Climate Change Beliefs Count: Relationships With Voting Outcomes at the 2010 Australian Federal Election


  • Rod McCrea
  • Zoe Leviston
  • Iain Walker
  • Tung-Kai Shyy


Climate change is a political as well as an environmental issue. Climate change beliefs are commonly associated with voting behaviour, but are they associated with swings in voting behaviour? The latter are arguably more important for election outcomes. This paper investigates the predictive power of these beliefs on voting swings at the 2010 Australian federal election after controlling for a range of other related factors (demographic characteristics of voters, different worldviews about nature and the role of government, and the perceived opportunity cost of addressing climate change). Drawing on data from two nationally representative surveys of voters and data from the Australian Electoral Commission, this paper investigates relationships between climate change beliefs and voting swings at both the individual and electorate levels. At an individual level, a hypothetical 10% change in climate change beliefs was associated with a 2.6% swing from a conservative Coalition and a 2.0% swing toward Labor and 1.7% toward the Greens party, both left on the political spectrum. At the electorate level, this equates to a shift of 21 seats between the two main political parties (the Coalition and Labor) in Australia’s 150 seat parliament, after allocating Green preferences. Given many seats are marginal, even modest shifts in climate change beliefs can be associated with changes in electoral outcomes. Thus, climate change is expected to remain a politically contested issue in countries like Australia where political parties seek to distinguish themselves, in part, by their responses to climate change.