EVERY time someone from outside the New England criticised Barnaby Joyce, his vote gets higher as locals dig their heels in, a voter behavioural researcher says.
When voters within the electorate see Mr Joyce being criticised, they often feel they are personally being criticised, James Cook University researcher Raphaella Kathryn Crosby said.
“One of the big problems we are picking up from the social media analysis, which is being reflected in the surveys, is that when people criticised Barnaby Joyce, they are also critical of New Englanders,” she said.
“When people say he’s stupid or corrupt, they’re also saying the electorate is stupid and corrupt because they voted him back in.
“We see this a lot on Facebook. People are attacking New Englanders, and they are reacting and defending themselves, and that's completely understandable.
“The more they are told they are bad people, the more they are going to stick by their man.”
Ms Crosby said people within the electorate had an incredible strong sense of identity – more so than other regions – and don’t take kindly to outside influence.
“People refer to themselves as New Englanders, which we don’t find in too many other places,” she said.
“It’s deeply socially entrenched. Even if someone is not a big Nationals supporter, they feel like they are being attacked because of their identity as a New Englander.
“A good example is to look at it as a family – even if your brother does something stupid, you’re always going to defend him to people you don't know having a go at him. That’s what it’s like, you always defend your own against outsiders.”
If New England really care for our country they shouldn’t vote for you Joyce . It would be criminal to vote for you ! Anyone who votes for you now is NOT privileged upstairs !— Scott Taylor (@ScottTa51428280) January 30, 2019
Activist groups like GetUp, who have made no secret of their campaign to oust Mr Joyce, were actually “shooting themselves in the foot”.
“Their tactics might work in city electorates, but somewhere like New England where people are so defensive of outsiders, it’s going to hurt them,” she said.
Ms Crosby’s Voter Choice Project aims to track the social patterns over a long period of time, taking in to account a wider range of factors and variables, to discover the reasons underpinning voter behaviour.
The project also shows that while National supports are heartbroken, feeling betrayed and abandoned by their party, they are not angry enough to vote out Mr Joyce.
While many city voters were hostile to the party, with similar anger levels as was directed to the Liberal Party, rural voters are sad about the decline of ‘their’ party.
Proves you can't educate a crop of pumpkins. The sickening lack of ethics, moral integrity & care for the environment reflected in the actions of rusted on @The_Nationals voters has been self evident for a while. I'm in New England & these Barnaby supporters disgust me no end.— MSM Not-a-Bot (@MSMWatchdog2013) January 31, 2019
“People are clearly distraught, describing their feelings towards the party as being appalled and horrified, and referring to parents turning in their graves,” Ms Crosby said.
More than three quarters of respondents felt that Mr Joyce’s affair and sexual harassment allegations were not handled well by the party; however, many didn’t care about the affair, what they didn’t like was the cover up, or issues around misuse of power and entitlements.
Based of the the New England participants in the project – which is only an indicative sample and not a representative sample – Mr Joyce is on track to a similar win to 2016, with around 50 per cent of first preferences.