Polling today
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Thursday, 23 May 2013

Here's how people are voting on constitutional change.

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This photograph was sent to us by Councillor Peter Cavanagh from Canberra's Museum of Australian Democracy.

There are two points to note about the break up of voters. First, in a referendum, pollsters will tell you  the undecided tend to vote no - see the opinion polling section on the ACM site.

Second, based on the 1999 experience, republicans are so divided about the model they prefer our crowned republic to the other model. This fundamental division has been papered over by the ARM - which only indicates that it still rages.

If this group were representative of the Australian electorate , which we do not of course claim, either model would be rejected by  around 80:20.

Whatever the figures, the fact is that the republican politicians know that a referendum would be overwhelmingly rejected, and more than in 1999. Based on opinion polling we would probably win at least 60:40, all states, and probably more than 72% of electorates. We would also win the northern Territory. The republicans would win e ACT - Canberra.

That's why there is so little action on this, apart from Malcolm Turnbull's recent curious outburst. 

When we put this on Facebook, a number of republicans advanced all sorts of reasons why a republican referendum would be passed. ( Unlike the republicans we allow our opponents to post comments provided they observe the  rules of civilized debate. Constitutional monarchists are, after all, democrats.)

So we added the following comment to bring the republicans down to earth.

 

...referendum unlikely, unless...

 

 

The trend line across the polls and over time indicates that support for A (not "the") republic has significantly declined. Our constitution requires that those proposing change reveal the details to the people before they vote, much to the annoyance of the republican politicians.

Two things happen between opinion polls and the real vote. First the undecided - many of whom want to keep their vote secret and won't reveal it to a pollster, move overwhelmingly to the no vote.

Second, people have the opportunity to hear both sides. Typically the proponents have dominated the earlier part of the debate. The result is that support for the proposal falls. At the present time support for a vague undefined republic is probably under 40% - that is the key figure.

Most of the undecided would vote No often because they regard their vote as secret. Once the details are on the table, a number of those who support a vague undefined republic will move back to the crowned republic. This is either because the monarchist arguments persuade them to change or they dislike the model and prefer the crowned republic to the model being offered. The leading republican politicians know all of this.

That is why a referendum is unlikely unless a government becomes so desperate it decides on this as a distraction.  It would only make their position worse, and ensure no referendum would be put again for generations. That is also why Malcolm Mackerras some time ago called for a second referendum to end the matter. He says it would be well and truly lost.