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Winning not lecturing

By Graham Young - posted Monday, 22 October 2012

Foreign journalists and social media proclaimed it a success, while domestic political commentators, including me, canned it. So who was right? Does Julia Gillard's "I will not be lectured by this man" speech remake the woman, or will it ultimately remake the man? (It is apparently already remaking the language).

We asked this of 1018 people in one of our virtual focus groups and got an equivocal answer.

In a group where as many preferred a Labor government as preferred a Liberal one, 50% were inclined to agree that Abbott was a sexist, and 45% disagreed, meaning some are voting for an Abbott-led government despite thinking he is sexist. Voters also discriminate between sexism and misogyny ("How do you spell that?") with only 35% agreeing that he is misogynistic and 52% disagreeing.


There is a gender element to these results with women more likely to agree with both these statements by about 5 percentage points.

However, the test of any political tactic is whether it moved votes in your favour or not, and on that basis the speech failed with our group. 28 percent said they were more likely to vote for the government while 40 percent said they were less likely.

This effect was driven almost entirely by men, with women being virtually equally divided on whether it would change their votes. This suggests that claims of sexism and misogyny appeal primarily to a female audience, but that the government has about as large a share of the female vote as it can get, at least on this basis.

The risk to them is that by overtly raising this argument they don't improve their position with women, because they can't, but they further erode it with men.

Some respondents thought that at last we were seeing the "real Julia", and there is probably some truth in that as attitudes to sexism appear to be not just gender-based but to reflect voting intentions.

Inasmuch as the Prime Minister is in tune with her constituency and tribe, then accusations of sexism will come more readily to her than to her opponents.


Sexism is something which is experienced by both genders, but definitely more by women than men. We probed our audience on their experience of sexism and found that 33% of women claimed it happened to them regularly as opposed to 10% of men.

This left 48% of women who said it was infrequent and 64% of men.

When analysed by voting intention I was intrigued to find that 45% of those women who would prefer a Labor government claimed to be frequently sexually discriminated against, but only 15% of those who would prefer a Liberal said the same. This is a huge difference.

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About the Author

Graham Young is chief editor and the publisher of On Line Opinion. He is executive director of the Australian Institute for Progress, an Australian think tank based in Brisbane, and the publisher of On Line Opinion.

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