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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. 



Newspoll: republican confusion Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Monday, 25 April 2011
  Image

THIS is the latest report in the ACM's series on opinion polling which can be accessed through the fontpage icon in the left hand column, " Opinion Polling"


The Newspoll (25/4) showing the lowest support in seventeen years for some vague undefined politicians’ republic was widely reported in the media across the nation and overseas.   ACM received over a dozen calls from the media.  

Ignoring the long term trend in the polls, a clearly troubled republican movement now says the Newspoll result is all because of the Royal Wedding.

But until now their spokesman has been saying the opposite. The wedding Deputy Chair Professor Warhurst has been saying this  is the ideal time to campaign to “dethrone the monarchy”.

Image
[ This is the republican policy on the Royal Wedding. No, this is ]





...no gloating...

I

In the popular Strewth column in The Australian (26/4) , Graeme Leech says that the poll had disappointed anti-monarchists struggling against “the tide of sentimentalism that is the royal wedding.”

“We asked monarchist David Flint if there were any gloating among members of Australians for a Constitutional Monarchy.

“‘No gloating because it is what we expected,’ Flint says. ‘Susan Ryan and Nicola Roxon said all they had to do was wait until my generation drop off the perch. Wrong. Polling as long ago as the referendum revealed a bell-shaped curve with the young and the old recording lower support.’

“The closest to a gloat is his imagery of republicans chanting: ‘We want a republic, we haven't the foggiest idea what sort of republic or flag we want.’”

 



...monarchists vindicated....

 

 

 In the same issue, under the headline “Monarchists vindicated in survey, David Flint claims,”   Ben Packham  reports that monarchists  have seized on the Newspoll as a major setback for the republican cause.  His report continued:-

But the Australian Republican Movement said more voters were in favour of a republic than not, and undecided voters could be swayed in the event of a new republic debate. ‘The more people know about this issue and the more they understand the issues, the more likely they are to support a republic,’ ARM chairman Mike Keating said."

Experience shows that  the undecided in polls tend to move more to the No side at the vote in a  referendum. In fact many of the “undecided” prefer not to indicate the way they d as broadcaster Alan Jones observed in 1999, “If you don’t know, vote No.”   Others are persuaded after they have heard both sides.

“Australians for a Constitutional Monarchy convenor David Flint said the ambivalence of young people on the question of a republic showed fundamental constitutional change was becoming increasingly unlikely.“Support for a republic was highest among the middle-aged.“Professor Flint said the poll reflected a long-term trend."’There is the royal wedding but I think the trend was there even before the wedding," he said.”"It’s not as though it's suddenly swung the polls."




.....republicans try to have it both ways...

 
Read more...
 
Republic: Lowest Newspoll in 17 years Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Monday, 25 April 2011

Image

THIS is the latest report in the ACM's series on opinion polling which can be accessed through the fontpage icon in the left hand column, " Opinion Polling"


 

THE  latest Newspoll showing the lowest support for a vague undefined politicians’ republic for seventeen years (41%) is consistent with trends in polling since the referendum.  With the margin of error this could now be in the thirties

Image

Details of the Newspoll are below or can be seen in a larger format here.

This Newspoll is also consistent with our 13 conclusions on polling on republicanism in  our analysis  on this site.

Until we are shown to be wrong, we stand by those conclusions.  

A very importnat point to make is that this result cannot be explained just by referring to the impact of the Royal wedding.

Until now the republicans’ spokesman has been saying that the wedding would be an ideal time to campaign for a republic.

Now they are saying the wedding is the reason for the poor poll.

They can't have it both ways.

An analysis of the trends in recent years recorded by the major pollsters - Newspoll, Nielsen, Galaxy and Morgan - is consistent with this poll.



...young respondents...



The breakdown of the responses from different age groups will worry the republicans.

Both media  and campaign polling at the time of the referendum and since reveals a bell shaped curve.

Support for a republic remains strongest among the middle-aged, weakest among the aged and weaker among the young.

When former senator  Susan Ryan and the present Minister Nicola Roxon  were wrong at the time when they  said that all they have to do is wait until the older generation of monarchists leave this world.  They are still wrong.

They  will be waiting a very long time, if ever to achieve their aim.



...voting intentions years ahead...



And  republicans would be unwise to invest much hope in the rise in republican support at the end of the reign.  They make a mistake in believing that this finally is that elusive silver bullet which will result in some vague undefined politicans' dropping into their laps.

The point is that opinion polls about something occurring  years from now are about as reliable as weather forecasts made now for the same time.

 

..the task for the republicans...



In a democracy the republicans are entitled to make such proposals as they wish. 

Thomas Flynn, the young Executive Director of ACM has identified the indulgence which is accorded to one side to this debate.

Had the constitutionalist monarchists lost the referendum in 1999, no one would be seriously allowing  them a second chance today.  The media and the politicians would not give them the time of day.

The time is surely over when the taxpayers should fund the republicans' search for a model or for a process to achieve their agenda. The time is over too for the predictable republican stunts which dominate our national days, especially Australia Day and on one appalling occasion, ANZAC Day.

The republicans should now pursue their agenda with maturity and in treating the issues of fundamental constiutional change and a new flag with the seriousness they deserve.

Above all they should accept that  the Autralian people deserve to hear considered, serious argument about change , and not stunts, abuse or ridicule.  

 

 

Read more...
 
Surge in support for monarchy: Scotland Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Sunday, 17 April 2011

 ImageThis is a report in the ACM series, Opinion Polls, which visitors can always access through this icon on the right hand side of the frontpage.


Support for the monarchy has surged in Scotland.

In addition, the Scottish National party has now indicated that it would wish the Queen to continue to reign over an independent Scotland, according to Nicholas Christian writing in The Scotsman on 3 April 2001.

Image



A YouGov poll shows that the proportion of Scots with republican sympathies has fallen significantly from 33% in 2005 to 24%.

The question asked was whether the monarchy should end when the Queen relinquishes the throne.



...blow to republicans.... 



Both developments are a significant blow to the small United Kingdom republican movement. They are now committed to an immature  spoiling operation. This is to push Prince William into succeeding before his father.  This will not work, and is a transparently hypocritical attempt to upset the succession.

According to Nicholas Christian, the proportion of Scots who believe that Prince William should succeed is 34 per cent, and those in favour of a conventional succession to Prince Charles is  35 per cent.




...SNP now monarchists...

(Continued below)
  
Read more...
 
Support for republic collapsing in UK Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Sunday, 17 April 2011

ImageThis is a report in the ACM series, Opinion Polls, which visitors can always access through this icon on the right hand side of the frontpage.


With support in Britain for a republic collapsing to 13% in the latest YouGov poll, republicans are warning the United Kingdom’s tiny republican movement that their mean spirited personal attacks on the Queen and Royal Family, and on the Royal Wedding will only damage their cause.


Image



Even a republican as passionate as Guardian columnist Jonathan Freedland, who wrote  a book setting out the the case for a republic, can't foresee the monarchy's end in  his lifetime. 

And he is 44.

"It is an extremely durable institution," Jonathon Freedland conceded to Peter O'Neil, the Europe Correspondent for Canada’s Postmedia News on 14 April, 2011.

"Freedland said republicans are playing a risky game by questioning public enthusiasm for the event. Many polls had suggested Brits would take the death of the popular Queen Mother in stride — but when she died in 2002 at age 101, there was a massive outpouring of grief, he pointed out.

"He also said the anti-monarchists do themselves no favours criticizing the Queen, who he calls the Royal Family's greatest strength due to her near-flawless reign of almost 60 years."

London Mayor Boris Johnson wrote about Jonathon Freedland’s case for a republic:  ”It hasn't happened. It won't happen. There isn't a cat's chance in hell of it happening.”




...attempts to create republic "utter flops"...



(Continued below)

   
Read more...
 
Misrepresenting opinion polls Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Tuesday, 05 April 2011

The republican movement continues to push the line that polls are showing 60% support for Australia becoming a republic, that is, a vague politicians’ republic.

This is not at all true, and it does little credit to the republicans to repeat it over and over. 

Image
[ Truth: Olin Levi Warner, Library of Congress, Washington]


They rely on one poll which goes against all the trends, a rogue poll, which was released for the tenth anniversary of the 1999 referendum.

Or they rely on part of a poll which asked peoples' voting intentions on the end of the reign, which we hope will be many years away.

As anyone who has the slightest knowledge about polling knows, the trend over time in a number of polls from different sources is far more helpful than one individual rogue poll, that is a poll which goes aginst the trend.

For many years now, the trend has indicated a steady decline in support for a vague undefined politicians’ republic,  in the low 40-45% range.  ( One poll was unusually based on a specific model - the  one assumed to be the most popular.  The result was little different from the trend.)

In addition there is declining support especially among the young, and continuing strong opposition among the aged.





..diligent reporting...



So up against a diligent reporter who has done his or her homework, a republican movement spokesman may find he will be hoist with his own petard. 

An example follows. 

In an interview with an unnamed journalist just before the last Federal election from  The Diplomat, ARM deputy chairman Professor John Warhurst said:

“Australians are still republicans, according to public opinion polls, by about 60 to 40.”

Surely Professor Warhurst, a professor of politics, understands that this is not supported by the facts.




.... hoisted on his own petard...




The reporter would have known  that a large number of  politicians are republicans or committed to a republic by their party.
I estimate this to be little different from the situation at the time of the referendum, although the passion is not there. If I am right, we can assume about two thirds of sitting politicans  fall into this category.

Note that it includes all of the MP's belong to parties committed to republicanism. For some this is very lukewarm.

In an event the reporter aske dthe logicla question:

"Why aren’t politicians moving on this issue, given the considerable support  among Australians for a republic? "

Professor Warhurst offers this unpersuasive explantion:

"You need a double majority, he says lamely, not just a majority nationally, but a majority in four of the six states as well.So that explains to some extent the conservatism.

" And it’s a conservatism on constitutional matters which is more general at the moment.

"We haven’t had a successful constitutional referendum since 1977, and we haven’t had a referendum at all, on any topic, since 1999. So I think the political leaders are far too timid on constitutional issues.

"I think the feeling again that politics ought to be about ‘bread and butter’ issues is sort of playing to this lowest common denominator a bit, as well as worries about how people in outer suburban Australia and rural regional Australia will react to these sorts of constitutional issues and national identity being raised."

So what is he saying? 

That referendums are difficult to win, that we haven’t had one for a while, and that the rank and file in the outer suburbs and the country don’t think like those in the elite inner city areas?




...the real reason...( Continued  below) 

Read more...
 
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