A major new federal election study has a "seismic shift" warning for the major parties and the teal independents, tracking a pronounced trend towards progressive voting and finding that most teal voters were not "disaffected Liberals".
The 2022 Australian Election Study, released on Monday by ANU and Griffith University, also found the extent of the Scott Morrison election disaster, finding he was the least popular major party leader since it started tracking political sentiment in 1987.
The election study surveyed a nationally representative sample of 2508 voters to find almost one in three voters voted for independents, Greens and minor party candidates on May 21, the highest turn off from Labor and the Liberal-Nationals coalition in nearly 100 years.
"What happened in 2022 was more advanced than we've ever seen, particularly in things like generational change, about women abandoning the Liberals about the influence of political leadership, and so on," study co-author Professor Ian McAllister told The Canberra Times.
"And, of course, it was also an odd election in the sense it was held at the end of an existential crisis, namely the pandemic."
While there is now a record crossbench in Parliament, including the teal independents capturing Liberal seats and the now four Greens MPs, Professor McAllister said a progressive trend combined with major party disenchantment has been building for some time.
The study authors note Australia's younger voter pool is growing and embracing moral political issues over economic management.
"What our surveys have been showing over long periods of time is that the electorate is moving away, towards the left and it is moving towards socially progressive issues," Professor McAllister said.
"As the electorate starts moving away towards the centre left, the Liberal Party is moving away towards the centre right. They're actually moving away from where the electorate is moving."
"People who are "baby boomers" and "the silent generation", they're moving out of the system, and they're the core supporters for the Liberals. You've got millennials, generation Z and so on. And then you have got the new generations which in a fairly short space of time will be a majority of the electorate."
The 2022 result was a disaster election loss for the Liberals and the lowest first preference vote for Labor since 1934. Professor McAllister expects the major parties to try to rein in defection by adapting new policies and new issues.
"There's a threat for both major political parties there. But of course, the one that everybody focuses on is the Liberals," he said.
"Where this will go is I think there will be more volatility, there'll be more support from minor parties and independents. More will be elected. What you normally see in these circumstances is that the major political party starts adapting."
The teals offered a viable alternative in Liberal moderate city seats, but they were not standing in every seat.
The report found that four out of five teal voters were not "disaffected Liberals", but tactical Labor and Greens voters. Only one in five voters had previously voted for the Coalition.
"So they've taken the decision about 'how do we get the local incumbent Liberal out of the seat?' Well, the thing is to vote teal, not to vote Labor or Green," he said.
It corresponds with polling released during the federal election on the ACT Senate race which showed independent David Pocock was taking more votes from Labor and the Greens, than votes from the then Liberal Senator Zed Seselja.
With Labor now in power federally, that has implications about where the teals can and will go.
"If most of the support is really Labor and Green voters, those voters could go back to voting Greens and Labor, if they felt their candidate was competitive in the electorate," he said.
"They've got to do something. They've got to form themselves into a group that has a particular identity that they can use and so on."
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese scored 5.3 out of 10 when it came to popularity of political leaders, while Scott Morrison bottomed out on 3.8 out of 10. That is down from his score of 5.1 in 2019.
"Well, Scott Morrison was incredibly unpopular. The most unpopular leader we've ever polled," he said. "So Morrison was a serious impediment to the Liberals in '22. Now, having said that, the pandemic was a real problem for the Liberals as well."
Mr Albanese's score makes him the most popular Labor leader since Kevin Rudd in 2007, with Bill Shorten scoring 4.0 out of 10 in 2019.