The Tasmanian Greens are trying to pick up Liberal votes. This is hardly surprising and exactly what we would expect the happen under the median voter theory. Political parties are likely to maximise the probability of attracting voters if they locate themselves in the political centre – so we have the centre-right and the centre-left competing for office.
A few years ago my RMIT colleague Tim Fry and I did some work using the Australian Election Survey on voting behaviour and identification on the political spectrum and we found that the relationship between where people are located on the Left-Right spectrum (one dimensional only) and voting behaviour is quite strong.
The Greens even use appropriate language to make their case:
Are your political views closer to those of Malcolm Turnbull than those of Tony Abbott?
Consider a vote for the Greens.
Very clever – but Tim Fry and I also found that people didn’t just vote for the party with the closest view to themselves, they voted for the party on the same side of the spectrum to themselves. The Greens are perceived to be a left-wing party (surprisingly Green voters placed themselves further to the left than did the general population – that may have changed). So it is unlikely that a Liberal voter will jump across the ALP and vote for the Greens.
What they might be trying to do is pick up the libertarian vote. Again I’ve some work with Tim Fry (and Breanna Pellegrini) on this topic. The data relate to federal elections:
The broader definition (D1) suggests that the bulk of classical liberal voters support the elected government of the day. In 1990 and 1993, a larger proportion voted for the ALP, and between 1996 and 2004 a larger proportion voted for the Liberal Party. The Liberal share of votes from D1 classical liberals was especially high in 1998 and 2004. It appears that they supported the introduction of the GST and were unconcerned about the Iraq War and the (alleged) loss of civil liberties associated with the ‘war on terror.’ This result is very different from the US experience. Classical liberals in the narrow definition (D2) show a very high level of support for the Liberal Party. Again, it appears that classical liberals supported the introduction of the GST. To the extent that Australian classical liberals are concerned about the Iraq war and the alleged loss of civil liberties, this has not had any impact on the data. The classical liberal vote for the government rose from 50% in 2001 to 50.91% in 2004. In contrast, the US classical liberal vote for George W. Bush fell by 13% between 2000 and 2004. Classical liberals under D2 are very loyal Liberal Party voters—but, as Norton argues, they are also very rare.
Here is the important bit:
Liberal-voting classical liberals under both definitions place themselves to the left of the Liberal Party on a left–right continuum. This suggests they vote for the economic policies of the Liberal Party. The positioning of Labor-voting classical liberals (again, under both definitions) is more complex; they place themselves to the left of the ALP, but to the right of the Liberal Party. We interpret this as indicating that they vote for the ALP because of its social policies.
Based on that – albeit now dated – analysis I suspect, at best, the Tasmanian Greens are likely to pick up libertarian votes that might otherwise have gone to the ALP.
Overall though the way the median voter theory works is that political parties gravitate to the centre, not stand at the periphery and call the voters to come to them.