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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. 



Right Royal Resurgence Print E-mail
Written by ACM   
Sunday, 18 December 2011

In "a Right Royal Resurgence" Lucy Carne  in London reports in Sydney's  Sunday Telegraph on 18 December that support for the Royal family has experienced a dramatic shift. This should be considered in the context of the polls, at least as regards Australia.  (This newspaper enjoys the highest circulation in Australia.)

She says that the Royal Wedding endeared the Royal Family to the rest of the world.  She quotes Robert Jobson, a royal commentator and bestselling author of” William and Kate: a Love story”: "What they have achieved between 1992 and 2011 is a huge turnaround.  The Royal wedding has certainly put them back on the map"

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She says that about 24 million people in the UK watched Prince William marry his university sweetheart Kate Middleton. 

She adds: "In Australia which is 54.8% of the population support the monarchy in the 1999 referendum, the republican causes now struggling in the wake of the wedding.

"Next year, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall are set to visit Australia as part of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee"

This is not so completely true of Australia.  As is evidenced in the  survey by Roy Morgan Research presented to our National Conference just before The Queen's visit to Australia, the trendline indicating support for a vague and undefined politicians’ republic was already falling significantly Before the Royal Wedding .

 
Polling and politicians Print E-mail
Written by ACM   
Thursday, 08 December 2011
The 1999 referendum should have been a reality check to all who wish to change Australia into a politicians’ republic and to shred our flag.The republicans had all the advantages – the media, most of the politicians, money.  As Gough Whitlam said to Malcolm Fraser in their celebrated advertisement referendum advertisement, “It's time, Malcolm, it is.”

The republicans conceived and paid for this. I am surprised they did not send us the bill - it brought so many votes to our cause.  Thank you, my dear republicans, you have served us well.


Image



Before the referendum it became clear from polling undertaken by the Vote No committee that support was weaker not only among the old, but also among the young.



...republican support trending down...




 A few years after the referendum support among the general population for a vague and defiant politicians’ republic peaked and began to decline.  

That has been the trend to date so that now support for a vague and undefined politicians’ republic is trailing in the 30 percentile range, as the recent report from Roy Morgan Research tabled at our Melbourne National Conference demonstrates.




...referendum vote would be lower....




The vote in any referendum will be lower than this for two reasons.

First, pollsters confirm ACM's conclusion that the crucial aspect of the polls is not support for the monarchy, it is support for a vague undefined republic.  In other words, we can assume that the uncommitted will tend to vote no in any formal vote.  Either they are genuinely undecided or they do not wish to reveal their vote.

Second, when the details of the politicians’ republic are revealed and debated – as they must be under our superb Constitution – support will crumble away.

This suggests that in a referendum, the republican vote would now be in the low thirties or even the twenties. Professor Craven – the leading republican constitutional lawyer thinks a model with a president elected by the people would be a bigger disaster for the republicans.




...politicians abandon republic...





 The politicians have woken up to this and realise that they were taken for a ride by the republicans in the 90’s who assured them that republic was both inevitable and would be achieved before the end of the 20th century with the flag changed after that.  As one leading republican politician in the government told me, he now hopes that his children will  see a republic...”one day”.

The politicians have accordingly declared that they will not  push their republic during the present reign.  

This is for two reasons.First, the polling and focus groups are telling the politicians that a referendum would be doomed to a greater defeat than in 1999.
Second, the polling and focus groups are telling them not to touch the issue with a barge pole.  The electorate would be hostile to politicians who push their republic when there are so many issues that people believe they should be dealing with.


...exceptions and stunts...


Read more...
 
Support for politicians' republic down to 28% Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Monday, 28 November 2011

The Roy Morgan survey on trends in opinion polling  tabled at our national conference in October showed that support for a (politicians’) republic had fallen to 34%.  

This confirmed a trend we have long identified. Support for a republic has been falling for some years.

This survey set the context for media reporting in Australia and around the world concerning the Royal Visit by The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh. 

Two aspects of the poll demonstrates the wisdom of the advice not to put all your eggs in one basket

Image
[Broken Eggs - Jjean Baptiste Greuze.]

 


..youth and immigrants...



 

Those aspects of the poll were  given little or not much emphasis by the media. These were that among both youth and non-electors (including new immigrants) support for a republic was even lower than in the general population.

Only 31% of the nation’s youth, those aged between 14 to 17, supported a republic. Among non-electors (including new immigrants), support fell even lower to 28% .   

On the former we have frequently reminded readers of Federal Minister Nicola Roxon’s confident but entirely wrong mantra  that no new monarchists are being born.

As we have with former Senator Susanne Ryan’s unwise and arrogant observation that all the republicans had to do was wait until the present generation of monarchists drop off.
The moral, Citizenesses, is not to put all your eggs in one basket.

And as for new immigrants, the letter below in the Daily Telegraph indicates that republicans should not assume immigrants automatically support them.

In fact they should know this already . Haven't they have derided me (on the site controlled at the time by a deputy chairman of the Australian Republican Movement) as a “perma-tanned ...Indonesian born blow–in”?

 

 
...letter to Daily Telegraph....


Read more...
 
How could Dennis Shanahan be so wrong? Print E-mail
Written by ACM   
Monday, 21 November 2011

Dennis Shanahan is a most respected commentator on the national newspaper The Australian, and justifiably so.  How then could he be so wrong when he pronounces a view on support for  republican change?  We don't need to rely on fortune tellers about that; polling can tell us more these days.

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Writing on the mining tax in The Australian ( "Abbott must fix mining tax, not just rescind it" 18 November 2011 ) Dennis Shanahan says the Australian electorate is  pragmatic:

 “...it has extremely clear views on what it wants in principle but equally clear views on what it thinks constitutes a practical solution to its concerns.”

He gives as his principal example “the issue of the republic”.  We would of course counsel him not to use the definite article; the issue is not about ”the” republic, it's about a vague and undefined politicians’ republic.


He continues: “There has been a consistent public view through polling that about two-thirds of the electorate wants to have an Australian republic. Yet, when confronted with the simple, practical question as to how that would work, the population is split evenly among those supporting an elected president, a parliamentary-appointed president and the Queen as head of state. Most agreed Australia should be a republic but most couldn't agree as to how that republic would work.




...never, never did support even approach 66.66%...

 


There is no such consistent public view through polling that about two thirds of the electorate wants to have an Australian republic.  Such a view has never emerged. Support for a republic (we would say a vague undefined politicians republic) never went above 54% in the Morgan poll and 52% in Newspoll.  Never did it go near 66.66%.

Read more...
 
State of the Nation: Conversazione Print E-mail
Written by ACM   
Monday, 21 November 2011

These two videos are from a broadcast of the ACM and Roy Morgan Research event "State of the Nation - Australia's Constitutional Future: Challenges for the Monarchy in a globally connected world".

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In this conversazione  Gary Morgan and Michele Levine answer questions from David Flint on matters including:

·      the tendency in a referendum for support for change to be lower at the actual vote

·        how  the undecided in a poll actually vote - they tend to vote No

·        is Morgan the only poll to ask how people how they will allocate their preferences – most pollsters rely on the last election statistics

·        the value of face-to-face polling compared with telephone polling- alone among pollsters, Morgan does both

·        whether intial strong feelings about an issue are tempered over time- our election results are usually quite close compared with some countries

·        whether the next election will be closer than people believe

·         why Morgan unemployment statistics are higher than the government's

·        whether there  is a fundamental  dissatisfaction with  government, a desire for greater accountability for example through recall elections

·        what puts issues onto a list  such as in this report  ( this is relevant in determining the principal issues in an election)   





 

 
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