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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. 



ARM leader misrepresents polling Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Thursday, 27 March 2014
Too often we find prominent republicans say things which just aren't true. Is this because they don't bother to check the facts? Or are they deliberate misrepresentations?

In a debate broadcast on Wednesday, 26 March 2014 ( podcast 260314) on Neil Mitchell's program on Melbourne's highest rating talkback station 3AW about the reintroduction of the knights and dames, ACM's young executive director Jai Martinkovits said that support for a politicians' republic had fallen since the referendum.

He added that support among the young was low and that this was a time bomb for the republicans.

The current leader of the republican movement, David Morris, replied by claiming something palpably untrue:

"Young people are the most republican and Jai knows that every poll in the last 30 years has shown that."

Australians for Constitutional Monarchy's photo.
Australians for Constitutional Monarchy's photo.




 
....what the polls actually say... 


Polls since before the referendum which show support according to age usually results in the bell shaped curve.

These usually demonstrate that the middle aged and not the young are more republican.

Is Mr Morris so uninformed on such a fundamental matter? Why did he say this?

Although he tried to speak over Jai, he was soon caught out.

After the debate the presenter Neil Mitchell, who is a republican, read from a recent poll which showed that youth support for a politicians' republic was indeed lower than most other groups.

How embarrassing for the ARM.


 
Read more...
 
Republican pollster hangs on to $200K Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Saturday, 22 March 2014
As readers will be aware the republicans are flush with funds, just as they were when they lost the referendum in 1999. ACM scrimped and saved to lead the No campaign.

The republicans have so much money they can afford to commission a polling organisation, UMR, to undertake polls on questions carefully chosen by them.
 
 Image
 
The polls are then released to a too often gullible media. On one occasion this was done - and not only by one outlet - without the publication of the precise question. When we sought this from UMR we were told this could only released with the consent of their republican client. The ARM ignored our request for the release of the question.

We do not question the professional expertise of UMR, but have pointed out that its assessment of republican support is usually substantially higher than that of other pollsters.
 
 

 

...that $200k...

 



 The Labor Party is also a client of UMR, but a dispute has been brewing there over $200,000 spent in former PM and ''lifelong  republican'' Kevin Rudd's electorate which the ALP is trying to recover.
 
According to Michael McKenna in The Australian (''Labor pollster hangs on to $200K'') the $200,00 came from a donation by Taiwanese Kung Chin Yuan may well be in breach of electoral laws.
 
The Queensland ALP administrative committee has resolved to demand UMR return the money so that in turn it can return the donation to Mr. Kung.
 
The UMR has declined saying it paid for a program of research involving focus groups and ''robo'' calls to voters commissioned by Mr Rudd.
 
 
New Zealanders overwhelmingly say NO Print E-mail
Written by ACM   
Sunday, 16 March 2014

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key, who describes himself as a republican,  seriously misjudged how strongly opposed New Zealanders are to ditching their flag. 

Polling indicates almost three quarters of New Zealanders are opposed to this.

 Had he proceeded with a referendum at the same time as the September 2014 election, it could have become the big issue.

There would have been massive opposition which could have affected the voting at the election. So he has postponed flag change to the next term. 

 

 Image

 

...contrast with Australia... 

 

 

When he suddenly announced he wanted to ditch the New Zealand Flag, Mr Key at least did not do what the Keating government planned to do to Australians.

 This was to force us, against our wishes, to accept the trashing of our flag.

 The Keating government actually announced the flag would be changed before the Centenary of Federation. There was no indication t there would be a referendum. It was as though we were living under a republican dictatorship.

In The Sydney Morning Herald 6 June 1994, Mike Seccombe reported ( ''New Flag on track,'') that the Minister of Finance Kim Beazley had stated that the Keating Government ''was sticking to its timetable' for changes to Australia’s constitution and flag by the end of the century.'' 

This was '' in spite of strong public opposition''.

 

...strong opposition... 

 

 

 

In announcing a referendum for a new flag at the time of the next election later this year, the New Zealand Prime Minister John Key has seriously misjudged the New Zealand people.

 An opinion poll in New Zealand has revealed that most people just do not share Prime Minister John Key's passion  to change their flag. As in Australia, the politicians are completely out of touch. With the exception of a minority, politicians like the idea of imposing a politicians Republic and trashing the flag. In Australia, politicians have gone quiet on these issues because they have realised that the public does not support them.

Apparently there's a similar attitude in New Zealand where there is reported to be widespread  political support for flag change.

But the public are overwhelmingly opposed. A Colmar Brunton-One News opinion poll has   found that almost three quarters of respondents want to keep the flag and only 28 per cent want a change.

Only two per cent of those polled considered the flag an election issue. But had there been a referendum at the same time it could have become the big issue . 

Watch the news here:http://tvnz.co.nz/national-news/kiwis-don-t-want-flag-change-poll-video-5850356

 
Republican support still falling Print E-mail
Written by ACM   
Friday, 07 March 2014

In this briefing on 28 February 2014, ACM's national convener Professor David Flint points out that the latest Fairfax opinion poll demonstrates what has already been well established over time and across the polls.

Republican support continues to fall, and worse for the Republicans, the last poll published by Fairfax demonstrates that support is lower among the young than even among the  elderly.

  

This is a timebomb for our republican friends.

Although many politicians – who do endless polling and focus groups – still cling to some dreams of some sort of politicians' republic, they are realistic enough now to know that another referendum or a plebiscite at this time or the foreseeable future would result in a greater defeat than in 1999.

The politicians know particularly that the public would be unforgiving for any politician that pushed this issue to another vote.

 

 

 

 
Support for republic continues to trend down Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Thursday, 27 February 2014

Support for a republic is definitely trending down, a university study has confirmed today.  The bad news for republicans is that this conclusion is supported by all polls and all surveys.

(The other bad news for republicans is that where youth opinions are separated, there seems to be little support for a republic certainly lower than among the middle-aged and in one recent survey published this month in Fairfax,even lower than among the elderly. )

The university study finds that over the period 1998 to 2013  support for a republic fell from 68% to 53%.

These levels  should offer little solace to republicans, as they are usually over 10% higher than support as measured in in most opinion polls.



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