Republic takes a king hit
This was the front page headline on 29 August, 2010 on The Sun Herald, the major Fairfax Sunday newspaper. It was a report on an exclusive Sun Herald/Nielson poll on removing the Crown from our constitutional system. This confirmed that the support for this proposed change has fallen to a 16-year low.
This is in line with other polls, which where they have measured it, have also indicated something which will worry those republicans who think they need only wait until the present generation of monarchists go to the other world. This is the massive decline in support among the young.
There was one exception to this trend, a rogue poll which the republicans revealed on the tenth anniversary of the referendum. The point about polls surely is that it is the trend which is useful, not one poll which suspiciously goes against the trend.
The poll was conducted two weeks before the federal election. It shows that more Australians are now in favour of retaining the monarchy than in favour of an undefined politicians’ republic. This poll is entirely consistant with the long term trend from the 1999 referendum.
In this poll respondents were asked whether Australia should become a vague undefined republic. Forty eight per cent of the 1400 respondents were opposed to this constitutional change (a rise of 8 per cent since 2008), while 44 per cent agreed (a drop of 8 per cent since 2008).
When questioned further, 31 per cent said Australia should never become a republic, 29 per cent said Australia should become a republic as soon as possible, and 34 per cent said Australia should become a republic only after Queen Elizabeth II’s reign ends.
Backing for some vague undefined republic is at its lowest since 1994 – five years before Australia had a referendum on the topic.
Nielsen pollster John Stirton said that despite the slump, there was a sense of inevitability that Australia would one day become a republic, with a large number backing Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s stance that the issue should be closely considered after a change of monarchy.
“These results suggest Australians will be more likely to support a republic when Queen Elizabeth II is no longer on the throne,” he said.
I would disagree. Imagine the utility of a poll today asking people how they will vote in an election around say, 2025. The poll would not tell us much. Similarly, a poll about how people would vote at the end of the reign cannot seriously be used as an indication of what will happen then.
The mood at the end of this reign will be one of sadness and appreciation. There will be a massive world wide retrospective assessment of the reign. Then there will be excitement across thw world over the Coronation, the sovereign and probably the next Prince of Wales.
Such is the magic of monarchy.
Professor David Flint is the national convenor of Australians for Constitutional Monarchy.