September 15

Public opinion: major report to National Conference

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This is a futher report in the section dedicated to opinion polling on the ACM site. To access this click here or on the icon in the left hand column on the front page.


 

A crucial report on opinion polling will be delivered to the ACM National Conference in Melbourne on 8-9 October.  This will be presented by the leading pollster, Gary Morgan and his colleagues, Morgan Poliing  CEO, Michele Levine, and Poll Manager, Julian McCrann.

 Gary Morgan is a businessman who has developed a substantial market research business now operating in Australia, New Zealand, USA, UK and Indonesia.  He is Executive Chairman of Australia's most highly regarded research company, The Roy Morgan Research, whose clients include most major Australian companies’, multi-national companies and institutions operating in Australia.

Roy Morgan Research although most recognised for its political polling, employs approximately 450 full-time staff and is the authoritative source of information across a range of industries including media, tourism, finance, etc.As Australia's leading pollster, Gary Morgan is seen as having his finger on the pulse of issues in Australia. 

He is often called upon to provide political and social comment on research based understanding of the public's view on all nature of issues is sought by television, radio and press.

 …public opinion…


The point is that any democratic constitutional system ultimately relies on the support of the public.

It should not be too easy to change the Constitution, but the Constitution should not be set in aspic.

The threshold for formal constitutional change at the federal level is set high, but not impossibly so. It requires the considered approval ofy the people both nationally and federally. The latter is achieved by the requirement that any proposal for change be approved in a majority of states, at the present time four states.

….desirable, irresistible and inevitable…

 Because  a proposal for constitutional change can only be initiated by the federal parliament – and in certain circumstances by one house – the proposals which have come to us have essentially been about the expansion of federal power or in taking away some of the safeguards of our federal system..

Little wonder that so few referendums have been approved. In any event, the rate of successful changes in Australia is about the same as that in the United States.

Incidentally, there  was a proposal at  the 1891 federal l convention that the initiative for a vote to disallow federal legislation could come from either the people – a petition of 20,000 voters – or two state houses of parliament.

This did not extend to constitutional change but it was likely that this would have been added once the referendum provisions about constitutional change  were finalised.The point is that constitutional change is difficult and rightly so. The threshold is as Sir John Quick and Sir Robert Garren that the people agree after informed discussion and debate that the proposed change is  "desirable, irresistible and inevitable".

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 ….opinion polling and republicanism…

 I have developed 15 propositions on opinion polling which are repeated below. But having no special expertise in opinion polling, I will find it particularly interesting to hear the views of experts. In the meantime the following are the  propositions which are set out in a section on this website which is dedicated to opinion polling.

 {Continued below} 

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, in the low 40-45% range, perhaps lower;

2.     Polling continues to indicate a bell shaped curve revealing lower support among the young and continuing strong opposition among the aged;

3.     Support is strongest among inner city voters especially middle aged males and supporters of the Greens;

4.     Once a model is announced, 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 in the April  2011 Newpoll down to 25% and among the young 20%. In addition, the contrasting experience of ACM and the republicans in calling for public demonstrations supports this conclusion.

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 both the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition support the Yes case 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 did not put a referendum on a republic.

15. The theme of a 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.

 

 


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