Guardian Essential poll: slim majority for a no vote in Indigenous voice referendum, survey shows

The pathway to victory has narrowed, with some corporate support becoming more muted as polarisation has increased

A slim majority of Australians intend to vote no in the referendum on 14 October, according to the latest Guardian Essential poll.

After two punishing weeks of partisan contention, the latest poll of 1,135 respondents has no voters in the majority (51%) for the first time in the Guardian Essential survey, with 41% intending to vote yes and 9% on the fence.

Significantly more respondents (42%) report being a “hard” no than a “hard” yes (28%). A further 8% are a “soft” no and 12% a “soft” yes, with 9% undecided. Those ratios are consistent with results a fortnight ago. (Figures may not total 100% due to rounding).

All the negative movements recorded in this fortnight’s survey are within the poll’s margin of error, which is plus or minus three points. The data also indicates 29% of respondents remain persuadable – describing themselves as hard or soft yes or no, or undecided – which is the same percentage as a fortnight ago.

But the trend over the past couple of months suggests the yes campaign is going backwards.

The loss of support is cumulative. Back in July, yes voters outnumbered no (47% to 43%). In August, that flipped – no was ahead of yes 47% to 43%. By the beginning of September, 48% of respondents said they intended to vote no and 42% yes, with 10% unsure. The latest shift puts no voters in the majority, and it represents a three point negative movement in a fortnight.

With tens of thousands of Australians taking to the streets around the country over the weekend in support of a yes vote, and less than a month remaining until referendum day, a majority of Guardian Essential respondents (61%) report discussing the voice to parliament with other people.

But consistent with anecdotal feedback from campaigners, the new poll suggests not everyone wants to engage in a conversation. 39% agree with the statement: “Most people I know don’t seem to want to talk about the referendum.”

The lack of bipartisanship also makes the voice proposal more polarising in the community. Around a quarter of respondents (26%) report having had disagreements with others about whether to vote yes or no.

The new poll indicates Australian women (who outnumber men in the “hard” yes column) are having more conversations about the voice to parliament than men (who outnumber women in the “hard” no column).

Women also report having more disagreements than men. Voters under the age of 34 also report having more disagreements about the voice than older voting cohorts (34% of 18 to 34-year-olds report having arguments compared to 28% of 35 to 54-year-olds and 19% of people aged over 55).

Poll respondents identifying themselves as Coalition voters report having more conversations about the voice than Labor supporters (65% to 56%) and Labor voters report having higher numbers of arguments (30% to 25%).

The data shows around a quarter of Coalition voters (26%) are either hard or soft yes supporters despite Peter Dutton’s vociferous campaign against the voice, while 33% of Labor supporters are hard or soft no voters despite Anthony Albanese’s strong support for the reform.

As yes campaigners took to the streets, divisions emerged over the weekend in the anti-voice camp after leading no campaigner Warren Mundine said defeating the looming referendum would make treaties between governments and First Nations people more likely.

The opposition leader promptly demurred, telling reporters on Monday: “I’ve been very clear that a government I lead will not enter into billions of dollars worth of treaty negotiations that will just see rich lawyers in Sydney and Melbourne get richer.”

The yes campaign is set to launch a $20m advertising blitz in an attempt to swing sentiment ahead of referendum day. But the pathway to victory is considered narrow, and some corporate support for the yes campaign has become more muted as polarisation has increased.

While Albanese’s voice campaign is taking on water, the new poll indicates Australians are more open to Labor’s latest round of industrial relations reforms.

Proposed reforms to labour hire arrangements and a strengthening of rights for gig economy workers have sparked a noisy backlash from the business sector. Employer groups, the Jacqui Lambie Network and the Coalition have recently backed calls from the Senate kingmaker David Pocock to split the bill.

While most respondents (79%) say they aren’t yet across the details of Labor’s industrial relations package, majorities back some of the more contentious principles, with 78% saying it should be a crime for employers to knowingly underpay workers, 66% saying employers should not be able to use labour hire workers to undercut pay of employees and 54% saying gig economy workers on platforms should have minimum rights and entitlements.

Respondents are also more inclined to think business profits are a more significant factor explaining sustained cost of living pressure than higher wages for workers. While most people think they work about as hard as their colleagues, 28% report working harder. Only 6% say their colleagues work harder than they do.


Katharine Murphy Political editor

The GuardianTramp

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