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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. 



Sun Herald Royal Poll: What does it mean? Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Wednesday, 24 November 2010

After the concert given by the Berlin Philharmonic at the Opera House in Sydney last Saturday night, the crowds surging out were confronted by a company of charming young ladies offering large designer plastic bags.  

Each young lady supported her gifts with open arms, suggesting she was about to place some exquisite offering of, say, European tapestries on a table.

But back to the Opera House.

Asked what hers was, the young lady who approached us said "It’s the Sun Herald.”


Image
[ What is your first impression? An opinion poll representing the views of all Australians? ]



The revelation that the gift was a copy of the Sun Herald provoked no excitement whatsoever; in fact quite the contrary. The groans were quite audible. 

Presumably no one wanted to be seen – nor was to be seen - descending the grand staircase clutching a ...Sunday tabloid.  

My reason for not taking one was that it would be delivered in the morning - with the Sunday Telegraph; why be encumbered with the Sun Herald over supper?

A mischievous person would have said: "They can’t even give them away."

This can happen to newspapers. I remember years ago on a Sunday morning in a busy town in the Cotswalds seeing  piles of Observers  - the Sunday Guardian – for the taking.  But nobody seemed to be interested.



...why do they look down on  their home subscribers?...




It would seem that some newspapers consider those who actually pay to have their papers delivered to their homes to be not worth looking after. If they give something away – something useful like a DVD offering a crash course in  Mongolian - you have to go to the newsagent.

The Herald in Sydney almost seems to look down on its home subscribers who would be overwhelmingly conservative. This is the only explanation for filling its letters and opinion pages with material from inner city radicals.

Over the years a large number of people have told me this is why they have stopped reading the Herald. 

In any event on the Sunday morning, while perusing my delivered Sun Herald (21/11), I found the large table reproduced above on one of the news pages.  

The survey also says that  68% of those surveyed believe Australia should become a republic, that is a politicians' republic.



...the context...

The table was published beside an interesting report on the royal marriage and its implications by Tim Barlass "Big hopes for crown's new jewel”.

The table would not have been  the work of the journalist. It was  probably inserted by the sub editor. Incidentally, you won't find this table online- it was only put in the print edition.

That was surely not to irritate those monarchists who actually pay for the newspaper, was it?

The survey is not an opinion poll. If you read the small print at the bottom, you might think they surveyed a sample of the readers. No it wasn't that either. 

Image



...opinion polls...  

 

  An opinion poll is  a survey of public opinion from a sample designed to represent the opinions of a population. Much depends on the selection of the sample, its size and the wording used in the question.  A sample of 1000 will normally produce a margin of error of plus or minus 3%.

An opinion poll on  constitutional change  not specifying a republican model , or using the term head of state, is of very limited utility in predicting voting in a referendum.



...the Herald survey..



This was not a survey or poll of Herald readers. It was a survey of one thousand self selected readers of The Sun Herald and The Sydney Morning Herald.

Of those readers,  68%  say  Austalia should become a republic, and 56% say Australia should become a republic as soon as possible, is not of course an opinion poll.

It tells us no more than the views of one thousand self selected readers of two Sydney newspapers.





...the Herald's 'exclusive online reader panel'...


 


[Continued below]



 

Read more...
 
Australians hostile to republic, says The Sunday Age Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Sunday, 05 September 2010

 

The reports  in the Fairfax press last Sunday, 29 August 2010,  have so upset the republican headquarters  an order of the day has gone out to their letter writing group to send of letters to the press desperately trying to put a favourable slant on the poll which is, shall we say, loose with the truth.

You will no doubt recall the poll reported on 29 August under the following headlines: ” Republic takes a king hit” in The Sun Herald (29/8) and Josh Gordon’ s “Republican hopes take a king-hit,” in The Sunday Age (also 29/8), and Jessica Wright’s “Not ready for a republic? Well, we are amused” in The Sydney Morning Herald.

We reported the poll here.

As Josh Gordon put it, The Age/Nielsen poll “shows support for a republic is now running at 44 per cent. This is the lowest level since 1994, and well down from the peak of 57 per cent in 1999, the year the question was tested in a national referendum. The national poll of 1400 people found almost half (48 per cent) are now against the idea."

The report added, "Such a level of hostility has not been recorded since the late 1970s, when about 61 per cent were against a republic.”



Image
[ Sydney Cricket Ground , 3rd Day, Australia vs India, 4th Jan 2008, Source: Privatemusings ]






...caught out....

 



James Jeffrey’s popular Strewth column in The Australian (30/8) told readers  just what the republican movement is capable of: 

WHAT a difference emphasis can make. Here's the headline and lead paragraph from a press release from the Australian Republican Movement that lobbed into our inbox yesterday:

"Neilsen poll says 2/3 of Australians want a republic . . . A poll published in The Sun-Herald today reported that support for a republic had slipped, even though, consistent with previous polls on this issue, at least 63 per cent of Australians support a republic, or around 2/3 of the population."

So let's go to the source, namely the original story in The Sun-Herald, and examine its headline and lead paragraph: "Not ready for a republic? Well, we are amused . . . Public support for a republic has slumped to a 16-year low with more Australians in favour of retaining the monarchy for now."

The republicans were well and truly caught out, as we reported here.




....give us one good reason....



On the following Sunday  
The Sun Herald (5/9) published three letters saying the poll meant that 63 per cent wanted a  republic. Another correspondent, Andreas Jacobs of Tamworth, asked

Can those who support the concept of an Australian republic please deign to give those of us who don’t one tangible example of how being a republic will make daily life easier for the working Australian. Pompous statements about ’prolonged adolescence’ and ‘the full flower of independent adulthood’ mean nothing to those who are trying to make ends meet.

Then in The Sunday Age,  Cedric Buck of Castlemaine wrote

 

... Perhaps it's better the devil we know...


ACCORDING to The Sunday Age, Australians are not as keen on a republic as we were a couple of years ago (''Republic hopes take a king-hit'', 29/8). This changing attitude might not however indicate that we are any more enamoured of the Queen or the regal system than we were. Perhaps we wonder what we'd get if we appointed our own head of state or, more likely, had one appointed for us by whichever boy's club was making decisions at the time. 

After all, in Victoria we have an unelected premier who, in the company of a couple of mates, makes decisions related to planning or public works on our behalf behind closed doors and refuses to tell us how much the consequences of those decisions will cost us (for example, the desalination plant). 

At the same time, he's entertaining people who can financially benefit from these decisions and seeking donations from them to enhance the finances of his own political party, with the intention of using that money to advertise that party [in order] to keep himself and his mates in power. Well, we wouldn't want an Australian head of state like that, would we?

God save the Queen!
  
 



Image



....please resist presidential alternatives....



Ron Fischer of Sebastopol wrote:



PERHAPS the most encouraging news of last week was that headed in The Sunday Age, ''Republic hopes take a king-hit''.
 For all intents and purposes, Australia is already a republic with the governor-general an Australian now for decades. If the media has its way and we pass a referendum, what model would be adopted?

The American public is split down the middle with their ''popularly elected'' president. The US president is elected by far fewer than 50 per cent of the voters. The British monarch presides over the British Commonwealth of nations of which we are a part. The current monarch has held the position since 1952.

In that time, the US has had 12 presidents and are about to embark on the divisive process again. Please do not inflict that on us.
 You might be tempted to flirt with the French alternative, which has a rerun for the top two or three candidates three weeks after the initial poll if no candidate gets an absolute majority.

 
Then again, the African solution might seem attractive. The idea is that if you don't like the incumbent you shoot him and install your own man or woman. Let us adhere to what works for us.



   

...Time for some right royal reporting...

  

Harold Schmautz of  Carnegie said: 

 SUPPORT for a republic has slumped to a 16-year low, with more Australians favouring retaining the monarchy for now. Does the new opinion poll mean that The Sunday Age will return to reporting in a fair and unbiased way on the Australian monarchy?



  
 
Poll king hits republic: call for Flag change Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Wednesday, 01 September 2010
   
 
 

Under the heading “THEY SAID” the Sun Herald (29/8) splashed the following  comments  with photographs alongside the report on the poll which shows more Australians are now opposed  than support an undefined vague republic.


In particular, Greens Leader Dr. Bob Brown,  now the leading republican in Parliament, confirms that  flag change is also on the republican agenda. This was just before National Flag Day to be celebrated on 3 September.

            Image

PATRICK McGORRY Australian of the Year

"Australia's adolescence has lasted more than 100 years … It is time for Australia to pass the test of maturity and emerge from its prolonged adolescence into the full flower of independent adulthood as the republic of Australia.'

'
JULIA GILLARD Prime Minister

''The appropriate time to be a republic is when we see the monarch change. Obviously, I'm hoping for Queen Elizabeth that she lives a long and happy life, and having watched her mother I think there's every chance she will.''

TONY ABBOTT Opposition Leader

''I think that our existing constitutional arrangements have worked well in the past. I see no reason whatsoever why they can't continue to work well in the future.''

       

Image
[ Tony Abbott at Oxford Universty ]


BOB BROWN Greens leader

''It is high time we replaced the Union Jack with a dinkum Australian symbol on our flag. There can be no reason to delay at least holding a plebiscite on whether or not Australia wants to become a republic.''

Image
[ The Boxers: Staatliche Antikensammlungen ]

 



 
MALCOLM TURNBULL
Former leader of republic movement

''The best prospect and time for debate is probably after the end of the Queen's reign. This is recognising how hard it is to change the constitution. To have it amended you need almost no opposition.''

DAVID FLINT Australians for Constitutional Monarchy

''We are one of the world's oldest and stable democracies, and we have a constitution which has been extraordinarily and unusually successful.''

JOHN WARHURST Deputy chairman Australian Republican Movement''Even if we believe we should wait until the Queen dies, we should be making preparations beforehand because this is a process that will take several years at least.'' 

 
 
Republicans caught out Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Tuesday, 31 August 2010

This is from the same people who told us in the nineties that a republic would reduce unemployment, improve trade, increase immigration and that even the then editor of The Sydney Morning Herald would actually deign to take out Australian citizenship.

Oh, and if we didn’t accept their republican model we would be Asia’s and the world’s laughing stock.  (We weren’t; the world’s respect for this country just increased. I watch the SBS TV news from Paris whenever I can.  Australia seems to be mentioned often favourably almost  every second day.)

Image
[ Sydney Cricket Ground , 3rd Day, Australia vs India, 4th Jan 2008, Source: Privatemusings ]


Well, you probably saw the story in the Fairfax press on Sunday: ”  Republic takes a king hit” in The Sun Herald and Josh Gordon’ s “Republican hopes take a king-hit,” in The Sunday Age, and Jessica Wright’s “Not ready for a republic? Well, we are amused” in The Sydney Morning Herald.

We reported the poll here.




As Josh Gordon put it, The Age/Nielsen poll “shows support for a republic is now running at 44 per cent. This is the lowest level since 1994, and well down from the peak of 57 per cent in 1999, the year the question was tested in a national referendum. The national poll of 1400 people found almost half (48 per cent) are now against the idea."




...hostility to republic...




As The Age said, "Such a level of hostility has not been recorded since the late 1970s, when about 61 per cent were against a republic.”

James Jeffrey’s popular Strewth column in The Australian (30/8) tells us just what the republican movement is capable of: 

WHAT a difference emphasis can make. Here's the headline and lead paragraph from a press release from the Australian Republican Movement that lobbed into our inbox yesterday:

"Neilsen poll says 2/3 of Australians want a republic . . . A poll published in The Sun-Herald today reported that support for a republic had slipped, even though, consistent with previous polls on this issue, at least 63 per cent of Australians support a republic, or around 2/3 of the population."

So let's go to the source, namely the original story in The Sun-Herald, and examine its headline and lead paragraph: "Not ready for a republic? Well, we are amused . . . Public support for a republic has slumped to a 16-year low with more Australians in favour of retaining the monarchy for now."

Well and truly caught out - they just don’t learn, these “passionate” republicans.

 
Republic takes a king hit Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Sunday, 29 August 2010

This was the front page headline on 29 August, 2010 on The Sun Herald, the major Fairfax Sunday newspaper.  It was a report on an exclusive Sun Herald/Nielson poll on removing the Crown from our constitutional system, This confirmed that the support for this proposed change has fallen to a 16 year low.

This is in line with other polls, which where they have measured it, have also indicated something which will worry those republicans who think they need only wait until the present generation of monarchists go to the other world. This is the massive decline in support among the young.





There was one exception to this trend, a rogue poll which the republicans revealed on the tenth anniversary of the referendum. The point about polls surely is that it is the trend which is useful, not one poll which suspiciously goes against the trend.

The poll was conducted two weeks before the federal election. It shows that more Australians are now in favour of retaining the monarchy than in favour of an undefined politicians' republic. This poll is entirely consistant with the long term trend from the 1999 referendum.

Image
[ Support for republic collapsing ]
 



[ To continue reading, click on "Read more" below. ]

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