John Masanauskas of the Herald Sun phoned me recently about a report on the Australian Electoral Study. This was published on 13 June 2011 in a piece appropriately headlined “Things are looking up for royals.”
I referred to the trends in all of the leading polls.
He reported that as the Royal Family attended the Trooping the Colour parade, the study found Australians were warming towards The Queen and cooling on the republic.
“More than 40 per cent of us believe the Queen is important, up from 36 per cent three years ago" l
“Australians for a Constitutional Monarchy spokesman Prof David Flint said his organisation had predicted a resurgence of support for the Queen.
“ ‘As sovereigns age, they become more respected when they have performed very well," he said.
“There is that feeling of longevity and that she is above politics."
…Australian Electoral Study
The Australian Electoral Study involves sending out a very large questionnaire to a number of people. I understand that the answers are weighted to make it a sample of the general population.
The difficulty I have with it is that a person who is willing to fill out such a large form is unusual. He or she will hardly be a typical Australian.( I had a similar problem with the deliberative vote before the referendum. This required giving up and paying for a weekend in Canberra to discuss the referndum. A worthy activity undertaken by unusual people.)
In any event, whether it was the process or the question asked, the survey recorded a republican vote 10 points above the referendum vote in 1999.
I suspect that their reports since then have regularly overestimated republican support by about 10 points. I do this by a comparison with trendlines in polling by public pollsters – Morgan, Newspoll Fairfax-Nielson, and Galaxy. There is a new pollster – at least new to me, Essential Media which has done some very interesting and clearly objective research.
Pollsters are more likely to obtain rank and file views, although on some issues those polled may be reluctant to speak or give a firm view. This is particularly so where the elites have succeeded in making a view opposed to theirs unfashionable. (Twilight of The Elites, 2003, pages 65,66)
One exception to the trends recorded in all major polls was in 2009, at the time of the 10th anniversary of the referendum, when a less well known pollster UMR reported on an on-line sample 59% support for a republic. No other poll has come close to this in recent years. It was most likely a rogue poll. That is not a criticism of the pollster – it is a risk in all polling.
…republican leader claims 60% support…
Yet the ARM leader on the 3MTR Steve Vizard programme on 13 June 2011 was prepared to say- without any qualification whatsoever, and to repeat several times – that 60% of Australians want a republic.
By any measure this was misleading. Fortunately, as I followed him, I was able to correct this.
As to the Australian Election Study, a perusal of the following graph shows that in 1999 and thereafter support is approximately 10% of above the referendum results and of most other polls.
This is the question asked by the AES in 2010 :
Do you think that Australia should become a republic with an Australian head of state, or should the Queen be retained as head of state?
I'm sure this was unintentional but it would be difficult to get a more loaded question than this.
There is a fundamental dispute between most republicans on the one hand and most constitutional monarchists (as measured by the 1998 Convention election) as to whether the Governor-General is the Australian Head of State.
The constitutional monarchists have mounted a very persuasive case for concluding that the Governor-General is indeed the Australian Head of State.
Clearly then the question is biassed, probably unintentionally.
But even with this biassed question, the results of this question can be of little comfort to republicans, even if this study can be treated as if it were an opinion poll and is representative of the electorate at the time it was taken.
This is probably why these results go against polling trend lines over time which have support for a vague undefined politicians’ republic is down in the low 40s, or even the high thirties.
With this loaded question, it is not surprising that the 2010 result indicates 55.4% in favour –not of a vague undefined politicians’ republic – but of republic with an Australian Head of State rather than The Queen being retained as Head of State.
Little wonder then that the survey result contrasts strongly with the trendline for most polls which indicate that support for a vague undefined politicians’ republic is in the low forties and lower among the old and young.
If a referendum were called, andr the republican model unveiled, support would fall significantly.
So a referendum on any model would be likely to be defeated.
With this loaded question, it is not surprising that the 2010 result indicates 55.4% in favour –not of a vague undefined politicians’ republic – but of republic with an Australian Head of State rather than The Queen being retained as Head of State. Little wonder then that the survey result contrasts strongly with the trend in polls indicating support for a vague undefined politicians’ republic is in the low forties and lower among the old and young.
Even then the answer indicates that once there were a debate on the Head of State and once a republican model were unveiled, support would fall significantly.
A referendum on any model would be likely to be defeated.