If you love politics, great. If you hate politics, even better.
A former New England resident wants to learn more about why, how and when you make your voting decisions.
Raphaella Kathryn Crosby, better known in this area as Kath, has launched a PhD research project on the next Australian federal election.
She’d like to get 5000 people involved in The Voter Choice Project, and she has her eye particularly set on her “beloved home seat”.
With the election expected to be called some time between August and May, Ms Crosby already has 800 people registered and hopes to recruit the rest by the end of July.
The project asks people to complete online questionnaires exploring what shapes their choices as voters.
Is it conversations with their family, friends and workmates, or traditional or social media, or political party campaigns, or something else?
“There is no wrong way to make voting decisions, they’re all valid; we just don’t know how Australians are doing it – the last time research was done was 30 years ago,” Ms Crosby said.
Ms Crosby is no stranger to politics or the region, after being born and raised in Moree before moving to Armidale in her teens.
She managed the campaign of the Australian Democrats’ New England candidate in 2001, but said she hadn’t been actively involved in partisan politics since 2014.
The University of Technology Sydney (UTS) PhD student said she was conducting her research with “the hope of making election campaigns work better for voters”.
It was “not about manipulating people” but about ensuring that “voters are less annoyed and more informed” – by both political campaigns and media coverage.
Ms Crosby is a former political and communication strategist and a member of the International Association of Political Consultants.
Emotions run high
The questionnaires allow for written responses, and Ms Crosby expected that this electorate’s voters would have plenty to say.
That’s certainly what she found when she ran an informal, online exit poll after the by-election of December 2017.
“[I wanted] to test out the methodology of some of the questions to see if they worked ... the responses that came out of it were gobsmacking,” she said.
“Because there were lots of open text boxes and you could say whatever you liked, people really did.
“The emotion around Barnaby Joyce is just so high and I expect the same from New England this time around.”
Ms Crosby said she “really [does] feel for the people in the New England who have to go through” the next federal election.
“If Barnaby Joyce is a candidate again – and that’s a very big if – I’d expect a very emotional, very hard, very intense and very ugly campaign that’s going to hurt people, and there's nothing that can be done to stop that.”
She said she thought if the Nationals put Mr Joyce up as a candidate again, “they should expect to lose the New England”.
“If a candidate comes up who is credible, beating Barnaby Joyce this time around is not going to be hard,” she said.
“One of the best quotes from the exit poll was: ‘They [candidates] have to love the New England more than they love themselves’.
“If they are an extraordinary candidate, New England will give them the time of day.”