While there is general agreement that the economy is a major influence on electoral outcomes, there is less agreement on how to measure it. The most recent conceptualization of economic voting concerns the impact on the vote of the ownership of economic assets, or ‘patrimonial’ voting. By focusing on the economic assets that the voter owns, such as a house, a savings account or stocks, economic voting has come full circle, returning to the economic circumstances of the individual voter as originally advanced in the 1960 The American Voter study.
Using Australia as a case study—a country with some of the highest levels of asset ownership in the world—we show that property ownership, and especially share ownership, were significant influences on party choice. By contrast, ownership of an investment property or a personal superannuation fund had no significant effect on the vote. This finding is explained by the specific policies that the parties advanced during the 2016 election campaign. While the centre left Labor Party parted ways from the centre right Liberal Party by proposing radical changes to the tax treatment of investment properties but with no retrospectivity, the parties had similar positions on the tax treatment of superannuation. The findings add an important nuance to patrimonial voting, by emphasizing how party policies can shape the electoral significance of asset ownership.