Voice to Parliament Referendum – What Drove The No Victory?

Voice Referendum Result Reflects Australians’ Reluctance to Change the Constitution

The outcome of Saturday’s Voice to Parliament referendum reflected Australians’ reluctance to change the constitution, according to DemosAU Head of Research George Hasanakos.

Mr Hasanakos said while there was a tendency among commentators and supporters from both the Yes and No camps to see the referendum failure through the lenses of politics and culture, the reality was more prosaic.

“The Bar Is Set Very High”

“Of course, issues of politics and race were present, but our research very clearly shows that a majority of Australians are either opposed or resistant to changing the constitution. We argue that was the deciding factor in Saturday’s result.” he said.

“The bar is set very high for any Yes campaign in a referendum. That’s borne out by history and this weekend’s results.”

DemosAU probed the underlying attitudes of 2251 Australians towards changing the constitution between October 1 and 9, following an earlier poll of 2471 Australians in June. In both cases, respondents were asked to select which of the below statements was closest to their view.

While there are no solid reform or anti-reform majorities evident from the question, with roughly 30% of the electorate in both the pro-reform and anti-reform camps, the remaining two groups are a challenging path for advocates of reform to traverse.

Roughly 20% of the electorate are only open to constitutional change to fix an identified problem. Most constitutional change is proposed as a theoretical change and not to solve any immediate pressing emergency. This group can be swayed to No by appealing to the “ain’t broke don’t fix it” argument.

The remaining 20% admitted they didn’t know enough about Australia’s constitution to offer a view on reform. This group is disengaged from constitutional concerns and may struggle to be engaged by a Yes campaign. Conversely a No campaign can appeal to this group with the “if you don’t know vote no” argument.

“Simply put, there is a constitutional reform middle ground of 40% of the electorate who are sceptical or disengaged,” Mr Hasanakos said.

“In normal circumstances, a Yes campaign will find it difficult to appeal to in a referendum campaign which is not a product of any related crisis.

“In this referendum, voters in these middle cohorts sided with No, in most cases by large margins condemning the Voice referendum to a heavy defeat,” he said.

Further details on Australian’s attitudes towards constitutional change and the referendum can be found in DemosAU’s report, Voice to Parliament Research – What Drove The No Victory?

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