A majority of Australians continue to support a constitutionally enshrined voice to parliament, according to the latest Guardian Essential poll, including an overwhelming majority of young Australians.
The latest fortnightly survey of 1,000 respondents suggests a soft no campaign by the Liberal leader, Peter Dutton, unleashed over the summer break has, thus far, failed to shift voter sentiment, with 65% of respondents supporting the change, a two-point increase from the percentage recorded last December.
That positive movement falls inside the poll’s margin of error and the February percentage is consistent with a result recorded last August, before Dutton intensified his public campaign of asking questions about the proposal.
Poll respondents were asked to be explicit about the nature of their support or opposition to the concept. Of the yes cohort, 38% of respondents characterised their position as a hard yes while 26% said they were a soft yes. In the no camp, 21% characterised themselves as hard no and 14% as soft no.
Women in the survey were more likely to support a constitutionally recognised voice than men (71% of female respondents said they would vote yes and 58% of male respondents). There is also a very stark generational divide, with 85% of generation Z respondents, 84% of millennials and 62% of generation X respondents identifying as being in the yes camp – while 56% of baby boomers in the sample say they will vote no, along with 67% of respondents from the inter-war generation.
The voice to parliament is backed more enthusiastically by progressives than conservatives. It is supported by 77% of Guardian Essential poll respondents who identify themselves as Labor voters and 89% of Greens supporters but only 41% of Coalition voters. Just over half (52%) of respondents who say they vote for minor parties and independents say they support the voice.
While the positive result and the consistency of public support will be heartening for yes campaigners and the Albanese government, the latest poll continues to suggest Dutton’s campaign of questions could ultimately catch in the community. The data says only 31% of respondents feel well informed about what the change means and 37% say they don’t feel informed.
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The debate over the summer doesn’t appear to have had a material impact on voter perceptions of the major party leaders.
The latest numbers confirm that 74% of poll respondents in February were either positive or neutral about the prime minister, Anthony Albanese (22% of voters were negative and 4% unsure) while 57% were positive or neutral about Dutton (35% of respondents were negative and 5% unsure). Those metrics are similar to the result recorded last November.
The latest Guardian Essential survey results come as the voice to parliament debate is continuing to dominate the national political conversation and federal parliament resumes for 2023.
With MPs and senators back in Canberra on Monday for the first sitting fortnight of the year, the Greens senator Lidia Thorpe – who has been signalling potential opposition to the voice – quit her party and moved to the Senate crossbench to better represent what she characterised as “a strong grassroots black sovereign movement”.
For weeks, Thorpe had signalled that her support for the voice was predicated on Labor guarantees that reform wouldn’t have a negative impact on sovereignty. Last week, Albanese, constitutional experts and the expert working group said the voice will have no bearing on First Nations sovereignty.
Thorpe’s defection followed weeks of speculation about the viability of her position and the Greens on Monday night formally locked in their support for the voice.
In a statement issued after the decision, the Greens leader, Adam Bandt said: “I don’t think a no vote will get us closer to treaty and truth, but I respect that others in the First Nations community may have a different view on that.”
While the Greens worked to lock in a position, Albanese used a scene-setting speech to a thinktank on Sunday to pitch this year’s voice referendum as a gesture of trust in the Australian people at a time when increasing polarisation and misinformation means democracy needs to be “nourished, protected, cared for, treated with respect”.
With the National party confirming last year it will oppose the change and many Liberal MPs also opposed, last week Albanese used an interview with Guardian Australia’s political podcast to signal his intention to press ahead with the referendum to establish a constitutionally enshrined First Nations body even if a lack of bipartisanship means there is a high risk of a no vote.
• This story was corrected on 7 February 2023. An earlier version included an incorrect figure for the percentage of women opposed to the voice.