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Politics with Michelle Grattan: RedBridge's Kosmos Samaras on what the public are saying about the Voice

Over recent months, support for the Voice has fallen from a clear majority to a minority. With polling day set for October 14, the “yes” and “no” camps are battling it out to capture those still undecided.

In this podcast, RedBridge Group’s Kosmos Samaras joins The Conversation to dig into the research on voters’ attitudes. RedBridge, consultants on political communications, has been doing both quantitative polling on the Voice and focus group research (it is not working for any of the players in the referendum).

“It’s looking pretty grim for the ‘yes’ campaign,” Samaras says, with the drivers behind the public’s hesitation to the Voice “complex and diverse across the country”.

Cost of living pressures and financial pressures in people’s homes are a factor. It makes people less willing to pay attention to issues that are not of direct concern to them.

Australians with a university degree are more likely to vote “yes”. Australians who speak another language at home other than English are more likely to vote “yes”, and age, of course. Those over the age of 34 are the largest supporters of the “yes” proposition. The other side of that coin is individuals who are older and don’t have a university degree. They’re generally in the outer suburbs and regions of this country [and intend to] vote “no”.

Samaras strongly believes that Yes23 made a “critical” error of judgement when it partnered up with embattled Qantas to promote the Voice, saying that currently Australians’ trust in major brands is at an all-time low.

It goes a long way to explaining how the yes proposition has lost its political authenticity amongst those voters that we’ve been talking about, mainly in outer suburban regions. They are very sceptical of the successful end of Australia, that is corporates, the likes of Qantas.

Australians overwhelmingly have this enormous mistrust of energy retailers, banks, they think they’re getting fleeced when it comes to the cost of living at the supermarket. All of that is mixing in a pot and the “yes” campaign made a number of critical errors by basically partnering up with the corporate end of our society.

It’s something that the corporate world needs to work on and rebuild that social licence with Australians. But at the moment it’s probably one of the lowest I’ve seen in a long time.

Samaras is adamant a majority of those voting “no” are in favour of Constitutional recognition, just hesitant about the executive government clause in the question being put to voters.

There’s a lot of empathy and compassion there [for Indigenous people], and it doesn’t matter which age groups, which part of Australia that we are sitting in and talking to people. It’s heartening as a researcher to actually say that sort of feedback.

However, the confusion has been a very significant player when it comes to creating that doubt, that cynicism. And as I said before, with the loss of political authenticity for the referendum.

Samaras issues a stark warning to all sides of politics ahead of the referendum.

There’s an important point there because there is some danger there for the Albanese government amongst what I would define as progressive young people, that if this goes down and they are strong supporters of Aboriginal people in this country, they will have a view that all this trauma has occurred for nothing and they’ll be looking for someone to blame.

This article is republished from The Conversation is the world's leading publisher of research-based news and analysis. A unique collaboration between academics and journalists. It was written by: Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra.

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Michelle Grattan does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.