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.
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, currently between 35% to 48% by one poll which is consistently higher than the others;
2. Polling continues to indicate a bell shaped curve revealing lower support among the young and continuing strong opposition among the aged. In the latest poll, the Morgan Poll in 2011, support for a politicians' republic among the young was at 31% and among new immigrants (28%);
3. Support is strongest among inner city voters especially middle aged males and supporters of the Greens;
4. Once a republican model is announced as the preferred republic, the Condorcet principle espoused by psephologist Malcolm Mackerras applies and support falls further ( that is a significant number of republicans always prefer the constitutional monarchy over the opposing model);
5. Interest in republican change is generally weak. Those who describe themselves as strong supporters were, according to the April 2011 Newpoll, down to 25%. Among the young this was 20%. The contrasting experiences of ACM and the republicans in calling for public demonstrations supports a conclusion that many more monarchists are strong supporters of their cause than republicans.
6. The latest poll on direct election ( by Morgan polling) indicates no greater support for this than there is for a vague undefined republic;
7. As with any other polling, occasionally a "rogue" poll going against the trend will emerge, as with the 2009 UMR poll released at the time of the tenth anniversary of the referendum;
8. Another referendum on the 1999 model would be overwhelmingly defeated and a referendum on a model involving the direct election of a President would also be defeated ( republican Professor Craven says the defeat would be greater than in 1999);
9. A referendum delaying change until the end the reign would be defeated overwhelmingly;
10. If a plebiscite were to be held, it will be weighted in favour of a Yes vote. This will be done carefully designing the question. This will be done by taxpayer funded specialists, aided by substantial taxpayer funding including provision 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 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.
12. Those who are uncommitted in a poll tend to move to the No case, or in the poll do not reveal an intention to vote No. This is because the republican camp has been successful in suggesting the monarchist case is old fashioned, dated, etc.
13. Polls taken now indicating opinions at some future date, say, the end of the reign, are clearly unreliable.
14. That even if the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition were to support the Yes case ina referndum, this will not ensure success, as was demonstrated in 1967. But if there is no No case, i.e. the Parliament unanimously supports the referendum, this can significantly help the Yes case. 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.
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. To counter this, constitutional monarchists will need to be as well 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.
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.
Written by Professor David Flint AM
Thursday, 27 February 2014
Support for a republic is definitely trending down, a university study has confirmed today. The bad news for republicans is that this conclusion is supported by all polls and all surveys.
(The other bad news for republicans is that where youth opinions are separated, there seems to be little support for a republic certainly lower than among the middle-aged and in one recent survey published this month in Fairfax,even lower than among the elderly. )
The university study finds that over the period 1998 to 2013 support for a republic fell from 68% to 53%.
These levels should offer little solace to republicans, as they are usually over 10% higher than support as measured in in most opinion polls.
...Australian Election Study ....
Written by Professor David Flint AM
Sunday, 23 February 2014
"It's not hard to believe recent surveys showing support for an Australian republic is in decline," writes Ron Elphick of Buff Point in the Daily Telegraph 21 February 2014.
"Had we been one, we might have had Julia Gillard's as PM with Kevin Rudd as president."
[Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd kiss in the House of Represntaives on the passing of a government bill in 2011]
Written by ACM
Sunday, 02 February 2014
"'We love the Queen,'' headlined the front page of the Sun-Herald
According to a Fairfax REACHTEL poll of a very large sample, support for an Australian republic has collapsed to a 20-year low, with just 39.4 per cent of Australians saying they support a republic. The poll was reported in the Sun-Herald on to February, 2014 under the headline: "Republic support dives to 20 year low".
''That is a time bomb, I believe, for republicans, because you don't have that investment for the future,'' ACM's Professor Flint said, referring to the collapse in support for a republic to 35.6 per cent among 18 to 35 year olds. Only people aged over 65 had a lower rate of support (30.7 per cent) for Australia becoming a republic.
...republic support to fall further...
Professor Flint told Fairfax reporter Bianca Hall that in a referendum the republican vote would fall further once the republican model was revealed and after people heard the argument against change. He said that previous experience also indicated the undecided move mainly to the No case.
He said this poll follows trends over the last few years and across the polls which indicate that support for a vague undefined republic is in the 30-40 percentile range. This would mean that in a referendum the yes vote would be significantly less, probably in the 20 to 35 percentile range.
He said this was confirmed by the polling focus groups that the political parties would be doing and explains why republican politicians do not push the issue in any serious way.
...despite continuing setbacks, republic campaign to continue...
The poll was of 2146 with a margin of error of 2.1% Respondents were asked "Would you support Australia becoming a republic?''
Republican leader and the former Western Australian Premier Dr Geoff Gallop said: "Polls will come and go, but we've been encouraged by the support we've been getting, and our campaign will continue."
This poll exposes the republican movement's strategy of commissioning polls with questions which are hypothetical and irrelevant to produce a higher yes vote. This is a political strategy which has proved a complete failure .
Written by Professor David Flint AM
Thursday, 23 January 2014
As we mentioned in our last post on opinion polls, the republican movement is making much of a poll of no relevance to the constitutional future of the land.
That was one they paid UMR to undertake.
Indications over time and across the polls suggest support for republican change I sin the 30 percentile range. But note that this is for some vague undefined politicians' republic. Once a specific model is revealed, the vote falls further. For more information, visit our section on opinion polling
[ Republicans tried in 1999 to make the president the PM's poodle]
Now on 14 January, 2014 Essential Vision polled respondents on this irrelevant and hypothetical question: ''Would you support or oppose Australia becoming a republic at the end of the Queen’s reign?''
I was asked to appear on a programme compared by Steve Price on radio station 2GB on Thursday 16 January to answer the republican leader, former politician Dr Geoff Gallop.
He argued, as only an experienced politician could, that this poll means that a plebiscite should be called.
He claimed - without any evidence whatsoever - that Australians were upset because Prime Minister Abbott had restored the oath of allegiance for ministers.
This is similar to the one in the Constitution for MP's - the one the Australian people refused to change in 1999.
The difference between the two oaths is that the ministerial oath may be surreptitiously changed on the advice of a Prime Minister who respects neither the Constitution nor the will of the people.
The MP's oath may only be changed with the approval of the people.
It is instructive that Dr. Gallop champions changes against if not the letter, then the very clear spirit of the Constitution without the approval of the people.
.....poll question irrelevant...
As to the question in this poll about the end of the reign, this has absolutely nothing to do with issues which impact on every day Australians.
It has nothing to do with curing any of the problems that Australians may feel about the way in which they are governed.
It is only of interest to a small inner city elite obsessed as they against the oldest institution in the Australian constitutional system. It is aimed at one part of a constitutional system which works smoothly and well. That is the one part of the system which the republicans want to trash.
But the next thing to note is that this question is purely hypothetical. It is hypothetical into aspects. It is about something which will happen at some time in the future. Hopefully this will be many years away.
The idea of asking people what they will think about something which will happen in several years time is hardly a sensible exercise.
To use it to give some impetus to a what is seen in most circles as a comatose political campaign is devious.
The question is hypothetical for a second and significant reason.
It uses the vague and undefined word "republic".
For whatever reason the republicans won't reveal what sort of republic they have up their sleeves. Or perhaps, they don't know.
It is, as we have said so often, as if they were marching down the street chanting: "We want a republic! ......... But we haven't the foggiest idea what sort of republic we want!
We can however be certain that whatever model, their preference will be a politicians' republic.
It certainly won't be crowned republic.