Misrepresenting opinion polls
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) 

 

 The republican politicians would love to increase the power and influence of their class and then move on the Flag.  But instead, action has been suspended at least during the present reign.

The reason is simple.  it has nothing to do with being respectful to The Queen.

The republican politicians know the ARM line that 60% want a republic is untrue.

The public and private polls -  and the focus groups - are telling them loud and clear: Don’t touch this with a barge poll.

But that won’t stop Greens Leader Senator Bob Brown from raising the issue, but unless the Prime Minister agrees, nothing will happen.