People who watched Sky News were less likely to believe Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders face discrimination and more likely to vote no, a new study of referendum voting intention in the final week of the campaign has found.The Albanese government’s proposal for an Indigenous voice to parliament was defeated with a majority of people and every state voting against the proposal. Nationally, 39.4% voted in favour of the voice, while 60.6% voted against it.
Accent Research and Octopus Group ran a survey of 1,204 Australians aged 18 and older who were enrolled to vote to gauge what people were thinking before they took to the ballot box.How people perceived the level of discrimination experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders was a “very, very good predictor of how they voted on the referendum”, according to Dr Shaun Ratcliff, president of Accent Research.
The survey asked respondents how much discrimination they think Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders face in Australia, and how much discrimination they think white Australians face.Just more than half (53%) of voters said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders faced more discrimination than white Australians, while 15% said white Australians faced more discrimination, and 32% said they faced the same amount.
People who said they would vote no made up nearly 80% of the group who said that white Australians faced the same amount of discrimination as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, or that white Australians faced more.Everyone who that said white Australians faced more discrimination than Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders indicated that they would vote no.
“Certainly these views about whether or not Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders face more discrimination than white Australians plays a big role in whether people are willing to support the voice,” Ratcliff said. “Obviously that is a complex issue.”Sky News, daily tabloid newspapers, the Australian newspaper, free-to-air television news and AM radio were “less likely to say Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders faced discrimination”, according to the report. Voters who relied on these sources, as well as Facebook and FM radio, for news were more likely to say they would vote no.
The no camp’s assurance that the voice would “divide Australia” was listed in 82% of respondents’ top three reasons for intention to vote no. It was the number one reason to vote no for 41% of no voters.“That argument cut through,” Ratcliff said.Other claims by the no campaign held little influence over people’s votes, according to the survey. Financial stress was one “line of attack” used by opposition leader Peter Dutton, Ratcliff said.
“He argued that the government had become distracted by the referendum, rather than focusing on the rising cost of living.”However, 65% of voters who intended to vote no indicated “there were more important issues” than a voice to parliament – the second most cited reason for voting no. But there was only a 5% gap between those that were under a great deal of financial stress and those that had none at all, indicating that was not a major differentiating factor behind no votes.