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Is David Flint ( National Convenor since 1998) the republicans best asset, as some claim?
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. 



Young not interested in republic Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Wednesday, 29 June 2011

 

During the referendum campaign it became clear that will support for a republic was weakest among older Australians and then among younger Australians.  It was among the middle-aged that there seemed to be stronger support for a republic, particularly among those in inner-city electorates.

Image

Yet prominent republican  Nicola Roxon, now a minister of the Crown in the Rudd and the Gillard governments,  once  said from the luxury of opposition: “No new monarchists are being born”. 

And former Senator Susan Ryan said - from the luxury of retirement - that all the republicans would have to do was wait until the older generation leaves this world. 

 Republicans quite often seem to live in a world of delusions.  Recently on the Queen's Birthday, the present chair of the Republican movement Major-General Keating on several occasions claimed that 60% of Australians want a republic, meaning some form of politicians’ republic. 

This is about 20% above the indications over a period of time in almost all of the polls.




...case study...





The following from The Spectator 11 June 2011 bears out youth attitudes today:-

Read more...
 
Why republican politicans have put off a referendum Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Tuesday, 14 June 2011
The Foreign Minister, Mr Kevin Rudd, has told the BBC in London that while The Queen is always very welcome in Australia, the government is committed to making Australia a republic.

Image

"We've not stipulated a timeline for doing that. We are sensitive to the other priorities we've got as a nation and in the world, but in time the country will head in that direction,” he added.
 

Mr. Rudd’s explanation of the government’s decision to put off any action on a republic during this reign is somewhat disingenuous.


It is not about stipulating a timeline. The reason is that the Prime Minister knows - as does Mr Turnbull - that polling  trends have indicated for years that not only is a referendum on any republican model doomed to an even greater loss than in 1999. 


So is a plebiscite, no matter how well it has crafted by the highest paid spin doctors the politicians can find.  
 In other words the Australian people are not interested in a politicians’ republic.  
 
Things are looking up - leading newspaper Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Monday, 13 June 2011

John Masanauskas of the Herald Sun phoned me recently about a report on the Australian Electoral Study.  This was published on 13 June 2011 in a piece appropriately headlined  “Things are looking up for royals.” 

I referred to the trends in all of the leading polls. 

Image

He reported that as the Royal Family  attended the Trooping the Colour parade, the study found Australians were warming towards The Queen and cooling on the republic.

“More than 40 per cent of us believe the Queen is important, up from 36 per cent three years ago" l

“Australians for a Constitutional Monarchy spokesman Prof David Flint said his organisation had predicted a resurgence of support for the Queen.

“ ‘As sovereigns age, they become more respected when they have performed very well," he said.

“There is that feeling of longevity and that she is above politics."



...Australian Electoral Study




The Australian Electoral Study involves sending out a very large questionnaire to a number of people.   I understand that the answers are weighted to make it a sample of the general population.   

The difficulty I have with it is that a person who is willing to fill out such a large form is unusual. He or she will hardly be a typical Australian.( I had a similar problem with the deliberative vote before the referendum. This required giving up and paying for a weekend in Canberra to discuss the referndum. A worthy activity undertaken by unusual people.)  

In any event, whether it was the process or the question asked, the survey recorded a republican vote 10 points above the referendum vote in 1999.  

I suspect that their reports since then have regularly overestimated republican support by about 10 points. I do this by a comparison with trendlines in polling by public pollsters - Morgan, Newspoll Fairfax-Nielson, and Galaxy.  There is a new pollster  - at least new to me, Essential Media which has done some very interesting and clearly objective research. 

Pollsters are more likely to obtain rank and file views, although on some issues those polled may be reluctant to speak or give a firm view. This is particularly so where the elites have succeeded in making a view opposed to theirs unfashionable. (Twilight of The Elites, 2003, pages 65,66)  
  
 
One exception to the trends recorded in all major polls was in 2009, at the time of the 10th anniversary of the referendum, when a less well known pollster UMR reported on an on-line sample 59% support for a republic.  No other poll has come close to this in recent years. It was most likely a rogue poll. That is not a criticism of the pollster - it is a risk in all polling.




...republican leader claims 60% support...



Yet the ARM leader on the 3MTR Steve Vizard programme on 13 June 2011 was prepared to say-  without any qualification whatsoever, and to repeat  several times - that 60% of Australians want a republic. 

By any measure this was misleading. Fortunately, as I followed him, I was able to correct this.

As to the Australian Election Study, a perusal of the following graph  shows that in 1999 and thereafter support  is approximately 10% of above the referendum results  and of most other polls.
 

Image


....the question...  



This is the question asked by the AES in 2010 :

Do you think that Australia should become a republic with an Australian head of state, or should the Queen be retained as head of state?

I'm sure this was unintentional but it would be difficult to get a more loaded question than this.

(Continued below)

Read more...
 
2010 Election Study: one finding they should have kept to themselves Print E-mail
Written by ACM   
Friday, 20 May 2011
One of the interesting findings of the recently released 2010 Australian Election Study is that 55.6% of voters had made up their minds up as to how they were definitely going to vote before the election was announced. 

And 14.5% made their mind up only a few days before and 10.3% on election day.

I wish the boffins had kept this one to themselves. Right or wrong, it will only enocurage the parties to inflict more advertisements launches stunts and spin on us. 

Image

On one model recently proposed by a republican knight,  we will have up to nine more elections every three or so years.   

With even more demands on the taxpayer to fund their campaigns.

The study is a serious academic undertaking and I am sure all manner of clever things are done to weight the answers so that they are representative of the electorate.

My reservation is that the sort of person who is prepared to spend the considerable amount of time necessary to answer a vast number of questions about all manner of things relating to an election is not your average Australian.




...deliberative poll...



 I had the same reservations about the Canberra weekend deliberative poll in Old Parliament House used just before the 1999 republic referendum.


People who are prepared to give up the weekend at their own expense in these activities, however commendable, are not typical Australians.


I would have had the same reservation about the 2020 Summit until it became obvious it had been gerrymandered to obtain a 98:1 vote in favour of rushed resolutions in favour of a republic.

(They were so poorly drafted they had to be surreptitiously changed later.)

Incidentally, in her 2000 book, The People’s Protest , Kerry Jones describes how, unbeknown to the organisers, the ARM managed to infiltrate and undermine the process for the deliberative poll.





...a flawed question...




 The 2010 election study attempted to ask the inevitable question about Australia becoming some sort of vague undefined politicians’ republic. 

It fails in that attempt.


 (Continued below)

Read more...
 
Support for republic collapses among Labor voters and the young Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Support for a vague undefined politicians’ republic is collapsing in Australia and across the Realms.  This extends to what is commonly thought to be their most popular model, a republic with an elected presidency.


Image

A reader has just sent us polling from an Australian company, Essential Media Communications.

I understand  they
are  union-backed pollsters and campaigner who undertake market research work and campaigns for NGOs, unions, etc.  Sky TV News occasionally runs their polling.

They seem to have an impressive record, mainly acting for “progressive” causes. Their current political polling is more or less consistent with that of the other pollsters.




...Prince William supported by most, including the young and Labor voters...




 On 2 May  2011, they asked a question the terminology of which favours the republican case. This relates to the use of the term Head of State.  ACM has long argued the Governor-General is Head of State.

The question was:

Under the current arrangements, Prince William will be Australia’s Head of State when he becomes King. Would you approve or disapprove of Prince William as Australia’s Head of State?

Sixty per cent approved.  That is worth repeating.  Sixty per cent approved.

The breakdowns are enlightening: Labor 58%, Liberal/National 69%, Greens 38%, Men 56%, Women, 64% , those aged 18-34  56%, those  aged 35-54 60%, and those aged more than 55 65%.

The high support among Labor voters and the young will worry republicans.

Only 13% disapproved. And apart from the Greens at 30% disapproving, there was little difference between supporters of different parties, the sexes or age groups. 

17% were undecided.

The details are here.




 

 
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