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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. 



They've lost the youth vote - if they ever had it Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Tuesday, 07 August 2012

A friend phoned the other day to tell me about a  guest lecture he had just delivered at one of our leading universities.

He was once a senior journalist  on a particular broadsheet. Following the newspaper’s line, indeed that of most in the media,  he was in favour of a republic. ( More precisely, a  politicians’ republic.)  

How different it is with the young today,” he said. “Twenty years or so ago they would have all been republican.”

Image

Today, only a tiny minority showed any interest at all.  They weren’t all fervent monarchists."

" In fact probably most weren’t. But they just couldn’t see the point of change and were perfectly happy with the existing system and rather liked the Royal Family. Other things concerned them, but not the Crown.”

As were were campaigning at  ACM, we found that compared with the middle aged inner city elites,  a lack of interest in change among the young was already emerging in polls around the referendum. 

This intensified over the years, but was dismissed by the republicans and most in the media. Assumptions were given more weight than scientific fact as evidence din opinion polls.



...polling...



In 2011, in preparation for the Royal Tour, we asked Morgan to survey the trends in polling since the referendum. They took a new poll and found that in the general population support for a politicians’ republic had fallen to  a low 34%. This made news around the world.

There was every indication from trend lines that support would most likely fall further. The poll also confirmed that support for a politicians’ republic was lower than general support.  Support among the young was three points lower at 31%.

If you look at the section on polling on the ACM site you will see that this trend has been consistent over the years.

It makes a mockery of former Senator Susan Ryan's observation that she the Republicans only had to wait until my generation passed on –“dropped off the perch” were the words I recall.

It also makes a mockery of the Attorney General  Nicola Roxon’s barb made years ago that "no new monarchists are being born." 

They are,Madame Attorney, they are.

  
 
ACM's lonely struggle Print E-mail
Written by ACM   
Sunday, 24 June 2012

It seems our concern about education in civics is justified. As is ACM's  decision - almost alone among organisations - to do something serious about civics education. 

This conclusion came from the results of the 2012 Lowiy Institute Poll.

In 2011, the Institute had conducted opinion polls in Indonesia and Fiji, which included questions on democracy and human rights. To see how views in these countries compare with those in Australia, the Institute repeated some of the questions in the 2012 Lowy Institute Poll.

Image
[ The Late Senator Neville Bonner ]



The Institute concludes some Australians are surprisingly  blasé about democracy.

Presented with three statements about democracy and asked to say ‘which one of the three statements comes closest to your own personal views about democracy’, just 60% of Australians say ‘democracy is preferable to any other kind of government’. A quarter (23%) of Australians say ‘in some circumstances, a non-democratic government can be preferable’, more than Indonesians (16%) but a similar proportion as in Fiji (25%).

Fifteen per cent of Australians say ‘for someone like me, it doesn’t matter what kind of government we have’, with a quarter (23%) of 18 to 29 year olds holding this view.

Readers will recall that this is similar to the number who support our constitutional monarchy.  


But disturbingly, only 39% of Australians 18 to 29 years old hold this view, with support increasing with age to 74% for those 60 years and older.



...ACM  alone...




Does this reflect on how we are educating the young?

ACM's concerns in this area have led to our educational activities in this area, first with the now independent Constitutional Education Fund- Australia and now  with  the http://www.crownedrepublic.com.au/  resource, including the Neville Bonner Prize. 

Only CEF-A and ACM are seriously active in this area, and only ACM stressing in an outreach programme into the schools the advantages of our constitutional monarchy . 
 

 
Republican support - Long term trend down Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Wednesday, 13 June 2012
 

 
Image ACM maintains a watching brief on relevant opinion polling. These are posted to our section on polling. This is a further report in that series.

ACM has often pointed out that support for a politician’s republic has been trending down for some years now.  

This has been demonstrated by a series of opinion polls from different sources. The following is from The Australian's Newspoll.
 
Image 

With polling, is not unusual for a rogue poll to emerge which goes against the trend. The republicans made much of one they produced  at the time of the 10th anniversary of the referendum. Those who made much of this soon had egg on their face.

The leading conservative commentator, and confirmed republican, Dr. Gerard Henderson recently expressed surprise in The Sydney Moring Herald (12/6) at “ the extent to which the young Royals - particularly after William's wedding to the Kate Middleton - restored the popularity of the House of Windsor outside Britain.”

The trend was already well evident before the Royal Wedding.

Just prior to The Queen’s homecoming it in 2011, Roy Morgan Research agreed to present a paper on trends to our National Conference in Melbourne.   In addition, they took an opinion poll which indicated a low level of support for a republic.  This made news around the world.



...Newspoll....



Newspoll confirms the same trend. These polls have all been published in The Australian which in the nineties waged  a strong republican campaign.

There last poll in June 2011  confirms something we first detected even prior  to the referendum.  Support for a politicians’ republic is lower among the young than the middle aged.

 In most of its polls, Newspoll asks the following question which is about a vague undefined republic. It thus enables both of the two republican groups to record their support. 

 “NOW THINKING ABOUT WHETHER AUSTRALIA SHOULD BECOME A REPUBLIC, ARE YOU PERSONALLY IN FAVOUR OR AGAINST AUSTRALIABECOMING A REPUBLIC?”

No Newspoll has been taken this year. Here are the latest results, taken in June 2011. It is likely republican support would be lower today.   

Read more...
 
Another disappointing poll for republicans. Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Tuesday, 12 June 2012

 
Image ACM maintains a watching brief on relevant opinion polling. These are posted to our section on polling. This is a further report in that series.

 In its online survey of 12 June 2012,  Essential Research asks two questions.  The first is “Are you in favour or against Australia becoming a republic?”

Although differing from the Morgan poll, the result will be very disappointing for republicans in relation to the overall vote, the youth vote, and the significant number according no opinion.

Image

"A republic" presumably means any form of  what we would call a politicians’ republic.  As we know, republicans are irrevocably divided as to is a form of such a republic.  

This mean that a  number of the 39% indicating that they are in favour of Australia becoming a republic will always vote no in a referendum. 

This is because the Australian referendum requires that the specific changes proposed to the constitution be made available to the people before they vote.

Add to this the fact that opinion polls usually  produce a more favourable yes  vote than the actual vote recorded in a referendum.  This is probably because people have by then had the opportunity to hear the debate by both sides, and because they treat the actual vote as a more serious exercise.

So if a referendum were held now on any Republican model it is likely that the yes vote would, as a percentage, be in the low 30s or even in the 20s. 

The poll reveals that among the age groups, the middle-aged are more strongly republican than the young.  This is consistent with most other polls.

A large number of respondents, 27%, register no opinion.  This rises to 36% among the young.  On past experience, most of these will vote no in a  referendum. A dismal result for republicans. 




...but is a republic likely?...


   
Read more...
 
Devestating blow to republicans - 60 per cent prefer monarchy Print E-mail
Written by ACM   
Friday, 08 June 2012
Image ACM maintains a watching brief on relevant opinion polling. These are posted to our section on polling. This is a further report in that series.

60% of Australian electors support the monarchy, an opinion poll by Australia's oldest polling organisation Roy Morgan Research reveals.   Jai Martinkovits comments- click here.

Image

Support for what is generally assumed to be the most popular form of republic, one with an elected president is down to 34%.

The monarchy is preferred in all states including Victoria, which was once the most Republican of states, but which nevertheless preferred the monarchy in the 1999 referendum.
Support for the monarchy among Victorian electors is now at a high 60%. Only Greens voters prefer a (politicians’) republic, but even then 43% prefer the monarchy and 2% are undecided. Labour voters narrowly prefer the monarchy, while republican Liberal politicians are on notice that they are out of touch with Liberal voters, 72% of whom support the monarchy.

These results will be devastating for the Republican movement who have recently mounted a new campaign. It is well-established that the actual vote in a referendum is invariably significantly lower than the responses in opinion polls taken well before the formal vote. This suggests that in a referendum on the most popular Republican model, support as a percent would be down in the 20s. A plebiscite even with a spin doctored question is also clearly doomed.

Other questions indicate that the monarchy would still prevail were Prince Charles to succeed and there be a whelming support for Prince William to become King, especially among Labour voters.
Full details of the poll can be seen here.
 
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