accommodate and tolerate right
populists within the party, without it necessarily making sense to call the party itself a
“populist party”’ (2017, 127). Indeed, Mondon (2016) has argued that populism, or at
least its communicative elements, have become mainstreamed in Australian politics,
meaning that those who prefer ‘political representatives that speak plainly, are entertain-
ing and who purport to say whatever they like in the name of “the people”[…} are well-
served in the Australian political landscape’(Keﬀord, Moﬃtt, and Werner 2021, 16).
Relatedly, another major ﬁnding from our analysis is that holding populist attitudes
does not necessarily lead to voting for populist parties. In fact, we found that holding
populist ideational attitudes did not correlate with voting for One Nation, the populist
radical right party in the Australian party system. In fact, the only parties that populist
ideational attitudes correlated with on a statistically signiﬁcant level were those that
make up the Coalition, which may go some way in explaining why, over recent years,
the Coalition has both tolerated the aforementioned ﬁgures within its ranks as well as
adopting some elements of populist ideology in its platform (Wear 2008; Snow and
Moﬃtt 2012). In this way, the party has been able to have it both ways to some extent,
being a ‘respectable’and ‘mainstream’centre-right party, but also adopting, at times,
an anti-elite ideology.
What did correlate with voting for One Nation, however, was populist communicative
attitudes. What does this tell us? Primarily, it shows that the party’s appeal to these voters
seems to come more from its disruptive populist style –in particular, Pauline Hanson’s
ability to court media attention through stunts, outrageous comments and allegedly
‘telling it like it is’(Sengul 2021)–rather than any populist ‘ideology’the party might
have. It is likely that the party’s nativism attracts voters on an ideational level, rather
than its populism. However, this also demonstrates the beneﬁt of measuring populist atti-
tudes in diﬀerent ways, showing that preferences for populist communication can play a
larger role in what attracts voters party’s‘populism’than their ideological commitments.
Table 6. Correlation coeﬃcients.
Populist communication –––––
Populist ideas 0.26** –– ––
0.24** 0.54** –––
anti-Indigenous 0.34** 0.09** 0.09** ––
economic anxiety 0.06* 0.17** 0.20** 0.05 –
*p< 0.05, **p< 0.01.
12 G. KEFFORD ET AL.
Finally, it is worth acknowledging that while we were not shocked to ﬁnd that anti-
Indigenous attitudes were a strong predictor of One Nation voting –after all, Hanson
formed the party after being disendorsed by the Liberal Party for making anti-indigenous
comments (Jackman 1998)–we were somewhat surprised to ﬁnd that such attitudes were
almost as high a predictor for voting for the Coalition parties. Perhaps we should not
have been given the ﬁndings of Goot and Watson (2001a) twenty years ago. This suggests
that the divisions between the centre-right and the populist radical right when it comes to
nativism may be less clear-cut that is often assumed, and this may particularly be the case
in settler-colonial settings.
What does all of this tell us about populist attitudes and Australian democracy more
generally? First, it tells us that voters for populist parties are indeed dissatisﬁed with how
Australian democracy is functioning (see also Bowler et al. 2017). The same goes for voters
for ‘other’parties and Independents. These voters do not feel served by the major parties
and are looking elsewhere to have their dissatisfaction addressed. Second, economic
anxiety does not seem to drive voting on a signiﬁcant level for any party. Third, there is
little space between One Nation and the parties who make up the Coalition when it
comes to anti-Indigenous attitudes being a driver of voting for these parties –where
One Nation diﬀers is that on top of its dissatisﬁed democrats’appeal, it also has the
added element of appealing to those who prefer populist communication. If we assume
that the major parties want to starve oﬀthe ‘populist challenge’from parties like One
Nation without adopting their exclusionary and xenophobic platform, then according to
our analysis there are two areas that are available for them to work on. Addressing populist
radical right voters’democratic discontent is the ﬁrst big hurdle they face: these voters
clearly don’t trust the major parties, see the government as disconnected from ‘ordinary
people’, and believe that these parties are in ‘cahoots’with the media. The second is addres-
sing such voters’preferences for a populist communication style –that is, politicians who
speak like ‘the people’, in a common vernacular, with an appealing performative style
rather than the often circumscribed, dull, media-trained manner many politicians adopt.
Our ﬁndings suggest this is not some fanciful aesthetic preference extraneous to ‘real’poli-
tics, but one that seriously drives populist voting in Australia.
Populist attitudes do not operate in a vacuum. They correlate with, inﬂuence and interact
with attitudes towards other pertinent political issues. In this article, we have sought to
analyse how populist attitudes in Australia interact with signiﬁcant issues that are often
raised in the populism literature. Whilst research on populist attitudes is now common,
more work is required. There remain signiﬁcant questions about how to measure these
attitudes, whether the concepts are operationalised as clearly as they can be and whether
underlying dimensions are actually distinct from one another. Moreover, while recent
work (Keﬀord, Moﬃtt, and Werner 2021) has extended beyond the ideational approach,
more needs to be done to operationalise other conceptualisations of populism in the
name of academic plurality and garnering insight into the communicative and strategic
appeals of populism. There is also likely measurement error and signiﬁcant limitations to
many of these studies and ours is no diﬀerent. Clearly, one limitation of our study is the
small number of One Nation voters in the sample. While we acknowledge this limitation
AUSTRALIAN JOURNAL OF POLITICAL SCIENCE 13
and suggest these speciﬁc results should not be over-extrapolated from, we also reiterate
that our article has sought to address how populist attitudes correlate with voting behav-
iour across the party landscape in Australia, rather than just focusing on how it aligns
with voting for one small populist radical right party. Indeed, given our sample sought
to be representative of the Australian voting public, it is little surprise that only 56 of
1068 respondents noted that they voted for One Nation (i.e. approximately 5.24% of
the sample) –the party polled 5.4% in the Senate in 2019, meaning it very closely
aligned with their support at the time.
Nonetheless, we suggest our ﬁndings open several avenues for future research. The
ﬁrst is to examine how anti-Indigenous attitudes and populist attitudes correlate not
only in Australia, but in settler-colonial contexts across the world. Are they as salient,
for example, in the US, New Zealand and Canada? If there are diﬀerences, why and
how can we explain this? The second is to explore the reasons that those with populist
attitudes may not necessarily vote for populist parties, but choose to instead vote for
‘mainstream’parties. The third is to consider the attitudes we have explored in this
article comparatively: are those with populist attitudes in Australia more democratically
dissatisﬁed than those in other countries? Is the widespread democratic dissatisfaction
reported in Australia fuelling populist attitudes –and therefore at times populist
voting –more than in other settings? The populist attitudes literature will continue to
grow –we hope our analysis, and these future directions –provide a way to make it
richer, broader, and to move beyond ‘just’looking at populism alone.
1. While there is an earlier Australian literature that explored the political attitudes of voters
for Pauline Hanson’s One Nation (Bean 2000; Goot and Watson 2001a,2001b; Gibson,
McAllister, and Swenson 2002), it is important to note that this is not synonymous with
populist attitudes. Indeed, this literature did not actually seek to measure populist attitudes
or construct a survey item for measuring populism (and this is understandable, given the
populist attitudes literature is relatively recent). Instead, it measured the attitudes and
drivers of voters for a particular populist radical right party, whereas in this article, we
are interested in populist attitudes more generally, which go beyond the cohort of voters
for one party.
2. This lacuna is arguably a result of the literature on populist attitudes focusing almost exclu-
sively on Europe. Important exceptions to this include Hawkins, Kaltwasser, and Andreadis
(2018); Kaltwasser and Van Hauwaert (2020); and (Keﬀord, Moﬃtt, and Werner 2021), but
these have not focused on attitudes towards Indigenous peoples.
3. This is a central reason we have not included anti-immigration measures or national iden-
tity-related questions in our survey instrument: one of the critiques of the extant literature
on populism is that is has been too loose in its deﬁnitions and operationalisation, and has
tended to conﬂate populism with other issues –particularly nationalism (see, for example,
Bonikowski et al. 2019; De Cleen and Stavrakakis 2017). As such, in the name of conceptual
precision, we have chosen to focus only on populist attitudes, and sought to not muddy the
waters by introducing such adjacent measures. Moreover, we do not wish to replicate very
recent scholarship that has already examined the overlap of populist and nationalist atti-
tudes in Australia, which is precisely what Keﬀord and Ratcliﬀ(2021) have done in this
4. It is important to note that this is not the trend in all surveys –see, for example, the annual
Scanlon Foundation’s‘Mapping Social Cohesion’surveys (Markus, 2021).
14 G. KEFFORD ET AL.
5. For our purposes here, we have combined the Liberal, National and Liberal National parties
as one entity.
6. The two question items we amended from Castanho Silva et al. (2018) were ‘Quite a few
people running the government are crooked’and ‘The will of the people should be the
highest principle in this country’s politics’. We changed these to ‘Many of our elected
oﬃcials are corrupt’and ‘Politicians need to follow the will of the people’. We argue that
the wording we used is less ambiguous to respondents.
7. The sample contained the following numbers of respondents who indicated their vote inten-
tion for the 2019 Australian federal election: Labor 329; Liberal 216; LNP 73; Country
Liberal 2; Nationals 22; Greens 102; One Nation 56; Other/Independent 130; None 31; 88
did not provide answers. Respondents were asked to respond to our measures using a 4-
point Likert scale.
8. Correlation coeﬃcients calculated with pandas native DataFrame.corr() function. We use
the Pearson method implementation. Correlation p-values calculated with the scipy.stat-
s.pearsonr() function which also implements the Pearson method. We used partial corre-
lation as the method for controlling for age and gender. Module and function was
No potential conﬂict of interest was reported by the author(s).
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following ﬁnancial support for the research, authorship, and/
or publication of this article: The authors would like to thank the Australian Research Council for
their generous support and declare the following funding from the Australian Research Council
that has supported this project: Keﬀord [grant number DE190100210] and Moﬃtt [grant
Notes on contributors
Glenn Keﬀord is a Senior Lecturer in Political Science and Australian Research Council DECRA
Fellow in the School of Political Science and International Studies at the University of Queensland.
His research focusses on campaigning, elections and political parties. He is the author of Political
Parties and Campaigning in Australia: Data Digital & Field, (Palgrave, 2021).
Benjamin Moﬃtt is Senior Lecturer and Australian Research Council DECRA Fellow at the Aus-
tralian Catholic University, Melbourne. He is the author of Populism (Polity, 2020), Political Mer-
itocracy and Populism: Curse or Cure? (with Mark Chou & Octavia Bryant, Routledge, 2020), and
The Global Rise of Populism: Performance, Political Style and Representation (Stanford University
Press, 2016), and co-editor of Populism in Global Perspective: A Performative and Discursive
Approach (with Pierre Ostiguy and Francisco Panizza, Routledge, 2021).
John Collins is a data scientist and PhD candidate at the University of Mannheim with the Man-
nheimer Zentrum für Europäische Sozialforschung (MZES). He has an honours degree in Soci-
ology from the Australian National University and a Masters in Data Science from James Cook
Joshua Marsh is an undergraduate student at the University of Queensland studying Politics, Phil-
osophy, and Economics. He previously represented Australia at MITs Research Science Institute,
has been a research intern at the Harvard Centre for Astrophysics and CSIRO’s Data61. While
studying computer science at ANU, he was a research assistant in ANU’s Research School of Com-
puter Science where he conducted AI research.
AUSTRALIAN JOURNAL OF POLITICAL SCIENCE 15
Glenn Keﬀord http://orcid.org/0000-0002-6733-3323
Benjamin Moﬃtt http://orcid.org/0000-0003-1843-6032
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