In a recent newspaper article, John Black, former Labor senator and present chief executive of Australian Development Strategies, wrote an article on the demographics of voter patterns in the recent federal election (“ALP and Liberals Primarily in Decline” Weekend Australian, August 27-28, 18-19). It was an interesting and insightful article as usual. I could not help but note, however, these paragraphs:
When my demographic profilers compared the Senate votes across states not affected by redistributions, we found the correlation between the PUP [Palmer United Party] 2013 Senate primary vote and the Hanson 2016 Senate primary vote was a robust 0.74. So we know their national votes were about the same, and we know that, at the individual level, they tended to rise and fall together.
The demographics underlying both groups looked very similar: Palmer and then Hanson won the bulk of their support in Bible belt seats in the bush or on the fringes of big cities, where we find lower-income voters who did not graduate from high school, frequently relying on welfare cheques to meet the mortgage.
I am quite well connected with the church in Perth and do not recognise the church or churches of which he speaks. I am somewhat familiar with larger churches in Melbourne, and there too, I see something different to that which is described here. I was talking to friends in Sydney and they said, “He evidently hasn’t been to any of the evangelical churches here!” They meant that the churches they were familiar with are so middle class they do not reflect anything of this characterisation.
Perhaps the churches in Brisbane are quite different. Or not.
One of my friends in Sydney said, “Yes, I read that article too; I thought it was dripping with contempt.” John Black didn’t give any data to support this particular claim; I would like to see it. More likely is that he has decided he knows what Christians are like, perhaps based on American caricatures of Evangelicals. Is this another case of the marginalisation (maligning?) of Christians in popular media?