Article by Kellie Scott /
ABC Life /
May 2, 2019 /
Click here to view original /
If a democracy sausage is the thing you’re the most excited about come election time then good news, you’re in the right place!
Maybe you can’t be bothered sifting through the barrage of federal election coverage on your screens, airwaves and letterboxes to know which way to vote — but you still want it to count.
In the lead-up to the federal election, ABC Life is producing some helpful survival guides to help you navigate your way through the campaign.
To kick things off, we’re looking at how you can reduce your election fatigue by sharing the bare minimum you can do to make an informed vote.
We’re overwhelmed, distrustful and sceptical AF
Before we dive into our tips, let’s quickly visit why we find election campaigns too much to bear.
Election campaigns are full of spin — here’s how to see through it
Trust in democracy is at an all-time low. According to research from the University of Canberra, only 41 per cent of Australians are satisfied with the way democracy works in Australia.
That’s down from a high of 86 per cent back in 2007.
“As soon as I step away from the university or the ABC and deal with normal people who aren’t obsessed with politics, most people don’t really care,” says Lauren Rosewarne, senior lecturer at Melbourne University’s School of Social and Political Sciences.
Hayley McDonald, 35, teacher’s aide in Central Queensland
That makes it difficult for people to distinguish what would actually change if politicians delivered, she says.
A distrust for politicians and a belief that a change of government rarely impacts people on an individual level are also reasons people check out, according to Dr Rosewarne.
First-time voters in particular are more likely to decide on who to vote for on the day of the election, and for sometimes random reasons, says Zareh Ghazarian, a political scientist with Monash University.
“They will make their mind up based on what they will see on election day, or what they hear about — even the physical appearance of people handing out how-to-vote cards,” he says.
Deciding who to vote for can be a difficult process, especially if there’s lots of different policy areas you care about, or if you don’t really know where candidates stand on the issues that matter to you.
Luckily, there is an easy solution.
“Buzzfeed has been training us for a decade to like answering questions,” Dr Rosewarne says.
Larisa Kapur, 31, solicitor on the Gold Coast
For that reason, tools like the ABC’s Vote Compass are high on experts’ recommendation list.
“Voter advice apps [like Vote Compass] are still the best and simplest way for the politically disengaged to get a broad sense” of who they should vote for, says associate professor Mark Chou, a political engagement expert from Australian Catholic University.
Vote Compass explained
Vote Compass is developed by political scientists and helps you explore how your views align with those of the candidates.
It will ask you to rank your thoughts on policy statements like:
- “Political parties should have rules that require them to try to get a similar number of male and female candidates elected to Parliament.”
- “Boats carrying asylum seekers should be turned back.”
And answer questions like:
- “How trustworthy do you find Bill Shorten?”
- “How competent do you find Pauline Hanson?”
The results will show how you fit in the political landscape and how much you agree with the parties.
Dr Rosewarne also recommends The Political Compass.
“At the end of the quiz, you get where you fit on political spectrum compared to other world leaders. It doesn’t just do the Left and Right spectrum thing, it also factors in authoritarian and libertarianism — it has another dimension,” she says.
Tune into the TV and search for bite-sized info
“TV is useful for people who don’t want to read political content,” Dr Rosewarne says.
She recommends shows like the ABC’s The Drum and Channel Ten’s The Project, which talk about issues, but not in a lecture environment.
“They tackle political issues in a way that is easy to digest,” she says.
“You get the education without the intensity.”
Do young people care about politics?
If reading is more your thing, shorter, wrap-type articles may be up your ally.
Look for headlines like “everything you need to know” or “the election explained”; they give bite-sized information of what’s what.
The ABC’s Australia Votes is a hub of information, including Candidates A-Z and Key Seats if you’re after some more detail without having to sift through the interwebs.
If it’s more practical stuff you’re wanting to know — like how to vote — the Australian Electoral Commission website can help.
It’s handy because many people don’t retain basic information we learn in school about politics, Dr Ghazarian says.
“There are things to brush up on, and the electoral commission is a really useful resource because they talk about how to vote, how to mark your ballot paper and how to cast a formal vote, so people don’t waste their vote.”
Talk to your friends and colleagues
We’re told politics, religion and sex should never be discussed at the dinner table, but Dr Ghazarian says it can be beneficial.
“People talking about politics with their friends and family — there is no harm in gathering as much information as possible.”
If you’re not passionate one way or another, it’s a conversation less likely to go down in flames.
What to watch out for
Always question your source, warns Dr Rosewarne.
“Who is the person speaking or writing and do they have a specific agenda to push? Are they coming from think tank, a lobby group, or is it an academic giving an informed opinion which is tending to be less biased.”
When it comes to navigating the news, can you beat your biases?
And if you are going to read a lot of news, make sure you are consuming a wide range of sources, Dr Ghazarian says.
“Look at news reporting of a wide range of sources; the ABC, SBS, Nine Media and of course others like tabloid papers and The Australian,” he says.
“Casting a wide net, you are bound to find information you want to know, and that will ultimately, hopefully, guide you on who to vote for.”
So there you go. There are plenty of ways to help process the election and decide who to vote for that don’t require you to become an expert in politics.
See you at the sausage stand!