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Why Albo wins, and ScoMo loses, with women voters

By Graham Young - posted Wednesday, 18 May 2022

Fifty years ago it was blokes in singlets who voted Labor governments in and women who voted them out. Now those blokes have bought 4×4 dual cab utes and become contractors, and it is professional women under 50 who are Labor's bedrock voting bloc.

The trend has been on for a while, although it reversed slightly with Bill Shorten's leadership, but it has accelerated under Albanese. It is also part of the business model of the teals, most of whose candidates are drawn from this demographic.

Normally elections aren't won on the personalities of the leaders – they're a factor, but not decisive. But when you have an election where one side has been in power for nine years, and appears to have run out of plans, and the other side fear any plan could lose them the election, you are left with nothing but personalities.


Morrison is a well-known commodity. He's the alpha male who kept the borders safe. But while not the schoolyard bully, there's a bit of the schoolyard loudmouth about him. He can play ukulele or promise to be more empathetic in a partial reprise of Labor's "real Julia" gambit, but it's not going to work if the tweaks aren't consonant with the Scotty we all think we know.

But the public doesn't really know Albanese, so a change in glasses, stepping out with a new love, parading the pooch, and retailing stories of growing up in poverty on a public housing estate can shape perceptions substantially.

Albo's certainly not a bully. He's more the beta male and probably not a natural leader.

Morrison says his weakness is "I tend to go straight into problem-solving mode ... when I do that, people sometimes don't think that I really understand how they're feeling". Classic alpha male.

Albanese's greatest weakness? "I have found my biggest weakness is my loyalty." Classic beta, and also classic follower.

These personalities collide in a period when female preferences in men appear to be shifting, and combine with a widespread social valorisation of the victim to give Albanese an edge with the key female demographic in an election where sentiment is more potent than policy.


Women feel safer with, and more nurturing of, Albanese than Morrison, and Morrison's behaviour during the campaign has further accentuated that tendency.

If you hit Albanese, it's going to make a certain proportion of the female vote feel more nurturing and caring for him. Yet, the Coalition campaign has been one long sledge of Albanese. Of course Labor probably started the sledging with a long-running campaign against Morrison's character, but as the alpha, he's presumed to be able to take it, and as a bit of a bully, it's just rough justice.

When Scott Morrison asks Jenny what she thinks he cops flak, but when Albanese says he always tries to think what his mother would do he gets applauded. This seems inconsistent but can be explained by the different personalities. Jenny is seen as being delegated to make a decision by Morrison, so that's patriarchal alpha male, while Albanese is a delegate for his mother, that's a loyal feminist beta male.

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This article was first published in the Australian Financial Review.

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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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