back to top

Liberals Are Privately Shitting Themselves Because The Marriage Survey Could Seriously Backfire

"You're motivating a group of people, the large portion of them young, who are naturally going to vote against you at the next election."

Posted on

Liberal MPs and strategists are privately expressing concerns about how an influx of new voters for the same-sex marriage survey could cost them at the next election.

On Monday evening, the Australian Electoral Commission revealed almost 37,000 new voters had joined the electoral roll since the announcement of the same-sex marriage survey, with more than 434,000 others updating their details.

Those numbers are expected to climb in the next few days, with political parties, campaigners and publicly funded awareness campaigns encouraging people to register or update their details ahead of the Thursday deadline for survey enrolments.

According to AEC figures, there remain more than half a million people aged 18 to 39 who aren't on the electoral roll. But once people join the roll they are then required to vote in all future elections.

Over the last few days BuzzFeed News has spoken to MPs, strategists, and campaigners about how these new voters could affect the government's chances at the next election, tipped to be held next year.

One senior Liberal strategist said that while it remains unclear just how many of the tens of thousands of new voters are young or old — and how many have been energised politically by the "yes" and "no" campaigns — people are already making assumptions.

He said it's safe to assume they're more likely to be young and socially progressive.

"You're motivating a group of people, the large portion of them young, who are naturally going to vote against you at the next election," the strategist said.

"It's just not smart."

A senior government MP pointed BuzzFeed News to the handful of Coalition politicians who hold marginal seats by fewer than 2,500 votes.

Liberal Party Australia

In the tight, one-seat majority government, Victoria's Julia Banks holds Chisholm by 2,154 votes, while New South Wales' Ann Sudmalis and Lucy Wicks sit on margins of 1,503 and 2,179, respectively.

The Liberal MP with the smallest electoral margin is Bert van Manen, who holds the Brisbane seat of Forde on just 1,062 votes.

"Van Manen, Sudmalis, Wicks, they only need a few hundred of those new voters to bring them down," the MP told BuzzFeed News.

Against the backdrop of this influx of new enrolments, the High Court will hear two legal challenges, on Sept 5 and 6, about whether the same-sex marriage survey should even be held at all.

Even if the High Court challenge succeeds and the survey is subsequently scrapped, the new voters who've already registered will remain on the electoral roll for future elections.

One senior Liberal source said there was a discussion going on behind closed doors about whether the party should even be committing any resources to encourage voters to participate.

"We are seeing young Liberal people out there, getting out enrolling people to vote," the source said. "It could be a bad idea for next year."

was it good idea to start hate campaign that encourage thousand of young progressive voter to enrol

In the last few weeks, prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has led a public campaign against progressive lobby group GetUp's influence in Australian politics.

GetUp's marriage equality spokesperson Sally Rugg said Turnbull has "played himself" by getting new voters to sign up for the survey.

"Tens of thousands of young people have gone and enrolled themselves so they can take part in the survey, and young people who love marriage equality are probably the least likely people to vote for the Liberal party," Rugg said.

"In caving to the far right of his party and holding this postal survey, Turnbull has stunningly played himself."

Mark Di Stefano is a media and politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Mark Di Stefano at

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.