ANU research suggests referendum confined to Indigenous recognition might have passed

Indigenous Flag and Australian Flag - Harbour bridge

A survey released by the Australian National University has reinforced that October’s referendum might have passed if it had been confined to constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians.

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

An Australian National University survey has reinforced the view the October referendum might have passed if it had been confined to constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians.

More than six in ten people (61.7%) said they would definitely or probably have voted for a referendum on recognition.

In the Voice referendum more than six in ten people voted no.

Despite the resounding defeat of the referendum, the survey found strong support (87%) for Indigenous people having a say over matters affecting them.

The survey, a partnership between the ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods and the School of Politics and International Relations, tracked more than 4200 voters from January on the Voice. The post-referendum round of data was collected October 17-29.

The full results of the research, titled Explaining voting in the 2023 Australian referendum, will be released on Tuesday.

Co-author of the study, Nicholas Biddle, said: “Our findings show that there is widespread support for a broad definition of constitutional recognition”. He said the results suggested it was not so much the premise of recognition but the model put to voters, among other factors, that was the problem.

The report says: “Not surprisingly, there was a strong correlation between someone’s actual vote in the referendum and how they say they would have voted if it was on recognition only.

“Using a very conservative measure of support (that is, treating all those who were undecided as no voters) among those that voted yes in the Voice referendum, 86% said that they would have voted yes if the question was on constitutional recognition only.

“Of those yes voters that didn’t say yes on constitutional recognition, the vast majority (12.8%) were undecided.

“Even among no voters, however, there was quite substantial levels of support for constitutional recognition with 40.8% saying they probably or definitely would vote yes. Many no voters
were undecided about constitutional recognition (35.8%), but there was also a sizable minority (23.4%) that said they would vote no.”

The ANU findings come as the government has yet to put together a policy on Indigenous consultation in the wake of the referendum’s loss. This is not expected to come until early next year, with the government wanting its current attention concentrated on cost-of-living issues.

Last week the Joint Council of Closing the Gap, comprising federal, state and territory governments and the Indigenous Coalition of Peaks, met, noting progress on closing the gap “remains slow”.

Nearly eight in ten people (79.1%) in the survey said they felt proud of First Nations cultures, while 79.4% think the federal government should help improve reconciliation.

Some 80.5% believe Australia should “undertake formal truth-telling processes to acknowledge the shared reality of Australia’s shared history”.

But people were split when asked, “If Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders people tried harder, they could be just as well off as non-Indigenous Australians.” In response, 51.3% agreed.

At the same time, more than 68% agreed many Indigenous people are disadvantaged today because of past race-based policies.The Conversation

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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