December 5

The Young Lost to Republicanism

Republicans who describe themselves as “passionate” seem quite often to be clutching at straws. Two have been in vogue for years.

One is commonly advanced as a self evident truth in the republican media.

This is that it is only a matter of time before constitutional monarchists leave this world, and the inevitable republic is then proclaimed. The young are all obviously republican.

Out another way, this is the mantra that a republic is inevitable. (If it is, why did they get so worked up in the nineties?)

The other straw is a forlorn hope curiously transferred into a prophecy. This is the assertion that the UK will become a republic before Australia.

Alex Clark, whom you probably do not know, is a student at Oxford University. Writing in The Oxford Student of 26 November, 2005, he observes that Oxford is one of the few universities in England where a relatively high proportion of students remain interested in politics, current affairs and ‘changing the world’. Students are involved in political and debating societies, charities, junior think tanks etc.

Inspired by this, and being a republican, Mr Clark decided to do something about advancing republicanism there. He founded the Oxford University Republican Society (‘PubSoc’).

He was sure it would succeed. After all, young people, right or left wing, would obviously support it. To the new right, the monarchy represents a challenge to the ideals of meritocracy and individual. To the left, the monarchy is the symbolic head of the class system and a barrier to what they would define as ‘social progress’.

But the Republican Society, PubSoc, was anything but a success.

The trouble was, nobody was interested- neither in the student body nor among various public figures who politely rejected invitations to speak.

Accordingly, as Mr Clark puts it, PubSoc had to be taken outside. It was quietly and decently disposed of.

The harsh reality, he now realises, is that the republicanism, whether in Oxford or the rest of the country, is really only of interest to the elites, the intelligentsia.

In fact, polling in Australia (and in Canada and New Zealand) consistently shows that the young are even less interested in a republic than their parents.

Not that their parents are interested. In a Morgan 2001 poll asking people to name the three most important things the Federal Government should be doing something about, less than 0.5% named the republic issue!

Republicanism is only of interest to the elites, and of course, politicians seeking their support or in some devious exercise in brand differentiation.

And when it comes to the young, the interest in a republic is even less than among their parents. This is shown when the pollsters ask questions about a republic.(Now just because an opinion poll is held on a subject does not mean there is any interest in the question.)

According to a Newspoll of 21 January, 2005, of those aged 18-24, only 28% were strongly in favour of a republic, the lowest of all the age groups. The highest percentage strongly in favour of a republic was in the 35-49 age groups with 37%. (Even then, when they see the model on offer, many may well prefer the existing system. That is what Malcolm Turnbull says will happen if voters Australians are asked to vote on the Latham-Beazley direct election model the republican movement now favours).

The total of the young in favour, including those only partly in favour, was 43%, the same as the oldest group which the republicans allege is dominated by constitutional monarchists.

And this is not an aberration. In the Morgan poll of 22 February 2005, only 37% of those aged 14-17 were in favour of a republic at all! Thirty seven per cent!

Until next time,

David Flint





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