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ACM Home arrow Opinion Polling arrow More bad news for republicans

More bad news for republicans Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Thursday, 11 June 2009

Polling on a republic is done less often these days.  The suspicious say it is done just as often, but it’s just not published - the results are not good for republicans.  Nobody in the media would do that, would they?

David Pemberthy announced in The Daily Telegraph (9/5) that an online  poll on The Punch, the new e-line Murdoch newspaper, was running 50:50%. He said that if you added in older people who would not be reading online, the result would be a clear defeat for republicans. 

UMR recently released its polling, which has shown little change from its last poll.   UMR specialises in political research and campaigns, corporate reputation, personal image management, issues management and social marketing.  It has an impressive client list, including all state governments and the ALP. Its logo is our flag without the Union Flag, very much like the ALP’s.

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[ Democracy in Ancient Greece ]



...reservations about the UMR poll...
 



My reservations about this poll are threefold. First the survey was conducted on line. They clearly try to find a fair sample, but I suspect that online and telephone polling is not as good as face to face polling. Most pollsters do telephone polling, Morgan uses face to face.

 

The use of online polling produces a higher republican vote than other polls such as Morgan and Newspoll. The difference seems to be about 5 or 6 %.

 

My second reservation is that the question is far too vague and has little utility in indicating how people would vote in a a referendum. For the record the question was: “Do you support or oppose Australia becoming a republic? “      

 

Even the word republic is ambiguous.  Leaders as diverse as Justice Michael Kirby and John Howard say we are already a republic. They say we are a crowned republic.

Most serious observers expect the electorate to be strongly divided over the model. If the chosen model is the supposedly most popular one, the elected presidency, most politicians and many in the media will prefer  our crowned republic.  A referendum must be about a model, which is something some republicans don’t understand. Our founding Fathers wanted to make sure the people knew what they were voting for.


Third, as with other polls, the results contain a large number of the undecided. Many do not want to disclose their intentions, or they are barely interested. Experience suggests most will vote against any politicians’ republic.  

In addition the poll is has been taken well before the public knows what is being proposed. The republicans continue to keep their plans secret both about changes to the constitution and to the Flag.

 

On the evidence, polling well before any referendum campaign must show very high levels of support for the referendum to have any chance. Once people hear each side, they will often change their initial approval. On the higher UMR figures the referendum is already doomed.  This is even more apparent with the lower level of support  under the last Newspoll. It is especially evident under Morgan, because this poll was based on the most popular model. 

The republicans know a referendum is doomed. That is why they are pushing the blank cheque plebiscite.


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[ Hogarth: Chairing an elelction ]





....the time bomb waiting for the republicans...

 

The survey finds that support levels are highest amongst men, people in their “middle years” and Labor voters. Among the age groups the young (41%) and the old (45%) offer the weakest support for a republic. As we have said here, youth indifference to a republic is a time bomb for the republicans.

Minister Nicola Roxon once famously said: “No new monarchists are being born” and former Senator Susan Ryan said all the republicans would have to do was wait until the older generation leaves this world. 

Think again citizenesses!  Monarchists growing old is not that elusive silver bullet.



....reasons for a republic....



The survey relies on its 2008 research  for the principal four reasons for why people support “a” republic. These fall into four:

– It’s time to cut old ties to Great Britain
– Monarchy is an outdated concept
– There are little benefits to Australia from the current system
– Australia is strong and can stand alone in the world
– Indigenous Australians have been here before Britain



The reasons people oppose a republic are more diverse.....

– The current system is working, why should it be changed
– The change would be too expensive, and there are other things that should be fixed first
– The current system of Parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy is the bettersystem
– Unwanted consequences that a republic might have, mainly due to less control– The ties with Great Britain and the Commonwealth carry advantages for Australia that it would lose
– Heritage and tradition

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[ Even in war, Australian democracy functioned: voting in 1943 ]




....Do they really want a referendum?...




The next question was: “Do we want another referendum in the next term of parliament?” 

I would suggest this should have been:

“Millions of taxpayer funds have been put into votes and inquiries into a republic, both before and since the referendum in which the referendum was defeated nationally and in every state. Do you support about one fifth of a billion dollars being spent on another referendum in the next term of parliament?”

I regard that as very fair. It tells the respondent precisely and succinctly what has happened and what  will happen.

Any way 53% answered yes to the question.




....do they think it would succeed?...
  



 

 But only 37% thought the referendum would succeed and 39% think it would fail.  

 Republicans were optimistic that the referendum would succeed (59%) but monarchists were confident a republic will be defeated (69%) 

This clearly indicates that   monarchists are  better informed and more in touch than republicans.  Even the republican leadership agrees with the monarchists on this.



...who wants to elect the president....
  



 

Then respondents were asked this question . “Suppose Australia did become a republic with a president taking over the role of the  governor- general as head of state, should the president be elected by the people or appointed by the government?”

Note this is prefaced on Australia being a republic.  

 A huge majority of 81% would prefer a directly elected president over the parliament appointing a president.  It seems clear that the voters have not been tricked into thinking an elected president won’t be a politician. Voters may be saying that if Australia were a republic they would prefer a US style republic.

When asked who they would like to see as Australia’s first president,   Kevin Rudd ( 24%), Quentin Bryce ( 9%)  and John Howard ( 9%) were most often nominated.  

To repeat again, most politicians   oppose direct election, at least unless the President is made powerless. The media is divided. If such a model is proposed, republican Professor Greg Craven predicts it will go down to a bigger defeat than in 1999.

lling on a republic is done less often these days.  The suspicious say it is done just as often, but it’s just not published - the results are not good for republicans.  Nobody in the media would do that, would they?

David Pemberthy announced in The Daily Telegraph (9/5) that an online  poll on The Punch, the new e-line Murdoch newspaper, was running 50:50%. He said that if you added in older people who would not be reading online, the result would be a clear defeat for republicans.

The referendum is of course a wonderful way of testing constitutional change, a great gift from our Founding Fathers. Although disliked by many republicans, it is a wonderful example of democracy and of the proposition that in Australia, sovereignty is vested in the people.

 

 
 
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