Define the three factors (political, sociological and institutional) which affect Australian Elections?

Topics: Political party, Election, Voting Pages: 5 (1353 words) Published: August 25, 2004
Institutional factors:

Institutional factors relate to the type of the electoral system used in an election. Institutional factors that can influence the election include compulsory voting, the type of ballot, gerrymanders and malapportionment.

Compulsory voting ensures 95 per cent of Western Australians participate in elections. However, it has been echoed by some academics that compulsory voting favors major parties. This is due to few people doing their own research into political parties and voting for parties they recognize through the media.

The type of ballot used in an election has the most influence on the outcome. In a preferential ballot a seat has to be won by an absolute majority. Which gives an advantage to major political parties. However, in proportional voting a candidate has to get a derived quota to be elected. This means that a small party or independent can get elected with as little as 20% of the vote.

Gerrymanders are also another major factor that can influence an election. Gerrymanders allow governments to redistribute electoral boundaries. Governments are then able to win more seats by reducing vote wastage in safe seats and shifting the wasted votes into marginal seats therefore giving them a better chance to win the marginal seats. This tends to favor the government because they have majority support to change electoral boundaries.

Malapportionment is another institutional factor which may affect the election outcome. Malapportionment is a calculation used to even out an uneven distribution of population. This is done by increasing the power of votes in smaller districts. The problem with malapportionment is that it tends to favor the party or independent who exploits the weakness in the electoral system.

Sociological factors:

Sociological factors relate to the values and attitudes voters believe in. When voters are attracted to a particular party this is because they tend to support relatively the same values and attitudes. This will often lead the voter to vote for the party they are attracted to. The values and attitudes people obtain are often related to experiences the voter's life. The biggest influence on values and attitudes of voters is their family. The fundamental sociological factors include socioeconomic profile, ethnic background, religion, geographical location, age and gender.

Socioeconomic factors relate to a person 'social class'. Social class structures of persons are generally divided by education achieved, employment category and income. Due to the recent blurring of policy in major political parities, voters have not been significantly polarized by the above three particulars. Therefore, socioeconomic factors don't greatly affect election outcomes.

Ethnic background relates to migrant origins. Origins of ethnic groups tend to reflect in political opinion. Trends suggest that ethnic communities that come from oppressive regimes vote on the left wing -Labor-. However, ethnic communities that migrate from democratic countries tend to vote right wing -Liberal-.

Religion has become less of a factor in the outcome of an election. In the past religion has played a major role in Australian elections. This is due to mainly European migrants being either protestant or catholic. This division of religion ended in the 1940's possibly due to World War Two. However, religious people generally cast a stronger conservative vote, relative to people with limited or no assimilation with religion.

Geographic location in Western Australia has caused strong political divides. These strong political divides exist between the rural areas and the city. This division is due to different political and economic requirements needed by rural and city Western Australia. These different requirements have been around since foundation so the political division has always been prevalent.

Age is an important aspect of the sociological factors. Mature age voters often support...
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