January 23

Irrelevant hypothetical poll


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

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.








The next  thing you may note are the results to this hypothetical question.

 47% voted Yes, 32% No and 20%  were undecided.  

The republican movement tries to hide the fact that the number of yes votes in a poll taken before any debate in a referendum fall over time.

This is because the electorate only later hears the arguments against some proposition.

The undecided in a poll on the subject of a constitutional referendum almost invariably consist of people who are actually undecided and those who are reluctant to give their opinions to a stranger.

All indications are that in a referendum  most of the undecided in the previous polling actually vote No.

If the Yes case doesn't score very well in that early polling, it is very unlikely the Yes case will receive even a respectable minority vote.

We should note also that of those voting Yes to this very hypothetical question about the end of the reign, only a 21% minority were prepared to declare themselves ''strong supporters'' of the proposition that Australia becoming a republic at the end of this reign.

In a referendum on this, this 21% would divide into two groups. Just as they did in 1999. Whatever the model, a significant proportion would declare that they prefer the existing Constitution to the model on offer.

For example, former NSW Premier and Foreign Minister Bob Carr has made it very clear that a model in which the Pres is directly elected by the people is anathema.

He would far prefer the constitutional monarchy to that. It is certainly not alone.





 Any experienced observer knows not to draw too many conclusions from one individual poll, particularly where the question does not properly, fairly and unambiguously relate to the question under consideration.

The objective is to change the Constitution to make Australia a specific form of politicians' republic.

What is necessary is to look at relevant polls over time and across different posters. However the question is defective the result has to be discounted.

There are two typical weaknesses in republican polls in Australia.

One is to use the words ''Australian  head of  state'' as shorthand for a politicians' republic. For example a question asking: "Are you in favour of an Australian head of state? ''Is ambiguous. Many  monarchists could answer in favour of this. This was, after all, the position taken by the principal monarchist organisation in the 1999 campaign.

The other weakness in polling questions is leave the word "republic'' vague and undefined. This will increase the Yes vote to include people who will vote No when they see the model.

Polls containing either misleading question will overestimate the yes vote in a referendum. So for comparison purposes they have to be discounted by at least a few per cent.

The result is that since at least 2010, no political party is willing to test even a spin doctor designed plebiscite, such is their estimation of the level of support for this among the public.




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