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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. 



A ticking timebomb for republicans Print E-mail
Written by David Flint   
Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Image 

From the Australian's 50th Anniversary republican poll, republicans should prepare themselves not only for the reign of King Charles II but also King William V and King George VII.

The latest Newspoll is consistent with two trends which have long been apparent in all the major polls on this issue.

The first trend is that even before the young Royals became so prominent there has been since the referendum landslide defeat in 1999 a decline in support for a republic.*

The second polling trend, one from even before the referendum, is that the young have been less supportive of change than the middle aged.

This has curiously escaped the republican movement who believe they have the youth vote in the bag. Senator  Roxon famously boasted that no new monarchists are being born. The current ARM director David Morris even claimed recently on 3AW that every poll over the last 30 years showed the young are the most republican. To hear the 3AW interview, please click here.

... Bad news for republicans ... 

There are two pieces of worse news for the republicans. Until recently the elderly were most opposed to a republic. This position is now under challenge from the young, with some polls indicating the young are now the least supportive of a republic. Newspoll has them neck to neck.

The second bad news is that Newspoll reveals there are fewer passionate republicans among the young than in any other age group. There are only 17% "strongly in favour" of a republic, compared with the 24- 25% in the other age groups.

That that really is a time bomb for the republicans.

What will really disturb our republican politicians is young peoples' opinion about their favourite republican model – the one where the politicians and not the people choose the president.

A miserable  8% of our youth agree with this - by far the lowest of any age group.

This no doubt reflects the extreme distrust of politicians among the nation's youth.

So why is a republic on the nose among the nation's youth?

The republicans say it's all because of the celebrity value of the young royals.

That's a facile and glib explanation. It just doesn't hold water.

... Not about personalities ...

It should be remembered that in 1999 the ARM accused the monarchists of ''not mentioning the Queen''.

But we had made a conscious decision that we would argue the case on constitutional issues rather than on relying on the well known personal qualities of the Sovereign.

If you look at our position in the 1999 Yes/No booklet it will be seen that the No case was essentially about the constitutional checks and balances on the politicians.

This was summed up in our  argument that the 1999 Keating Turnbull republic would have been the only one in history where it would have been easier for the prime minister to sack the president than his cook.

The president would be the prime minister's puppet.

This distrust of the politicians and the refusal in 1999 to give them even more power  is probably having a stronger impact now.

Without doubt the examples of massive corruption, profligacy, maladministration and broken promises have led to a massive fall in confidence in the nation's mainly republican politicians.

By way of contrast, the Royal family and our viceroys present outstanding examples of exemplary behaviour.

In addition it should be remembered that will support for a vague undefined republic was already falling before the young Royals made their present impact on the Australian scene.

... Service, Duty and Honour ...

Of course the Royal family generally has strengthened support constitutional monarchy. The Queen on her last visit was greeted by crowds everywhere. The young Royals are equally popular.

This is not because of some celebrity status as if they were film stars.

All of them are greatly respected because Australians realise that they are not playing the roles they do to collect some golden handshake, politicians' superannuation or other perks of office.

Australians recognise in each member of the Royal family a sense of service whether that be in the Armed Forces, in charitable work, in service to the poor and underprivileged  and just the way in which they fulfil their royal functions.

And when Australians compare that with so many of their politicians they increasingly say No to some politicians' republic.

Even for those Australians who don't see the constitutional importance of the Crown, many if not most have clearly come to the conclusion that this institution is benign and does them no harm.

The fact is Crown threatens no one –  except the most delinquent politicians.

*Note 1: In a referendum the undecided overwhelmingly vote No, as happened in 1999.

Note 2: Indication of support for a republic in a poll is likely to be at least 5 or 6% higher than the vote in a referendum where a precise model must be on the table. This is because proponents of change naturally have the first say. It is only as vote approaches that the electorate hears the warnings from the No case. At about the same time republican divisions emerge about the model.

 
Young royals rule as push for republic stalls Print E-mail
Written by ACM   
Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Natasha Bita writes in The Australian (Young royals rule as push for republic stalls, 15 July) that republican fervour is fading among the young and poor, with the young royals' recent first antipodean tour fanning support for the monarchy.

An exclusive Newspoll survey for The Australian shows support for a republic is slipping. Just 40 per cent of Australians want to become a republic - down from the 45 per cent who voted for a republic in the failed 1999 national referendum.

Newspoll surveys over the past 15 years show support for a republic peaked at 52 per cent in 2000, when 39 per cent of Australians were “strongly in favour’’. Now only 22 per cent strongly favour a republic, including 17 per cent of 18-34 year olds - the generation that typically embraces change. Strong republican support among 35-49 year olds has also slipped, from 30 per cent in 2011 to 24 per cent.

The following two tables show the results from both 1999 and 2014 when people were asked "Now thinking about whether Australia should become a republic, are you personally in favour or against Australia becoming a republic? "

1999 

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[To download a a higher resolution version of these results, please click here]

2014

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[To download a a higher resolution version of these results, please click here]

Australians for Constitutional Monarchy national convener David Flint said growing support for the monarchy among Australians was a “time bomb for the republicans’’. He said the young royals were just as popular as the Queen, and Australians appreciated the royal family’s “sense of service’’.

The following table shows the results when people were asked "If Australia were to become a republic, we would have a President as our head of state. In your opinion, how should the Australian President be elected? Would it be better…?"

2014

Image
[To download a a higher resolution version of these results, please click here]

The Newspoll survey shows that, if Australia is ever to become a republic, few Australians trust politicians to choose the head of state. It shows 81 per cent of Australians would prefer to choose the president themselves, through a direct election by the voting public.

Women, young Australians and low-income earners are the strongest supporters of a president chosen by the people. Men and the over-50s are more likely to prefer a president selected by members of parliament, with 17 per cent supporting this model compared to 14 per cent of all Australians. Only 8 per cent of Gen Y Australians would trust MPs to choose a president.

Professor Flint said this showed “distrust of the politicians’’. “Without doubt the examples of massive corruption, profligacy, maladministration and broken promises have led to a massive fall in confidence in the nation’s mainly republican politicians,’’ Professor Flint said. “By way of contrast, the royal family and our viceroys present outstanding examples of exemplary behaviour.’’

To read the full report in The Australian, please click here.

 
Not inevitable and never was Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Glance at the red line in the graph below and rejoice. Support for a republic among the young has well and truly collapsed.

Although the ARM hasn't, the media may at last have woken up to something we have been pointing out here for years.

This is that the strongest support for a  politicians' republic has been almost always among the middle aged, and not the young. The red line shows that.

Interest among our youth  has been falling significantly over an extended period of time, and from well before the young royals came on to the scene as personalities in their own right.

 

Image   

 


 

...referendum campaign...

 

 

 In the 90s, as we campaigned against the attempt to impose some form of  politicians' republic on the nation, the various pollsters began to pay increasing attention to the issue. But most in the media and curiously, in the Australian Republican Movement, missed or glossed over the data about youth support.

Was it because they wanted  to believe that our youth were dreaming about the advent of a politicians' republic ?

When the official Vote Yes and Vote No Referendum Committees were appointed, the Vote No Committee  undertook its own polling. (It was chaired by ACM's executive director, Kerry Jones, and all members but two independent republicans were from ACM.)

One  thing  caught my eye in both the public and the No Committee polls whenever the ages of the respondents were shown.

 

...republicans in denial...




 

 As you would expect the older voters were the most opposed.

Bu tit was not the young who were the most republican. It was the middle-aged (and especially males in inner city electorates) .

The ARM still hasn't caught up with this crucial  fact.

Recently in a debate broadcast on Wednesday, 26 March 2014 ( podcast 260314) on Neil Mitchell's program on Melbourne's highest rating talkback station 3AW, ACM's  Jai Martinkovits said that support for a politicians' republic 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 saying:"Young people are the most republican and Jai knows that every poll in the last 30 years has shown that." 




....welcome development....

 

Image

Read more...
 
Republic support crashes, especially among the young Print E-mail
Written by Professor David Flint AM   
Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Support for a vague undefined politicians' republic has collapsed, according to an Essential Poll published on 30 April 2014. Wose for the republicans , the young are now confirmed as the least republican. If a referendum were to be held today, the Yes vote as a percentage would be likely to be in the twenties.

The polling result is in accordance with the trends identified by ACM on its principal  site.  With the youth result the trend line is likely to fall further over time. From 42% in Essential's 2010 poll, only 33% of Australians are now in favour of Australian becoming a republic.

 Note that the question, ''Are you in favour or against Australia becoming a republic?'' does not indicate the model. Once the republicans reveal their preferred model, support falls further.  

... youth support now lowest... 

 

Photo: Support for a vague undefined politicians' republic has collapsed, according to an Essential Poll published on 30 April 2014.  The young are now solidly confirmed as the least republican.  If a referendum were held today, the Yes vote as a percentage would be likely to be in the twenties.  The polling result is in accordance with the trends identified by ACM on its principal  site.  With the youth result the trend line is likley to l fall further. From 42% in Essential's 2010 poll, only 33% of Australians are now in favour of Australian becoming a republic.  The question, '' Are you in favour or against Australia becoming a republic?'' did not indicate the model.  Once the republicans reveal their preferred model,  support  falls further.    ... youth support now lowest...  The ARM claim that the young have been the most republican for 30 years is once again shown to be an invention. As with the recent Fairfax -Nielson poll, the young have replaced the old as the least republican  with 29% of those aged 30 and under favouring a republic.  The middle aged remain the most republican but this is falling.
Read more...
 
Youth support for republic crashes Print E-mail
Written by ACM   
Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Youth support for a politicians' republic has collapsed, according to a poll by Fairfax Nielson published on 16 April 2014.

Support among those aged 18-24 is 28%, with overall support 42%.

Support among those aged above 55 is 45%, for those between 40-54, 44% and between those aged between 25-39, 48%.

In the meantime ACM's convenor David Flint  re-issued a solemn warning on the Royal Visit, one he has been issuing since the nineties:

''Never stand between royalty and celebrity republicans. Otherwise you'll be knocked over in the rush.''  

 

 

  Photo: Support for a vague undefined republic (without any model) over 22 years as polled by Fairfax Neilson. Follow the blue line    

 
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