The questions that count

Trends: We’re Still A Classy Mob

Mar 11, 2012

We are still a class act


‘Class’ and ‘zeitgeist’ may seem strange bedfellows, but in the wake of Treasurer Wayne Swan’s much-pilloried call to arms against the very rich, they appear be staging an unexpected hook-up.

The accepted wisdom was that we had moved beyond class, a view propagated by both Tories trying to seduce battlers and Labor apparatchiks reaching out to the aspirationalists, all in a bid to capture a mythical centre.

But according to the Essential Report this week, the vast, vast majority of Australians still subscribe that that relic of Marxist analysis – when asked if class still matter sin Australia, they answer resoundingly in the affirmative.

Q. Do you believe social classes still exist in Australia? 

 

Total

Vote Labor

Vote Lib/Nat

Vote Greens

Yes

86%

87%

83%

90%

No

8%

8%

11%

3%

Don’t know

7%

5%

6%

7%

 

This is not some trendy leftie proposition for Green voters and latte-sipping inner city trendies, indeed the belief in classes exists across the political spectrum – it’s just that no one talks about it.

What’s more, about a third of the public (interestingly, higher than the Labor primary vote) see themselves as working class, with more than 50 per cent self-identifying as middle class and just a handful self-identifying as Upper Class.

Q. Do you consider yourself:

 

Total

Vote Labor

Vote Lib/Nat

Vote Greens

Working class

34%

41%

30%

24%

Middle class

50%

46%

54%

64%

Upper class

1%

*

1%

None of them

12%

11%

12%

12%

Don’t know

3%

2%

2%

 

We also asked people to identify the dollar figure that would define individuals and households as ‘middle income’, ‘well-off’ and wealthy’.

The median results are as follows:

Household Individuals
‘middle income’ $94,000 $66,000
‘well-off’ $111,000 $69,000
‘wealthy’ $159,000 $106,000

 

The median of ‘wealthy family’ is critical – $150,0000 of course is the cut off point for the health care rebate which sparked a tabloid outcry – but in the public’s mind $150,000 is beyond the purveyor of the well-off – its is the territory of the welfare

It puts in play a whole range of other Howard middle class welfare measures – the baby bonus, child care rebates, carer allowances, pharmaceutical benefits, student allowances and the much vaunted Family Tax Benefits, to name just a few.

But if the majority of Australians see a combined household income of $150,000 as wealthy, the government has a ready-made limit to reintroduce some constraints on its reverse-taxation payments to the community.

In light of these findings it’s also unsurprising the high level of support for Treasurer’s recent statement that some of Australia’s wealthiest individuals are using their wealth to try to influence public opinion and government policy to further their own commercial interests

 

A. Wayne Swan statement

B. Unattributed statement

 

Total

Vote Labor

Vote Lib/Nat

Vote Greens

Total

Vote Labor

Vote Lib/Nat

Vote Greens

Total agree

58%

78%

36%

89%

60%

67%

55%

75%

Total disagree

26%

6%

51%

2%

24%

18%

30%

14%

* each question was asked of half the total sample.

The interesting point here is that once we took out the fact that Wayne Sawn had made the comments about the very wealthy, even the majority of Liberal voters agreed – although the Labor faithful tapered off a bit.

So if Tony Abbott wants to give Labor a narrow whiff at redemption he should continue to campaign against a mining tax.

While he is at it he should accuse the government of employing the ‘politics of envy’, as mining moguls continue to air their extremely expensive dirty linen in public.

And if he really wants to give the government momentum he should talk about Australia having moved beyond the class, while he proposes more measures that are blind to inequality – like a parental leave scheme that delivers you more depending on how much you earn.

Class and Zeitgeist – who’d a thunk?

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