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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.


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. 

Australian youth dump republic: another poll Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Sunday, 11 May 2008



Just after a Morgan Poll showed support for a republic with an elected president had fallen to 45%, a fifteen year low,  and among those 14-17 to 23%,  an Australian Democrat Youth Poll  released by passionate republican, Senator Stott Despoja, has confirmed this  trend.
The nation’s youth are turning away from Australia becoming a republic.

ACM’s South Australian Convener, Dr. David Phillips, informs us  that The Adelaide Advertiser of 10  May contained an extensive report by Maria Moscaritolo on the poll, which covered several issues.

In response to the question “Should Australia be a Republic?” 44% answered “Yes” 

In 2007, the answer was 48%, in 2006, 55 per cent, down from a high of 84 per cent in 1999,” when” The Advertiser observes “ it was a hot topic of debate.”

Collapse! Young Australians kill off republic. Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Thursday, 08 May 2008



Support for a republic has collapsed among young Australians, a point we made this morning on 2GB, and in Crikey, the nation’s leading political on line newsletter.

The latest Morgan Poll also shows a referendum will be lost on whatever model is put to the people. 

Worse for republicans, it also means their silver bullet, a plebiscite would also go down. Kevin Rudd will be thinking  twice about running one with the next election.

If he doesn’t, his minders will.

A plebiscite is not like, say, a referendum on the retiring ages of judges. Nothing will excite the media more than one on a republic.

So it  will soak up too much valuable media time, and this  on an exercise he is doomed to lose.

All the signs are that the government will put republicanism onto the back burner, as Malcolm Turnbull already has.

...young not interested in a republic...

The latest Morgan Poll shows the young especially can’t see the point of a republic. Those who say, like Nicola Roxon, that no new monarchists are being born, will have to revise their views.

Even at the time of the referendum polling showed that the strongest support for a republic came from the baby boomers, especially those in inner city electorates. The young voters have always been less interested.

And the trend since then  has been down.[i]

The West Australian 2006 survey of youth attitudes showed that support for a republic in the 18 to 30 age group had fallen to 38%.


Then the Morgan poll of 22 February 2005 found that  only 37% of those aged 14-17 were in favour of a republic.

 Now in 2008, this has fallen to a dismal  23%, with 64% supporting the constitutional monarchy and 13% undecided.

Some undecided voters may be just unwilling to reveal their intentions; in any event they tend to vote No in a referendum.

And it is not only that young people are disinterested in a republic. It is that they are positively interested in their past and their heritage.

The republican attempt to shred our flag has collapsed. It looks now as if the republican attempt to shred our constitution is going the same way.

The overall result is equally dismal for republicans. Support for a republic is at 45%, the lowest for 15 years.

 ...more bad news for republicans...

Apart from the youth vote, the Morgan Poll is bad news for those republicans who say John Howard tricked voters in 1999 with the model.

Of course he didn’t. The model was the choice of the overwhelming majority of republicans at the 1998 Convention.

The point is that unlike NewsPoll which does not define the word “republic” in its question, Morgan refers to the supposedly most popular model, the one where the people elect the president.

Take the polls together and you have to conclude no model will get up.

These results contrast glaringly with the 2020 Summit where the governance panel voted 98:1 with one abstention in favour of republican change.

Actually they recommended ending links with the UK. This was curious for such a gathering. The last links went in 1986.



[i]See columns  “The Young Lost to Republicanism,” 5 December, 2005; “The Queen's Homecoming - a triumph,” 14 March, 2006;     “Support for republic in free fall,” 7 September, 2006         
Humpty Dumpty enters republican debate Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Sunday, 13 April 2008



...the Summit rigged, Humpty Dumpty enters the campaign ...

The campaign to divert even more money from schools, hospitals and water to change our constitution in a most fundamental way, and then our flag, is gathering apace.

The rigging of the republican debate  began in 1993 when Paul Keating stacked his Republican Advisory Committee. You had to be a paid up passionate republican to be a member.

The Committee was chaired by Malcolm Turnbull, then leading and apparently funding generously the republican movement. He was also part of the flag changing movement but has since seen the light.

This practice of stacking bodies examining republicanism has, sadly, been followed with the governance panel for the 2020 Summit.

The panel is so gerrymandered it would make an old style Queensland politician green with envy.

Realising that something is wrong, two former High Court judges have just resigned from the panel and the 2020 Summit.[i]

In a report about a new Taverner poll on constitutional change in the Fairfax Sunday newspaper, The Sun-Herald, 13 April 2008 (“The last of the Royals”), Kerry –Anne Walshe reveals that there is one more “ avowed” republican at the Summit.

We had counted so many we thought we must have missed one.

But to our surprise the person named is former governor-general and  High Court judge, Sir William Deane.

Sir William has served The Queen, sworn allegiance to her, represented her, and in 1982 was made a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1982.

To our knowledge he has never renounced all of this.  

We hope that there has been some misunderstanding.

... media polls...

In the meantime, polling on republicanism has resumed after a delay of over a year.

The answers obtained in an opinion poll depend, of course, on the wording of the question. The words should be as neutral as possible and have a reasonably precise meaning.

A serious weakness in most polling in the constitutional debate has been in the use of the word “republic” without some elaboration.

This has inflated the apparent support for change.

Used alone, “republic” is a “Humpty Dumpty” word.

In “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” Humpty Dumpty said there in a rather scornful tone, "When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.”

“Republic” is the Humpty Dumpty word par excellence.

Montesquieu and classical political philosophers would have seen the Commonwealth of Australia as a republic.

So did Cardinal Moran at the time of Federation.

Bagehot saw the Westminster system as a “disguised republic.”

Recently Mr. Justice Michael Kirby rejoiced in the Commonwealth of Australia as a “crowned republic.”

So a poll or plebiscite question which uses “republic” does not tell us much.

The question in the Sun Herald Taverner poll was “Should Australia become a republic?”

Apart from the Humpty Dumpty word “ republic” , the first word of the question is  “should.”  

This has the core meaning, according to the Encarta dictionary, “that something is the right thing for somebody to do.”

A more neutral verb would give a fairer view.

Even the verb “become” is not the most neutral word. It also has the meaning of being “an appropriate or socially acceptable thing for somebody to say or do.”

This is not nitpicking. The words used in polling are crucial.

By way of contrast the 1999 referendum question, developed by a parliamentary committee and settled by republican and monarchist MP’s, briefly elaborated on the sort of republic which was proposed and used neutral language.[ii]

In any event, 49% said yes to the Taverner poll, but according to a second question, most of these want it delayed.

Accordingly,  the Taverner Research managing director Philip Mitchell-Taverner issued the following warning.

"It would appear from these latest poll findings that those who want us to become a republic may be sensible to wait at least until Queen Elizabeth leaves the throne before there will be ready acceptance of the change."

The last Newspoll showed support for a vague republic  was down to 45%,[iii] and according to the last West Australian in depth youth survey, 38%.[iv]

...Humpty Dumpty hypothetical...

The Sun Herald Poll Taverner poll has a second question partially about peoples' views today about how they may feel many years hence.  

This is “Should Australia move to become a republic as soon as possible or when The Queen’s reign ends?”

The same comments apply to the use of the word “republic” without elaboration, and the use of the word “ should.”  

If the question is as presented, it gives a preference to the first two choices, both preceded by the word “should.” It seems to give two alternatives, with the existing Constiution being an after thought.

The answers were:

·          As soon as possible: 39%

·          When The Queen’s reign ends: 30%

·          Stay as we are, regardless of who is on the throne:26%

·          Unsure:5%     


Support for a vague ,undefined republic at the end of the reign in the Taverener poll is higher than in other recent polls.  .  For example a Newspoll in 2006 said that support for an undefined republic on the succession of Prince Charles was 52%.[v]


...mate for a head of state poll..

Not to be outdone, Peter FizSimons in the same issue of the Sun Herald, enters into the fray.

Mr. FitzSimons spent a lot of time and effort, with some leading legal minds, on the previous “mate for a head of state” campaign.[vi]

His column, The Fitz Files, has a  caricature of the ACM National Convener. Suited he has two wings. They are both Union Flags.

He proposes his own “simple referendum question.”

“ Do you believe that this is the 21st century after all, and if so, do you think it high time that we backed ourselves as a grown up people capable of governing ourselves without recourse to the current embarrassing anachronistic system, whereby our head of state is selected by every generation putting a baseball mitt to the highest nether regions of the English aristocracy?”

We suspect this would require a supplemental grant to the electoral commissions printing budget.

He says if you vote yes, you get to vote in the next round on what sort of republic we should have.

If you vote No, as Australia did in the 1999 landslide, Mr. FitzSimons proposes what he sees as an awful fate.

“ must listen to speeches from Professor David Flint of Australians for Constitutional Fairytales, until your nose bleeds and you learn the error of your ways.”

...our proposed questions...


We think it would be reasonable ask people whether they wish to have this issue on the agenda. In particular :

·          Whether they think that after the Republic Advisory Committee, the Constitutional Convention, the referendum and the Senate Inquiry and Report, more taxpayer funding should be spent on this issue;

·          Whether they think the issue should be reopened after the vote in 1999, and

·          What priority they give to fundamental change to the constitution and the flag.

We suspect that both the politicians know the answers.   



[i] See this column, ” Panic at the Summit: judges resign,” 12 April, 2008
[ii] The question was “Do you approve of the proposed law to alter the Constitution to establish the Commonwealth of Australia as a republic with the Queen and the Governor-General being replaced by a President appointed by a two thirds majority of the members of the Parliament?”

 The ARM sought to remove the words “President” and “republic”; ACM sought to have added  words which accurately described the unusual provision concerning dismissal .

These were: and who may be dismissed at any time by the Prime Minister without notice, without the giving of reasons and without any right of appeal.”

Debate gerrymandered Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Tuesday, 08 April 2008

Image debate due to the gerrymander...

“The media has a vested interest in change - change equates to news and news is the life blood of the media,” declared Paul Kelly  as editor-in chief of The Australian in 1993 when he was addressing a forum on constitutional change.[i]

Having extracted some sort of commitment to some republican debate, the Australian media were beside themselves the day after the Prime Minister’s audience with The Queen.

Over a photograph of The Queen and Mr Rudd, the front page of the print version of The Australian, 8 April, 2008 carried this headline “Rudd to push debate on republic”.

 The Sydney Morning Herald, again only in the print version, tucked the story with the photograph  on the fourth page under this  line, “Rudd raises republic as he sets off to see Queen.”

We suppose this was done  discreetly in case anyone thought the Herald was returning to the monarchism of its long distant youth.

But what had the PM said?. There was some personal testimony to “lifelong republicanism” - as though it were some sort of genetic disorder.

Then he welcomed a “debate” this year. But that won’t be at the 2020 Summit - the  republican gerrymander there would leave old style Queensland politicians – from both sides –green with envy. There will be no debate, just republican monologues there, except of course for the delightful sole monarchist the Hon. Helen Sham Ho.


In any event the PM said that the government “would be looking at how that debate develops.”

We have three pieces of advice to the Prime Minister.

First, please don’t refer to “the” republic as you did in London.  Since the failure of the Keating-Turnbull model , the republicans still haven’t worked out what sort of republic they want. So it’s still “a” republic, that is, any sort of vague undefined republic.

Really, Prime Minister, couldn’t you get these republicans to at least say what they want?  

Second, remember there is no interest in this among the rank and file. Labor voting electorates were among the strongest No voters in 1999.

Third, we promise you a fight of monumental proportions to keep our constitutional system and our flag. Don’t underestimate us, Mr Prime Minister – on this we are more in touch with the people.

Fourth, it would be an act of gross financial delinquency  to spend one more cent of taxpayer’ funds on this.

No more money should be diverted from schools, hospitals and water to subsidise the republicans in this folly.

And while they are at it, the republicans might also work out some reason why the issue should be re-opened. They’ll need to do better than the editor of The (Adelaide) Advertiser who said among the reasons were that India, China and Australia were richer, and then there was the outrage of 9/11.  We still do not see the connection.


Seriously, if the vote had gone the other way in 1999, does anyone think we would get another bite at the cherry.


We’d be ridiculed if we argued that.

...Mr. Editor, please check  the facts...

I used to subscribe to a leading London weekly, until I found their reporting about Australia was too often hopelessly amiss.

Concluding that if they were so wrong about Australia, I thought their reporting about the rest of the world was probably equally dubious.

So I cancelled the subscription I’d had for over two decades.

They write to me now from time to time offering enticing subscriptions.  I’m tempted - until I recall why I pulled out.


I have been taking the London Daily Telegraph for years, and I hope the reason for the following letter to them is only an aberration.






You say ( 7/4) opinion polls suggest the majority of Australians would support the establishment of a republic. The last Murdoch Newspoll showed the number in support of a vague undefined republic had fallen to 45%.  Trending down, they did not do one this year. Given polls before the referendum overestimated support for such a radical change, this does not augur well for republicans.


 With the young, it's even worse for the republicans. A poll in Western Australia showed republican support had tumbled to 38%.




You also claim that the 1999 referendum was defeated not because of public support for the monarchy but because of confusion and uncertainty about the question. There was no confusion or uncertainty about the question. This was dreamed up by the republicans later as an excuse. It was propagated by the Australian media who were severely embarrassed by the landslide against something for which they had campaigned strongly and not just in editorials.




“In fact the republican movement even  tried to rig the question by having two words removed: "president" and "Republic."  You can guess what their focus groups and private polling were telling them.




“Constitutional monarchists wanted the question to also refer to the way the PM could sack the President instantly without notice and without reason. That was not allowed.




:But as with the model, the question was settled by republicans.


“You suggest many republicans voted against this republic because they wanted a popular vote for president. An analysis of the vote indicates this was very small. Conservative republicans are totally opposed to popular election to a position of considerable power if it were converted to a republican office.






[i] Sir David Smith, Head of State, 189, reviewed in this column, 11 April 2006.
Plebiscites - as with opinion polls, it all depends on the question Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Tuesday, 11 December 2007



If the republican movement has its way, Australians will be ordered to the urns to vote in two spurious  plebiscites designed to rewrite our tried and tested Constitution.  This is of course against the spirit and possibly the letter of our constitution, which for over a hundred years has clearly established the referendum as the only way in which the Constitution should be changed. The Founders of our nation were well aware of the abuse to which plebiscites can be put to justify constitutional change; they were well aware of the blatant misuse of the plebiscite by the Bonapartes.

(The accompanying poster was used in the plebiscite to approve the coup d'état  by  President Bonaparte in 1851. In the following year be became Napoleon III, Emperor of the French - after yet another plebiscite.)

So why do Australia's republicans want these plebiscites? They want them for two reasons. First, the republican movement is too undemocratic to accept the peoples’ overwhelming decision in 1999. Second they expect that if asked again, the people will come to the same conclusion if they were asked again.  Indeed Professor Greg Craven thinks that the defeat would be even more resounding than in 1999.

 The principal difference between the plebiscite our founders did not want, and the referendum they carefully chose, is this. In the plebiscite the people get the details after, and not before they vote. A constitutional plebiscite is like a blank cheque. And as with opinion polls, it all depends on the question. A skilled spin doctor can phrase the question to get the answer he or she wants, even doubling the vote.  That is why Australians for Constitutional Monarchy have been opposed to the republican ruse to use these since they were first mooted soon after the referendum.

This brings me to Canada.  The monarchy remains popular in this Realm, as evidenced by poll after poll after poll over the years. For example the 2002 Ipsos-Reid poll found that 79% of Canadians approved of “the constitutional monarchy as Canada's form of government where we elect governments whose leader becomes Prime Minister."

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