About Voter Studies

The AES routinely collects data among a nationally representative sample of voters and among major party candidates standing for election (the latter is the Australian Candidate Study – ACS). Both the voter and candidate instruments combine a common set of questions. More details on the general methodology used are detailed below, and specific information about the methods used for a particular year is available from the information page for that wave.

The 1987 survey was funded by a consortium of universities and the 2007 survey by the ANU; all of the subsequent surveys have been funded by the Australian Research Council and its predecessors. Each of the eleven surveys conducted since 1987 has had a core theme:

1987 The economy

1990 The environment and environmentalism

1993 Political culture

1996 National identity and citizenship

1998 Constitution, rights and minorities

1999 Constitutional referendum

2001 Challenges to governance

2004 The decline of political parties

2007 Democracy and representation

2010 The dynamics of political choice

2013 Volatility and electoral change

2016-19 Political engagement among the young

The AES methodology

All of the AES studies are national, post-election self-completion surveys with the sample drawn randomly from the electoral register. Since 2010 the surveys have also included an online completion option. The 1993 AES over-sampled in some of the smaller states and because of this the sample was weighted down to represent the national population.

The sample is drawn by the Australian Electoral Commission after the close of rolls for the election in question. The envelopes contain an individually addressed and signed letter explaining the purposes of the study and a guarantee of confidentiality, the questionnaire, and a return postage-paid envelope. One week later all respondents are mailed a thank you/reminder postcard; this postcard has a considerable impact on the response rate. Several follow-ups are usually conducted. In 2016 the sample was divided between one based on the electoral roll, as in past surveys, and one based on the Geo-Coded National Address File (G-NAF).

The 2016-19 study will also involve a panel component, with a sample of the 2016 respondents being re-interviewed in 2019. This will be the first panel survey concerned with political behaviour conducted in Australia since the 1967-69 Australian National Political Attitudes Surveys.

Australian Election Study Sample Details, 1987-2016
The response rate is estimated as: valid responses/(total sample−moved or gone away).
The 2010 response rate is the figure for the initial self-completion sample.
Total SampleValid responsesEffective response (%)
19873,0611,82562.8
19903,6062,02058.0
19934,9503,02362.8
19963,0001,79561.8
19983,5021,89657.7
20014,0002,01055.4
20044,2501,76944.5
20075,0001,87340.2
20105,2002,06141.9
201312,2003,95533.9
201612,4972,81822.5

The AES studies

Note that the AES Datasets are hosted by the Australian Data Archive Dataverse instance. Clicking on a Dataverse link will open the AES Dataverse dataset in a new page.

1987

The AES 1987 study has two goals. The first is to continue the broad line of enquiry established by the 1967 and 1979 Australian National Political Attitudes surveys so that patterns of stability and change in the political attitudes and behaviour of the Australian electorate can be traced over two decades. The second is to assess the electoral impact of forces specific to this election in order better to understand its outcome.

1990

Two major themes are covered in the survey, the economy and the environment. Questions on the economy include retrospective and prospective evaluations of the country’s economy and the individual’s own personal household situation; wages and price controls; attitudes to particular economic issues; and the position of the major parties and party leaders on the main economic issues.

1993

The 1993 survey replicates many questions from the 1987 and 1990 Australian Election Studies, but also introduces a variety of new questions including a section on foreign affairs and defence, and attitudes to Federal and State government.

1996

The 1996 survey replicates many questions from the 1987, 1990 and 1993 Australian Election Studies, but also introduces a variety of new questions including a section on national identity.

1998

The 1998 survey replicates many questions from the 1987, 1990, 1993 and 1996 Australian Election Studies, but also introduces a variety of new questions including a section on the constitution, rights and minorities.

2001

The 2001 survey replicates many questions from the previous Australian Election Studies, but also introduces a variety of new questions including a section on political and social institutions.

2004

The 2004 survey replicates many questions from the previous Australian Election Studies, but also introduces a variety of new questions including a section on political and global issues.

2007

The 2007 survey replicates many questions from the previous Australian Election Studies, but also introduces a variety of new questions including a series of questions of Australia’s social welfare system.

2010

The 2010 survey replicates many questions from the previous Australian Election Studies, but also introduces new questions regarding internet usage in election campaigns.

2013

The 2013 survey replicates many questions from the previous Australian Election Studies, but also introduces new questions regarding immigrants to Australia.

2016

One of the greatest challenges to democracy in Australia and internationally is to understand the lack of political engagement among the young. Young people are less likely to vote, to join a political party, or to engage in interest groups than at any time since democratization. The 2016 Australian Election Study is designed to address this question by examining engagement in and attitudes to politics, as well as replicating many questions from the previous Australian Election Studies.

1987-2016 Trends

The tables in this excel file can be used to produce graphs on Australian politics, without the need to conduct analyses separately on the Australian Election Study (AES) data files for individual years. 95 descriptive tables are included for AES data from 1987 to 2016. The tables in this file match the charts contained in the report, Trends in Australian Political Opinion: Results from the Australian Election Study 1987-2016 (Cameron and McAllister 2016). The tables also break down these trends by gender, age group, education level, and vote in the House of Representatives, as presented graphically in the AES interactive charts, available on the AES website. AES question items are included where there is time series data spanning at least three elections.

The tables are grouped into eleven themes, including:
1) The election campaign; 2) Voting and partisanship; 3) Election issues; 4) The economy; 5) Politics and political parties; 6) The left-right dimension; 7) The political leaders; 8) Democracy and institutions; 9) Trade unions, business and wealth; 10) Social issues; and 11) Defence and foreign affairs.