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ACM Home arrow Opinion Polling

Opinion Polling
 

An opinion poll is a survey of public opinion from a particular sample.

The sample and questions are designed to indicate the opinion of a larger group, for example the nation.
 
 Some general comments on opinion polling and opinion polling in relation to constitutional change follow these initial comments.  

In a nation obsessed at the political and media level in polling, it is worth at this point introducing some cynicism about polling.

The nation’s eminent psephologist, Malcolm Mackerras, once read out a definition handed to him by an ACM supporter.

It went something like this: “An opinion poll consists of the answers of those willing to respond to uninvited questions put without notice on matters on which the respondents have not had the time to consider.”



...from intial polling to the actual vote...



Before we come to our conclusions on polling on a politicians' republic, we should bear in mind that polls taken before a debate on a referendum proposal will normally record  significantly support than during the referndum.

The trend line indicates that support for a vague undefined republic  is at the time of writing,  as a percentage, only in the low forties.

Because the people will have the opportunity to hear both sides, it is likely to fall even further at the actual vote.

This happened in 1999 even with a highly biassed mainline media and a wealthy Yes campign supported by twothirds of the politicians.


This will be exacerbated by the precise question which must introduce a model. Many hitherto Yes voters opposing the model chosen will then prefer the constiutional monarchy.  

This is the reason why republicans prefer an intial plebiscite or plebiscites. They are even divided on the number of plebiscites.



...15 Conclusions...



At the present time polling and other evidence suggests fifteen  conclusions:

1.  Since the 1999 republic referendum, there has been a long term decline in support for a vague undefined ( politicians’) republic. Polling from just before the federal election in 2013 indicates that overall support for such a republic ranges between 33%  to  40%   

2.  From before the referendum, polling has indicated that the middle aged are the most supportive of a vague undefined republic, with lower support among the young and until recently even lower support  among the aged. This can be represented by a slightly lopsided bell curve.

3. From 2013, the young have turned more against a vague undefined republic and in most polls are less supportive than even the elderly.

4. Support for a vague undefined republic is strongest among inner city voters, especially middle aged males and supporters of the Greens.

5. Once a republican  model is announced as the preferred republic, the Condorcet principle espoused by psephologist  Malcolm Mackerras applies and  support for a republic will fall. In other words, a significant number of republicans will always prefer the constitutional monarchy over the opposing model. Accordingly the ARM  has since 1999 been in the paradoxical situation of refusing to reveal what sort of republic it is actually campaigning for.

6. Interest in republican change is generally weak and declining.  According to the July 2014 Newspoll, strong supporters of change fell from 25% in 2011 to 22%. Among the young, strong supporters were down from 20% to 17%. The contrasting experiences of ACM and the ARM in calling  public demonstrations leads us to conclude that many more monarchists are strong supporters of their cause than are republicans.

6. The latest poll on the republican model which provides that  the people rather than the politicians elect the president - the ''direct elect model''- indicates no greater support than for the 1999 alternative. But when  asked how the president should be chosen if Australia were to become a republic,  respondents indicate a very strong preference for direct election. In the 2014 Newspoll, the young were, at 87%, the most supportive of direct election. At the same time they were least supportive of change to any republic. Australians seem to be saying: ''We don't want a republic, but if one is forced on us, we- and not the politicians - will choose the president''.

7.  As with any other polling, a "rogue" poll will from sometimes go against the trend. But the trend lines across the polls and over time indicate declining support for a vague undefined ( politicians’) republic.

8.  From this data we conclude that another referendum on the 1999 model would be overwhelmingly defeated and that a referendum on a model involving the direct election of a President would also be defeated ( republican Professor Craven says the defeat of the latter would be greater than in 1999);

9. A referendum delaying change until the end the reign has been proposed by former prime minister Bob Hawke. No significant group has adopted this.  

10.  ACM has always been opposed to what it calls the ''blank cheque plebiscite''. We  believe that if a plebiscite were to be held, the question would be manipulated by taxpayer funded ''spin doctors''. We warn there is likely to be substantial taxpayer funding  for “education” and “information”, probably little or no public funding for the No case,  possibly no Yes/No booklet, and with strong support from about two thirds of the politicians and  from the mainstream media. 

11. Experience indicates that in a referendum campaign, support for the affirmative case falls significantly  between the announcement of a proposal and the actual vote. This is because the voters have then had some opportunity of hearing both sides of the debate and reading the Yes/No booklet.

12. In a referendum campaign, those who in opinion polls say they are undecided  tend to move to the No case or  have not revealed their intention to vote No. In a republican referendum, this  could be  because the republican camp including media outlets has suggested the monarchist case is old fashioned, dated, etc or respondents fear that there may be consequences for those who are known to have voted No.

13. Polls taken now indicating opinions at some future date, say, the end of the reign, are clearly unreliable.

14. Much has been made by republicans about the role of the then prime minister John Howard in 1999. It is untrue that he fixed the convention or the question. His opposition -which was unusual- no doubt encouraged his supporters, but they were unlikely to be republicans.  On the other hand it may be that the support of an unpopular Prime Minister and/or government  may harm the Yes case. This was said to be one of the reasons why Paul Keating chose not to put a referendum on a republic.  Even if the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition were to support the Yes case in a referendum, this will not ensure success, as was demonstrated inone of the referendums in  1967. But if  the Parliament  unanimously supported the referendum, there would be no official No case, which would disadvantage opponents.

15. The theme of any referendum on a republic will probably be around the proposition that only a politicians’ republic can deliver an Australian Head of State. This was mentioned nine times in the official No case in 1999. To counter this, constitutional monarchists will need to be as well informed on the relevant law and practice and as organised and as disciplined as they were in 1999.




...general comments on polling...

  


Opinion polls do not claim absolute accuracy and will usually indicate a margin of error. They are not predictions as to the future but an attempt to measure opinion at the time of the poll. This applies to views about what may or may not happen at the end of the reign. These are views held now, not one swhich will emerge at the end of the reign.

There can be errors or a bias in taking the sample. For example a telephone survey excludes those who do not have landlines. Some people will be reluctant to answer, or may give an answer they think the questioner wants.

By looking at trends from different polls taken over time, differences can be neutralised.



...the right question?..




Opinion polls can be biased in formulating questions. This
can be unintentional.

The question may vary considerably from the referendum question. A referendum necessarily involves agreeing to a specific republican model. But some  polls purporting to measure voting attitudes in the 1999 referendum ignored this and tested support for some vague undefined republic.

But in questions concerning constitutional change certain words can mislead.

For example, there is a debate between republicans and constitutional monarchists over the meaning of Head of State, and the question to be answered in the referendum may not even use that word.

 “ Do you think an Australian should be Head of State instead of The Queen ?” assumes we do not already have an Australian Head of State, which is a principal point in issue in the debate.

This is important. In the 1999 referendum, the Yes case used the argument that only in a republic could we have an Australian as Head of State nine times, more than any other.

Even asking whether Australia should become a republic assumes we are not already a republic, albeit a crowned republic


...have they heard both sides? ...



When referendums are announced, it is common to find polling indicates strong public support. But this can change after the public has heard both sides.This was exacerbated in the nineties because the mainstream media supported the republican movement. At the same time the media thrives on conflict and even a biassed media is forced to allow the other side to be heard at least partially.

In the early stages of the campaign in the nineties the public had not really heard both sides of the debate.  They had heard more by the time of the referendum. 





...polling trends...



Isolated polls should be treated with caution. The trend in polling from different pollsters over time is a better indicator. It is particularly unwise to rely on one poll which goes against the trend. 

In 2009 the republicans released a poll to coincide with the tenth anniversary of the referendum. This indicated that 59% support for “a republic.”  This went against all the trends and was what may best be called a “rogue poll”, which, we hasten to add,  suggests no impropriety.



...pollsters...



In Australia the best known pollsters are:
 

  • Newspoll - published in News Limited's The Australian newspaper
  • Roy Morgan Research - published in the Crikey email reporting service
  • Galaxy Polling - published in News Limited's tabloid papers
  • AC Nielsen Polling - published in Fairfax newspapers

Although less well known,  UMR has also conducted polls on this issue. Its polls have always found substantially more republican support than any of the others.

Essential media is a new pollster more associated with the unions, without this resulting in any bias.Its political polling produces results broadly in line with the other polllsters. 



Republican support crashes Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Sunday, 13 October 2013

Support for a republic - as we would say, a politicians' republic - has crashed even further. It is now lower than at any time since the republican push in the nineties. And support for the monarchy has increased among the young.

It is reasonable to conclude that  if a referendum were to be held now, the Yes vote would be likely to be below  25%.

We can thank the ABC for this interesting information, and our conclusions on the facts they reveal.



Image
[ Soldier Prince Harry]

 

..ABC Vote Compass...

 


It all began with the  ABC introducing  a very interesting project  in the 2013 election. This was  Vote Compass. It was an online exercise for Australians to find out how their views compare with the official policies of the political parties.

They had a very large number of responses -  1.4 million.

One of the questions caught my eye at the time. Respondents were asked for their views on this statement: "Australia should end the monarchy and become a republic."

The ABC has allocated answers into one of five groups  -  "strongly agree'' ''somewhat agree'' ''strongly disagree'' ''somewhat disagree'' and  ''undecided''.




...plebiscite...

 

 

The first thing you should note is that this is a question for a plebiscite. (ACM is the only organisation to have been consistently opposed to a plebiscite.)  Now a referendum on this issue would have to precisely indicate the form of the politicians' republic proposed, whereas a plebiscite uses the vague word ''republic''. (As readers will know several leading monarchists use the term ''crowned republic' to describe the present constitution.)

For reasons explained in the section of the ACM site on opinion polling, we can assume that in a referendum the undecided will tend to vote No.

As a predictor of the result in a referendum, the crucial information then is the support for a republic, not support for the monarchy.

As regards the overall response the ABC concludes that support for a republic appears to have waned since the 1999 referendum, with only 38 per cent of Vote Compass respondents in favour of cutting Australia's ties to the monarchy.

But of these 38%, 15% only agree ''somewhat'' with the proposition. As we point out in the opinion polling section on our site,  after the public have been exposed to a debate the Yes vote falls from what is recorded in earlier opinion polling . It would therefore be likely that a number of the 15% who indicate they are only somewhat in agreement would swing across to the No vote.

It is reasonable therefore to conclude on these figures that if a plebiscite were held now the actual vote would not be 38% but would fall somewhere in the range of 25% to 30% . The plebiscite would clearly be lost.



...referendum result...


Read more...
 
Swan-Turnbull republic bombs Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Tuesday, 04 June 2013

There has been little support for the Swan Turnbull Republican push if letters in the press, particularly republican newspapers, is any indication.

This of course confirms the polling trends over the last few years  set out on this site..

In fact, Malcolm Turnbull recognised this when he declared in his diary months  before the 1999 referendum: “Nobody is interested.” The diary was called: "Fighting for the Republic."

One wag said it should be called: "Whingeing for the Republic."

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On 4 June 2013 The Sydney Morning Herald published three letters under the heading “Questions to answer before republic debate can be settled.” 

Read more...
 
Swan-Turnbull Republic Doomed Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Monday, 03 June 2013

Wayne Swan and Malcolm Turnbull have formed an unholy alliance to turn Australia into some as yet undefined politicians’ republic.

For Wayne Swan this is distraction from the problems relating to the budget, surplus which disappeared, the massive debts which are accumulating and the polling which is indicating problems for the government in the coming election.

Image
[ Trends are down - even for the ARM's pollster]

For Malcolm Turnbull this is a singular way to demonstrate that his brand is different from that if his leader, Tony Abbott. Mr Abbott it will be recalled was the first Executive Director of Australians for constitutional monarchy, and is a firm supporter of the existing constitutional system.

 

....brand differentiation...

 

It is remarkable that an election year Mr Turnbull, who is the shadow Minister of Communications, would seek to demonstrate brand differentiation from his leader by appearing with Wayne Swan to call for the removal of our oldest institution from the Constitution, and one which is clearly a non-political. 




 

...Australian Flag...



And where is the flag in this unholy alliance?  Since the referendum, many republicans keep as quiet about the Flag as they do about the form of a politician's republic they are trying to foist onto an uninterested nation 

 

...no youth support...

 

The promotion of a politicians’ republic at this time will have little support among rank-and-file Australians .  In fact it never did. As we demonstrate in ACM’s report on opinion polling,  for an undefined republic  -  and for what is believed to be the most popular model  - is somewhere between 35% and 48% . (The latter score comes from the ARM’s pollster which has consistently reported higher support than the others.)

Worse, there is a timebomb in the polling which the republicans try to keep quiet about. The young are just not interested in doing away with our very successful crowned republic. Polling indicates support for a politicians’ republic among the young is consistently lower than among the general public.  It is very much lower than polling among the inner city and elites which form the core of republican support .

The last poll on this by Morgan revealed support among the young was at 31%. Wayne Swan and Malcolm Turnbull ought to study that before trying to revive the Keating Turnbull Republic . They should just face the facts.

 

...the Swan-Turnbull allies should  face the facts...

In 1999, notwithstanding a very well endowed campaign broadly supported by the political class,. The Keating Turnbull Republic was defeated in a landslide, nationally, in every State and 72% of Federal electorates. No doubt the Swan Turnbull Republic would face a similar fate.

 No doubt some stage this will be followed by a move to shred the Australian Flag, notwithstanding Malcolm Turnbull’s public conversion on this issue.

 

 

 
Polling today Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Thursday, 23 May 2013

Here's how people are voting on constitutional change.

Image

This photograph was sent to us by Councillor Peter Cavanagh from Canberra's Museum of Australian Democracy.

There are two points to note about the break up of voters. First, in a referendum, pollsters will tell you  the undecided tend to vote no - see the opinion polling section on the ACM site.

Second, based on the 1999 experience, republicans are so divided about the model they prefer our crowned republic to the other model. This fundamental division has been papered over by the ARM - which only indicates that it still rages.

If this group were representative of the Australian electorate , which we do not of course claim, either model would be rejected by  around 80:20.

Whatever the figures, the fact is that the republican politicians know that a referendum would be overwhelmingly rejected, and more than in 1999. Based on opinion polling we would probably win at least 60:40, all states, and probably more than 72% of electorates. We would also win the northern Territory. The republicans would win e ACT - Canberra.

That's why there is so little action on this, apart from Malcolm Turnbull's recent curious outburst. 

When we put this on Facebook, a number of republicans advanced all sorts of reasons why a republican referendum would be passed. ( Unlike the republicans we allow our opponents to post comments provided they observe the  rules of civilized debate. Constitutional monarchists are, after all, democrats.)

So we added the following comment to bring the republicans down to earth.

 

...referendum unlikely, unless...

 
Read more...
 
Republican support falls further Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Wednesday, 23 January 2013

A new opinion poll, in anticipation of Australia Day, has been undertaken by Galaxy Research for News Ltd, according to a report by Jessica Marzelek on 23 January 2013 in the Herald Sun.

This reveals that even fewer people would vote for a republic if the 1999 referendum were put to them now, with only 33 per cent answering yes.

The report says this compares with 45 per cent who answered yes 13 years ago. 


Image
 
Most of the  polls at the time indicated higher support for a republic than the actual vote. This is not a criticism of the polls; it is most likely because people considered that voting in a referendum about changing the basic law of their country was a matter of the utmost seriousness.

 The other factor, specific to the republican referendum, was the major propaganda campaign conducted in and by the media and by most of the politicians which belittled anyone supporting the existing Constitution.

The theme of this campaign was that it was up-to-date and modern to be voting Yes, and only old-fashioned, irrelevant dinosaurs would be voting No.  Clearly both the media and the politicians were completely out of touch with the Australian people who registered a landslide vote against what was clearly described in the Vote No campaign as a politicians’ republic.




...plebiscites...

Read more...
 
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