Your Parents Have Probably Influenced Your Vote More Than You Think

My parents have long been staunch Labor supporters, and would faithfully vote for the party in each federal election. Looking back at my childhood I can now see how much this influenced my attitude toward politics – even when I was in Year 5, I wrote something about Alexander Downer and made a play-on-words with his last name, like a really terrible joke. Did I know anything about his policies or attitudes? Fuck no. I assume now that I’d overheard my parents talking about him negatively and thought I was being cool slagging him off in my primary school story.

[jwplayer wnC9Zumv]

You could write this off as a cute kid moment – acting like an adult by mimicking those around you. But it’s interesting that for years and years, I never questioned my loyalty to Labor. When I turned 18, I didn’t sit down and study all the parties and what they stood for, making an informed personal decision about where I’d place my very first federal election vote. I just “knew” from what my parents had told me that Liberals stood for the rich, and Labor for the rest.

You could say this was ignorant. And you’d be absolutely right. These days I am more shrewd with my vote, choosing to research parties’ policy promises before choosing where to place it. My pivotal moment came when I discovered that Labor had staunch policies against asylum seekers that I didn’t agree with.  Suddenly, my belief that Labor were always the party I aligned with shifted. I looked into the Greens policies and realised that over time, I had become a Greens supporter, not a Labor one. But I’d always thought automatically “Greens are too hard-line, they’re unrealistic”. I realised this was because my dad had said this once or twice when I was younger.

Why am I telling you this story about my voting preferences? Because I believe many of us still place our vote based on how our parents spoke about politics and parties when we were young.

The AEC did a study into youth voting in 2011, discovering that the #1 source of information when it came to voting for young people aged 18-25 was their parents. Second was TV, and third was papers. It’s natural for us to absorb information from those around us when we’re young, and parents are, for many of us, the most present adult in our lives.

Cleo was always a Liberal supporter because of her parents.

My parents are small business owners, and have the belief that the Liberal party “takes care” of and protects small businesses. I’m not really sure how true it is, but for the last ten years they influenced my voting decisions and I would vote Liberal because I cared about their business and their wellbeing – I saw how the stresses of rising interest rates and mortgages played on their minds.

However, in the last election she voted differently.

Over the last couple of years things have become more serious with my partner & I became more aware of the surroundings around me, and the options I hah to make Australia an easier place to live. I started understanding more & more about social, economic and financial policies and began to research more about what political parties align better with my interests. Eg, my bf and I just bought a house, so political parties that “promise” to address high interest rates & do something about it, interest me me now.

Investigating party policies doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll swing your vote entirely away from your parents. Elise found she remained loyal to Labor and the Greens, like her parents have always been.

Growing up I knew both of my parents (especially my dad) were VERY against Liberal leadership, so I think that probably influenced how I vote, especially when I was 18 and didn’t have much of a grasp on anything political. These days, I still tend to vote Greens/Labor, with Libs/One Nation/etc all last.

Then you have families where politics aren’t discussed – Mitch grew up in a house where his parents actively avoided discussing political preferences with their children present.

“I remember every election trying to trick mum into telling me who she was voting for, and never once did she let slip. I appreciate it in hindsight as it let me figure my own shit out when i turned 18.”

Clearly as we get older, we’re questioning our political beliefs and making informed decisions. But imagine if me, Elise and Cleo researched who to vote for at 18? With youth enrolment at 96.8% this election (thanks in large part to a push during the Marriage Equality vote), people aged 18-25 can make a real difference to the direction that the federal election goes. But if we’re all just voting how our parents vote because we’ve blindly believed their ideas about political parties and what they stand for without doing any research ourselves, we’re essentially letting a different generation dictate this election.

I think it’s fantastic that people I polled about this came to realise they needed to make informed decisions about their political alignment. But let’s start doing it earlier – at 18, when we reach voting age.

One person I polled did exactly that. Dave grew up rurally, with a family that backed the Nationals.

“There wasn’t a lot of talk about politics when I was growing up – my parents never drilled it into me that I should align with their politics, I just knew that our family were country people and country people vote National. One defining moment for me was when John Howard came to my school for an event – I shook his hand, aware that he was an important person, but I later went away and looked into some of his politics and decided that he was not someone I would ever want to vote for or support. I never tried to bring my parents around to a different way of thinking because that seemed like a lot more trouble than it would be worth, but from late high school on I was happy to make up my own mind politically.”

I believe it’s imperative that we stop before this federal election and consider why we vote the way we do, and in an ideal world we’d do that as a teenager, like Dave. Maybe you’re freshly 18 and looking for some political direction. That’s great – that’s the point here. It’s not about who you vote for, just that you’re making an educated decision.

Maybe you’re older and realising that everything you believed about political parties came from your household growing up. It’s not too late to start looking into who supports what this election, and making sure your vote is going toward policies you believe in.

Let’s make our vote count for us as individuals. Because we’re voting with all the facts, not off the back of what our parents told us when we were young. Instead of just voting with little to no idea about what your preferred candidate stands for, jump online and research the policies of the parties, yeah?

If you want to dive into party policies, a great place to start is the ABC’s Vote Compass. It asks you a series of questions, and your answers will show you which parties align with your own beliefs. It’s also worth looking at the major parties pages and having a read over their policies for this federal election – Labor, Liberal, Nationals & Greens.