Australians’ support for Indigenous voice steady with 60% in favour, Essential poll finds

Guardian Essential poll finds high level of backing for voice to parliament, despite other polls showing support flagging

Public support for the Indigenous voice to parliament is holding steady and remains high, the latest Guardian Essential poll shows, in contrast with other recent polls suggesting support is sliding.

The poll of 1,123 voters, published on Tuesday, found 60% of respondents were in favour of the voice, up one point on the previous survey, while 40% were opposed to it.

The yes vote still leads in all major opinion polls, but voice supporters and senior Labor government figures have raised concerns about the vigour of the yes campaign as the no campaign grows in volume.

A Resolve poll for the Nine newspapers, published on Monday, showed 42% in favour and 40% against with 18% undecided – but when forced to make a yes or no decision only 49% supported the change while 51% opposed it. Last week’s Newspoll showed 46% support, 43% against and 11% undecided.

The psephologist Kevin Bonham calculates average support to be in the mid-50s, after Resolve and Newspoll recorded the biggest declines for the yes vote. But the Essential poll is more optimistic for the voice, with support steady at 59% or 60% in the past four polls.

In the latest poll, voters who opposed the voice were given four potential reasons for why they did so. About 34% said it would “divide Australians”, 33% said “it will give Indigenous Australians rights and privileges that other Australians don’t have”, 26% said “it won’t make a real difference to the lives of ordinary Indigenous Australians” and 7% said “Indigenous Australians don’t agree on it”.

Most respondents were unfamiliar with the Uluru statement from the heart, which called for Indigenous recognition in the constitution through a voice to parliament. Only 12% said they “heard someone read it out, or read it myself” and a further 21% said “I haven’t read it but know what’s in it”. About 36% said “I’ve heard of it but don’t know what’s in it” and 31% had not heard of the Uluru statement.

The Indigenous leader Noel Pearson, a key architect of the voice, has warned that the yes campaign has “a lack of clarity” and called for supporters to focus on the constitutional recognition element of the proposal rather than the voice itself.

The yes campaign is gearing up for a fresh advertising blitz and will roll out a series of nationwide public events in July as it moves to shift attention away from the parliamentary arena. Yes23 campaign leaders believe support will rise quickly once the voice debate shifts beyond Canberra, as federal parliament moves towards passing the referendum legislation bill.

Meanwhile, the Uphold & Recognise group, co-founded by the Liberal MP Julian Leeser, on Monday said it would share staff and resources with the newly formed Liberals For Yes group to campaign for the voice.

On the no side, the conservative lobby group Advance, led by the Nationals senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price, will soon launch the next stage of its “Fair Australia” campaign against the voice, with a spokesperson saying it would continue to criticise the voice as divisive.

“We will focus our resources on innovative, targeted and effective ways of reaching Australians who are open to hearing the side of the story the yes campaign would rather keep hidden,” they said in a statement.

“In some cases, this will be through TV and digital advertising, in other cases through other campaign tactics such as high-impact, high-visibility field activity.”

The no campaign will focus on smaller states Tasmania, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia.

Albanese’s role in focus

Amid growing scrutiny on the campaigns, the role of Anthony Albanese in the yes push is of major interest. There are expectations the prime minister may announce the referendum date, tipped as 14 October, at Arnhem Land’s Garma festival in August.

But government sources suggested Albanese would not seek to make himself the referendum figurehead so as to stress the voice was not an invention of politicians, but instead an idea sprouted from grassroots consultation with Indigenous communities. Government sources said it couldn’t be “Labor’s campaign”.

The Liberal party has taken to describing it as “Labor’s voice” or “Anthony Albanese’s voice”.

The government is also mindful that a sustained major focus on the referendum could be met with claims that Albanese is not focused on issues such as the cost of living or inflation.

The Indigenous Australians minister, Linda Burney, has been busy travelling to promote the voice, which was a Labor election pledge. Burney last month said she had “absolute faith in” the yes campaign.

The Senate will this week continue debating the constitutional alteration bill to set up the referendum, with an aim for it pass by mid next week after dozens of speeches.

To be successful the referendum will require a national majority plus a majority of at least four out of six states.


Josh Butler and Paul Karp

The GuardianTramp

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