Putin-Style Leader Looking Increasingly Attractive To Young Aussies, Study Finds
Canberra's revolving door has left a bad taste in the mouths of young Aussies. They are now becoming attracted to the idea of having an authoritarian leader who doesn't have to bother with parliament and elections.
The new Australian Values Study, conducted by the Australian National University's Centre for Social Research and Methods, found more than a third of Australians rate having this kind of "strongman" leader as being "very good" or "fairly good".
The support for this idea, which has increased from 28 percent in 2012, is particularly strong among Aussies under 35.
For an age group which has grown up knowing only instability within government, lead researcher Dr Jill Sheppard said the findings of the survey of 1,800 people weren't exactly surprising.
"Australians, particularly young Australians, are expressing a really deep and concerning disenchantment with our political system," Dr Sheppard told ten daily.
"If you were socialised into politics in the last ten years, you've never known a prime minister to last more than a term. You've not known parties who don't squabble and seem to have their own interests, who don't seem to have interests of all Australians as their core purpose."
On Saturday, voters in the Sydney electorate of Wentworth headed to the polls for a by-election sparked by our eighth leadership spill in the past eight years -- four of which, have been successful.
The spill tossed Malcolm Turnbull -- our sixth prime minister in just ten years -- from the top job.
The Appeal Of A 'Strongman' Leader
For the majority of Australians, democracy is still their one and only, with almost nine in ten people of the belief having a democratic political system is either 'very good' or 'fairly good'.
Confidence in specific political organisations however, is declining.
According to the report, 27 percent of Australians have 'no confidence at all' in political parties, and no more than one percent have expressed 'a great deal' of confidence in any of the four times the study has been undertaken since 1981.
When it comes to the increasing willingness of younger Aussies to consider authoritarian leadership, Dr Sheppard says it's likely less a real demand for a new form of government and more a frustration with the failings of the system we have.
"In political science we talk about the appeal of 'strongman' leadership, of a single figurehead who can get things done, promise to implement policies and then actually follow through on that," she explained.
The past decade in Australian politics hasn't won many over in this regard, lecturer in politics at Monash University Dr Zareh Ghazarian told ten daily.
As well as a leadership spill, this year alone has seen notable backflips.
Under threat of a leadership challenge --which would eventually see him ousted from office -- Malcolm Turnbull abandoned the commitment to legislate a 26 percent emissions reduction target in line with the Paris Climate Agreement.
Less than a decade before, he had declared he "would not lead a party that is not as committed to effective action on climate change as I am".
"The parties chop and change leaders, the leaders themselves chop and change what they believe in and what they say they'll do," Dr Ghararian said.
"There's this sense that leaders and parties are unable to articulate what it is they stand for. I think therein lies the disappointment many Australians have with contemporary politics."
What Shifting Attitudes May Mean Come Election Time
While it's unlikely an overtly authoritarian style leader is ever going to successfully come into power-- given the way our political system works and compulsory voting-- this doesn't mean this voter frustration isn't causing changes.
"What we've seen over the last two electoral cycles is the dramatic growth in the number of minor parties contesting the elections and therein lies the sign as to what's happening," Dr Ghararian explained.
"Voters who are simply not happy with the state of political leadership, with the state of the parties, are very happy and willing to support non traditional players to represent them."
As for the young voters potentially looking beyond democracy for answers to their political confusion, Dr Sheppard says its the responsibility of leaders and experts alike to begin a conversation about ways to fix the system currently in place that don't involve "throwing out everything we've fought for".