Indigenous Voice aftermath

Polls, podcasts and opinion pieces in the wake of another failed constitutional referendum.

Click here for full display of Indigenous Voice referendum results.

I am continuing to update the live results feature about twice daily, which should get incrementally worse for yes as late batches of postals are added. Antony Green notes that no got 56.2% on the election day vote, 64.5% on the pre-poll vote and 68.7% on the postal vote – disparities far greater than typical at elections, which have had the effect of widening the no lead as the count has progressed. Further reading (and listening) on the referendum:

• I had a paywalled piece in Crikey on Monday that observed the strength of the yes vote in Indigenous communities and teal seats, respectively contrary to suggestions advanced during the campaign by no advocates and voluminous newspaper reports on supposed internal polling.

• Nine Newspapers has further results from the Resolve Strategic poll of 4728 respondents from September 22 to October 4, which show Jacinta Nampijinpa Price viewed positively by 26%, neutrally by 22% and negatively by 16%; Nyunggai Warren Mundine respectively at 22%, 25% and 15%; and Lidia Thorpe at at 9%, 23% and 32%. All scored much higher on name recognition than yes campaigners Noel Pearson (11% positive, 20% neutral, 13% negative), Marcia Langton (9%, 15% and 12%) and Thomas Mayo (5%, 16% and 10%).

The Guardian has various attitudinal results from Accent Research and Octopus Group, the former of which is headed by the eminent Shaun Ratliff, the most interesting of which is Voice support by top news source of choice. Sky News and The Guardian reigned at opposite ends of the table; Twitter uses favoured the Voice by 54-46 while Facebook went 67-33 the other way.

• DemosAU has published results on attitudes to the referendum from 7341 respondents over the past three months, which are covered at The New Daily. Among other things, the survey found 50% of Greens and 45% of Labor voters believed “the constitution needs altering to reflect our modern nation” compared with 17% for the Coalition and 14% for One Nation, with the latter much more likely to rate that “the constitution has worked satisfactorily for over a century, we shouldn’t alter it”.

• I discussed the results of the referendum the day after the event with Ben Raue of The Tally Room on a podcast you can listen to below.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

28 comments on “Indigenous Voice aftermath”

  1. As the final result edges closer to 39-61 and my own electorate (Franklin) still looks like it might tip over to No on the last postals, I feel increasingly despondent. 39-61 is a terrible result for a campaign that had the backing of a popular government, plenty of resources for advertising and which received a great deal of mass media coverage, arguably more of which was in favour than against.

    What a completely unnecessary own goal. There was no requirement to change the Constitution in order to establish the Voice. Recognition would have been a nice thing to achieve, but the people who prepared the Uluru statement quite reasonably saw it as not an important enough thing to go to a referendum with on its own.

    So they went with something ostensibly more significant than recognition. But it wasn’t exactly inspirational. I marched for land rights in the 1970s and our chant was “What do we want? Land rights! When do we want them? Now!”

    We were calling for something tangible and transformational.

    The Voice campaign was largely a back room and TV interview sort of business, but imagine if there had been a street march in favour of it. What would the chant have been?

    “What do we want? An advisory body with no powers! When do we want it? Once a predominantly white Parliament decides how it will work!”

    Despite being anodyne rather inspirational, the Voice was also not at all reassuring to the average mass of voters. A cognitive dissonance was created in their minds: “if this thing is as non-threatening as Albo keeps telling us it is, then why do we have to change the Constitution in order to implement it?” This opened the door to no end of conspiracy theories.

    The message I come away with is the one I posted a day or so ago: revolution by referendum has always been a stupid idea. As far as I can see, we have never needed to change the Constitution in order to have a Voice or a Treaty. The 1967 referendum gave the Commonwealth all of the powers it needed to do all of these things. So the Commonwealth should just get on with it.  As they should have done in the first place.

  2. Hi William

    I enjoyed your podcast with Ben Raue.

    A couple of relevant thoughts. First of all, I don’t think seat by seat analysis really captures the strength of the anti-Voice vote among (to use a cliche) “traditional Labor voters.” You need to look booth by booth. In southern Tasmania, I suspect one could produce a graph mapping each booth to the average house prices in that area and produce a consistent picture of the Yes vote falling in parallel with the fall in house prices.

    In the parts of rural NSW with which I am familiar, I can observe a strong No vote in the country town booths that are generally strong for Labor. Clearly, the votes of non-Indigenous low income households across the country were pretty strongly in favour of No, as were non-Indigenous rural voters of any income.

    In terms of the Indigenous vote, I have looked through the booths of Parkes – which covers an area which I know well – and have roughly calculated that the Yes vote among the relatively high Indigenous population of that region was around 60% or perhaps a point or two higher (it’s a bit difficult, because the strong Indigenous booths are also used by significant numbers of non-Indigenous people).

    I think the lower Indigenous vote in Parkes compared to North Queensland and the remote NT is consistent with the negative view of the Voice among some local Indigenous leaders on the grounds that they don’t see people from north of the Tweed such as Langton, Pearson, Mayo et al as being able to speak for their communities: a view not a million miles removed from that of Mundine. Given the views of some of these leaders, it’s actually a bit of a triumph for the Yes campaign that they did as well as they did aong the Indigenous voters in Parkes (albeit that the seat as a whole was one of the worst for Yes in the country).

  3. There are few bright spots in all this, but the ones I have enjoyed the most are as follows:

    – Remote NT communities (and Indigenous communities generally) demonstrating beyond doubt that Jacinta Price is a complete bullshit artist
    – Ditto the ‘Progressive No’ case, for getting precious little support from communities they claimed to speak for.
    – The Teal seats (and 2PP polls generally) demonstrating that this ‘great victory’ for Dutton has virtually ensured he’ll lose the next election.

    Otherwise, it was depressing. That said, I grew up in QLD in the 80s, and if you told me we’d get 40% on a vote like this, I wouldn’t have believed you. I’d have said 15-20%. That’s generational change in itself, with more to come. When this washes through we’ll see this is a solid base to build on for the future. And of course, voice, treaty and truth will still proceed at state level.

  4. It is really academic to whether the indigenous vote was 80% or 60% for the voice. The majority was for it, but there was a significant minority who wasn’t who did exist. For something to be described as divided doesn’t have to mean it is equally split. But in the end does it matter?

  5. At least 5000 more to come in Lingiari at a quick look, not sure it will get to 66.8% from last year though (and that was famously logistics-blighted). Indigenous enrolment drive will mean matching the % turnout is difficult, better to look at the raw number voting at the end.

  6. How much longer is blame going to be laid on PM Albanese and the Yes campaign over the Voice Referendum returning a majority of ‘No’ votes?

    The blame lies, respectively, with Peter Dutton, our Rightwing political parties, the Murdoch and associated media, lazy fearful moronic to Australians, and this deeply rascist country.

    The referendum was Australia’s report card and the result was a big fat ‘F’ for Fail.

    We should not accept any attempts at blaming the government for putting the question to a nation, with the reason being that PM Albanese should have recognised that we are a nation of racist bum orifices who would sooner stomp on a fallen Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person than give them a hand up, and so we should have been left alone instead of revealing our putrid underbelly to the rest of the world, and have The Australian Racist Era recorded in history forever.

    The blame lies with each and every non-A&TSI Australian who voted No.

  7. Meher Baba =- there were substantial rallies by Yes campaigners right across the country over the past couple of months & lots of people organising community events of all sorts – not well covered by the mass media – 50,000 volunteered for the campaign. It was certainly not a backroom event. The difficulty was timing – the No campaign was active using social media to spread misleading information from the time the Nationals announced their opposition. The Yes campaign ended up playing catch up on the misinformation front.

  8. I am fed up with Dutton deflecting blame for the lost referendum onto the people who held it, and those who worked their butts off to get a win for decency and fairness.

    Racism can take generations to fix and evidently 200 years was not long enough for Australians.

    Still, daylight is good for exposing rottenness and at least we now have exposed the problem.

    So all is not lost, and our young people look like they are a beacon of hope.

  9. Meher Baba.
    Apologies, I think I misread your comment. You were not blaming the Yes campaign or Albanese.
    Again, I am sorry to misrepresent you.

    I just re-worded my reply.

    In my defence, I am watching Dutton in Question Time trying to do just that, so I am a bit triggered.

  10. Puffytmd: I am blaming both Albo and the Indigenous leaders, but was blaming the strategy more than the campaign.

    The campaign wasn’t all that great, but the strategy was the main problem. If it wasn’t clear before last Saturday night that referendums are not a good mechanism for Labor to try to implement reform, then it should be now.

    And the proposal was difficult to sell. People were being asked to accept that the Voice wasn’t going to have any power but also that it necessitated a constitutional change in order for it to come into existence. A lot of cognitive dissonance resulted.

    Dutton and Price said a lot of awful stuff, and various people put around a lot of lies about what the Voice would do. But I think the root cause of the terrible result on Saturday night was poor strategy. I realise that the Indigenous leaders asked for a referendum, but the Government perhaps should have tried to talk them out of it.

  11. If the Uluru Convention was such an amazing consultative body that represents indigenous people so well… just convene it regularly, and there’s your Voice

  12. My main complaint about the “Yes” campaign was that they pretty much completely copied the same mistakes as the “Remain” campaign in the Brexit referendum.

    They should have learned from it, but they didn’t. And the same disastrous result came of it. And it’s not like they didn’t have time to mull over it, the Brexit vote was over 7 years ago. Yet in the end they attempted the same tactics and came to an even worse result than they got in the UK.

  13. I voted Yes, but I don’t think the Yes campaign ever came to terms with the fact that lots of voters simply didn’t think that anyone should get special rights recognised in the Constitution on the basis of who their parents were. And that’s something the Voice would have entailed, however one might try to spin it. Associated with that was the question of whether it would divide the country on racial grounds. The Yes campaign tried to answer that by saying that the distinction would be based not on race but on indigeneity, but that just pushed the question back to one of why indigeneity should generate special rights – which was never really answered. And there’s actually been over the years quite a bit of academic debate over whether cultural rights exist: see, for example, this: (The author went on to become Professor of Political Theory and Head of the Department of Government at the London School of Economics.) Talk of people having been here for 60,000 years invites the rejoinder that nobody alive today has been here for more than 110 years, reflecting different views flowing from communal or individualist perspectives.

    It’s a different issue from whether the Voice could be justified on the pragmatic ground that its advice would produce better policy. That may well have been the case, but if so, one might have thought that the desired end state would be that the Voice would have been so successful that it would no longer be needed. In which case, why make it a permanent feature of the Constitution? (My answer to that question was that the voice would probably need a long time to work, and locking it into the Constitution was the only way of ensuring that populist conservative politicians couldn’t kill it off just for the fun of it. But when the stated aim of the policy was to unify the country, the Yes campaign could hardly say that.)

    A final point worth noting is that framing the discussion in terms of guilt (“we took their land …”) sits oddly with the multicultural character of modern Australia: one might wonder what guilt a 25 year old child of a refugee who came here from Vietnam in the 1970s could be expected to feel.

    Above all, my sense of the problem with the Yes campaign, a bit like the republic campaign in 1999, was that the proponents were so committed to, and convinced of the rectitude of, their cause, that they couldn’t conceive that there could be legitimate grounds for holding a different view. They were entitled to their opinion, but it’s not a good starting point for a process where you need to understand people’s concerns about a proposal so that you know how to assuage them.

    As to longer term implications. The republic is probably dead for the time being, not least because the division between proponents of different republican models is still there, and it’s now clear that the idea Labor floated at one point of having an initial plebiscite on whether there should be an Australian head of state would be susceptible to the same devastating criticism of lack of detail that the Voice faced – and in the case of the republic, the criticism would be justified.

    From a party political point of view, the Liberals are likely to be damaged: Yes voters in teal seats won’t be forgiving, while No voters in Labor seats will probably have forgotten the whole business in the few months: they got what they voted for, so have no need to hold grudges. But the bigger damage will be from the empowering of the loonies on the right, both within and outside the coalition, who will try to use Saturday’s result as an argument for more culture wars.

  14. And hey, let’s just note that the QLD LNP are now walking away from their previous support for the treaty process in QLD.

    Looking at you, “Progressive No” people.

  15. I’m not expert like William or Kevin, but I made a multi-level map (ie you can zoom in to see more detail) showing how the on-the-day votes varied across geography.

    Look how closely the on-the-day votes correlated with distance from the CBD in Brisbane: (same trend occurs in other cities, but Brisbane and Canberra show it most clearly)

    An article with a bit more analysis (statistical, not political)

  16. I came across the copy I have of Malcolm Turnbull’s book “A bigger picture”, so I looked up what he had to say about the “Uluru Statement from the Heart”.
    According to him, Noel Pearson had told him before the Uluru conference that Pearson and some other leaders wanted to put a “Voice” body into the outcome which Turnbull advised him was unwise. And Turnbull was disappointed that the Statement from the Heart only requested an advisory body and nothing else as Turnbull felt it was not going to fly with voters.
    So it sounds like a handful of leaders were deadset on a Voice and nothing but a voice before the Uluru conference; they basically pushed it through to exclusion of all other suggestions and it was a waste of time as a result.
    Then again Turnbull does seem to blow his own trumpet in the book, so who knows.

  17. BS Fairman: I haven’t read Turnbull’s book (life’s too short really), but your account of what’s in it re the Uluru Statement equates to what I have heard from another source. Pearson, in particular, had been arguing that merely putting a statement about recognition into the Constitution was a waste of time and effort, and that some sort of change to the institutions of government would be required.

    Ideally this would have been the creation of a body with some real power, but the proponents realised it would be impossible to get the voters to agree to this. So they went with the purely advisory Voice.

    I can understand why the Indigenous leaders felt that, after all their years of campaigning, they needed to be able to present their peoples with something a bit more tangible than a new preamble to the Constitution: albeit that enshrining the Voice in the Constitution didn’t truly make it much more powerful than if it had simply been established through legislation.

    But Turnbull was also totally correct that the referendum would struggle to succeed.

    I still think it would have been much better for all of this energy had been put into getting a treaty process up and running.

  18. Meher Baba – When I was reading Turnbull’s book I got to 2010. But it was hard work.

    Anyway, if the Voice was already pre-determined by “leaders” before the Uluru convention, it does sort of mean the argument that it was a grassroot request is bogus.

    Also all prior proposals had a removal of Section 25 (the other race clause) as a priority. A question could have been asked about that and it would have passed too. It is so bad that no party could defend it.

  19. Except that the practical significance of section 25 is 2/5 of bugger all. It provides a disincentive to any state that tried to do something they would never do (and which, in any case, would probably be prevented by the Race Discrimination Act).

    Trying to explain to the electorate why section 25 existed in the first place and why it should be abolished would be more trouble than it is worth, and would probably make many voters suspicious. I guess that’s why they didn’t include it in the referendum.

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