This paper uses data from the 2001 Australian Election Study (AES), to investigate the level of party identification, political attitudes and voting behaviour in the election in Australia.This paper finds that whereas a weakening in the strength of party identification is associated with the potential significance of the development of the major1 and minor parties2. Partisan de-alignment is also changing the dynamics of the determinants of turnout. Since non-identifiers are more strongly influenced by the political context than strong identifiers, and there are now more non-identifiers than previously, the political context is becoming a more important factor in determining whether people vote or not. A question of potential importance is whether to study vote in the House of Representatives or in the Senate, or even possibly party identification. In part, this is because the voting system in the Senate is more 'minor party-friendly' because of its more proportional outcomes, but a further reason for examining Senate vote is the greater consistency in choice offered to voters (Charnock, 2004). In the House, voters in each of the electoral divisions (of which there are usually just fewer than 150) face differing choices, with (apart from the possible importance of electorate-specific issues and personalities) not all parties offering candidates in every contest. In particular, it becomes impossible to separately analyse voters for the National and Liberal parties: in view of the way in which One Nation apparently obtained much of its support in National areas, this is an important deficiency for 1998 in particular.3 In the last two decades, Australian major political parties, like those in other western democracies, have faced serious problems. These include challenges to the relevance of their traditional ideologies and institutional support bases, slipping memberships and rank and file participation, declining party identification, an erosion of confidence in majoritarian party government and the rise of new parties and social movements (Marsh 1995; Smith 1998).
Party identification is a political term to describe a voter's underlying allegiance to a political party. The term was first used in the world politics in the 1950s, but use of the term has decreased in usage as the process of party dealignment has accelerated. Party identification is a pychological attachment toward a political party that tends to influence a person's decisions on social, economic and political issues. Some researchers view party identification as " a form of social identity" (Hershey, 101), in the same way that a person identifies with a religious or ethnic group. This identity develops early in a person's life mainly through family and social influences. This description would make party identification a stable perspective, which develops as a consequence of personal, family, social and environmental factors. Other researchers consider party identification to be more flexible and more of a conscious choice. They see it as a position and a choice based on the continued assessment of the political, economic and social environment. A person who identifies with a particular political party is called a partisan. The partisan accepts the standard beliefs