The Challenge of Informed Voting Project

Project Reports

The final report for this project is available here

Project Team

  1. Rodney Smith, University of Sydney
  2. Anika Gauja, University of Sydney
  3. Paul Kildea, University of New South Wales
  4. Mel Keenan, Electoral Commission of New South Wales

Research Assistant

Charlie Cull

Electoral practitioners and observers routinely say that informed voting is important for democracy. They often lament the low levels of informed voting in Australia and elsewhere. What counts as informed voting and how it should be promoted are, however, questions that are difficult to answer. This research project is driven by four broad questions around the challenges of informed voting in Australia:

1. Why informed voting?

Why is informed voting valuable? How important is it for Austrailan democracy in the 21st century?

2. What is informed voting?

How has the problem of informed voting been understood by relevant formal and informal stakeholder institutions, such as governments, parliamentary committees, electoral administration bodies, courts, political parties and media organisations? How has it been understood by voters themselves?

3. How is informed voting currently fostered in Australia?

What information relating to voting is available from official and unofficial sources, how is it regulated, how is it delivered, and how effective is it?

4. How can informed voting be better promoted in Australia?

What concrete proposals might be implemented to help meet the challenges of informed voting in the 21 century?

Research for the project includes a critical survey of the ways in which bodies such as parliamentary committees, political parties and electoral commissions have addressed the challenge of informed voting to date. Existing survey data will be re-analysed to identify the factors associated with higher or lower levels of voter information. A series of focus groups will be used to tease out voters' perceptions about the information that they need and how it might best be delivered.

The project will be completed by September 2014.