16 August 2023

What should we make of the Voice referendum polling?

| Chris Johnson
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Peter Dutton speaking in Parliament

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton would prefer an alternative to an actual referendum on the Voice. Photo: Screenshot.

Opinion polls gauging public sentiment over the Indigenous Voice to Parliament referendum aren’t returning anything positive for the Yes campaign, but no one should be fooled into thinking the result is already in.

While the No campaign has been out and about for some time with its message of uncertainty and fear, the Yes side has one clear advantage.

The Yes side’s biggest cheerleader – Prime Minister Anthony Albanese – knows when the referendum is going to be held. The No campaign doesn’t.

That’s a hugely significant strategic advantage.

It’s the same as an incumbent PM having the luxury and benefit of deciding the exact date (within a legally specified timeframe) of a federal election.

To put it a little more bluntly – the Yes campaign is not calibrated to peak in August.

It is designed to peak much closer to when the vote will be held.

And that date only they know, giving them a tactical advantage.

By they, I mean the PM and his closest allies on the referendum.

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They will play that card to give them the optimum opportunity to sell the case to the nation before the vote is held.

The Yes camp is plugging away now, but it won’t peak until the date is set and the referendum called.

The No campaign is peaking now.

And on the polling itself – when was the last time any current pollster had to fathom the public perception over a referendum?

Today’s pollsters haven’t had a referendum to poll about before.

They were all likely interns when the last referendum was held in 1999.

They are right now attempting to traverse uncharted territory.

At best, anyone polling on the referendum is playing a guessing game trying to analyse survey results.

Pollsters have been famously getting it wrong when predicting state and federal elections in this country for some time now.

They have had too many misses to inspire faith in their predictions.

And that’s purely with elections.

They have far less experience with referendums – like, none.

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The other thing to be mindful of is who some of these ‘credible’ pollsters predicting the doom of the referendum were actually working or ‘interning’ for before they got into taking the political temperature of the voting public.

Biographies of the founders of some polling companies currently telling us that the No vote has it in the bag reveal a pedigree of working for right-wing consultancy firms, think tanks and MPs.

And the right-wing media are running with their analyses with jubilation.

It’s all too close to really believe it is truly independent polling and reporting.

The most accurate polling is what the political parties do internally for themselves.

The public doesn’t get to see that, but it is what actual political strategies are designed around.

Those figures, which only the hierarchy of the parties get to see, pull no punches.

They are not skewed to present a desired result.

With that in mind, it is worth asking one question.

If Opposition Leader Peter Dutton is so confident the No campaign is going to win, why are so many of his utterances on the Voice aimed at urging the government to find an alternative to an actual vote being held?

He doesn’t want the referendum, he wants some sort of legislative agreement to be reached.

Why? What internal polling has he seen?

Original Article published by Chris Johnson on Riotact.

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