A Sydney Morning Herald Poll published today finds Australians have cooled on the idea of a republic,notwithstanding Mark Latham's pledge to revive the issue in two annual plebiscites culminating in a referendum in 2007. Asked do you think Australia should become a republic, 52% agreed.This is down from 57% in a similar poll in December,1999 at the height of the debate. The Herald report contains one error- it says Victoria voted Yes in the referendum. In fact, all states voted No. Voters aged 18 to 24 , at 50%, and those over 55, at 47%, were less likely to support change. The strongest support was among those aged 25 to 39, 56%. Only 41% of Coalition voters were in support, compared with 64% of Labor voters. Whether or not they support a republic, three quarters prefer a directly elected president. The poll will disappoint republicans, coming so soon after Mark Latham so spectacularly revived the issue. The poll confirms previous poll trends- particularly that time bomb for republicans, the young are less interested in republicanism. Republicans can put to rest their belief that time is on their side, or that a republic is inevitable. This poll was taken at a time when there has been little argument in the mainline media against the concept of a republic.
If a plebiscite were to be held, we could assume that it would be difficult for the media to avoid the voice of those opposed to a republic. To record only 52%, or 51% in the recent News poll, without the public actually hearing our side, augurs badly for the republicans –even in a plebiscite. This is a vote where no details are given of the proposed change and the question is designed to get the maximum affirmative vote. It is clear from the poll that if the 1999 referendum were to be held now, it would fail probably even more spectacularly.
There is little cause for republicans to rejoice in this.