About half of voters – and more than two-thirds of young people – are considering backing independents at the upcoming Victorian and New South Wales state elections, in a trend described as the “Uberisation” of politics.
The latest Guardian Essential poll shows 48% of 1,100 respondents in Victoria and NSW are considering voting for an independent if one were to run in their electorate.
There is also a generational divide. Of the 351 respondents aged 18-34, 69% are either very seriously (18%) or fairly seriously (51%) considering voting for an independent.
However, of the 368 respondents aged 55 and older, 44% won’t consider voting for an independent, while 32% are not seriously considering it.
The executive director of Essential Media, Peter Lewis, said the result reflects a shift away from the major parties, particularly by Gen Z and millennials, who together outnumber baby boomers on the electoral roll for the first time.
“This is the Uberisation of politics – a new generation that doesn’t want the old institutions – they want a politician on demand,” Lewis told Guardian Australia.
“A local independent isn’t constrained by the institutional requirements you have when you’re a member of a party that’s governing for the entire country. Instead, you are a representative for an individual community.”
Lewis said some MPs manage to strike a balance between being a good local member and party politician, citing Labor’s Dan Repacholi in the Hunter and Sally Sitou in Reid.
“But it’s harder for them because they’ve got a base which is institutional, a bit like how a taxi driver is part of an institutional business model, whereas the Uber driver just drives around with an app,” he said.
When asked who they would vote for if a state election was held tomorrow, only 8.1% of respondents in Victoria and 6.8% in NSW said they would give their first-preference vote to an existing independent candidate. However, only a relatively small number of independents have yet declared their candidacy.
Lewis also pointed to a large undecided vote in both states – 11.9% in Victoria and 12.8% in NSW.
“When you add up either independent or uncommitted in both states you’re looking at about 20% of voters,” he said.
“What that says to me is younger voters are looking around.”
The polling was conducted between 31 August and 7 September.
La Trobe university political scientist Andrea Carson said while people shouldn’t draw definitive conclusions from individual polls, she wasn’t surprised there’s an appetite for independent candidates at a state level.
“It’s barely been more than 100 days since the federal election, so the gloss hasn’t worn off yet,” Carson said.
“A third of Australians parked their vote outside the major parties of the last federal election, primary votes for both Labor and the Coalition are now in the 30s compared to the 40s a decade ago.
“It may not translate perfectly to state politics but there’s definitely a trend that extends even beyond Australia.”
Several independents have announced they will run with the backing of groups that helped federal MPs Monique Ryan and Zoe Daniel win the former Liberal Victorian strongholds of Kooyong and Goldstein.
Independents Sophie Torney and Melissa Lowe recently announced they will run in Kew and Hawthorn – both seats that overlap with Kooyong – while Felicity Frederico, Clark Martin and Nomi Kaltmann are contesting Brighton, Sandringham and Caulfield, respectively, which make up much of Goldstein.
Independents are running in Albert Park and Bellarine, where longtime ministers Martin Foley and Lisa Neville are retiring, as well as Mornington, Nepean and South-West Coast.
In NSW, the group behind the early stages of independent MP Kylea Tink’s campaign for the federal seat of North Sydney have announced they are looking for candidates for the state seats of Lane Cove, North Shore and Willoughby.
Karen Freyer, a former candidate for the city of Sydney council, has set up a Twitter page, Vaucluse Independent.