Rigged Poll: People Do NOT Support Plebiscite

The Australian is telling lies

The Australian reported Tuesday that Australian voters have swung in behind a national plebiscite.

No they haven’t. The Oz said:

“A new push within Coalition ranks to hold a free vote in parliament on same-sex marriage by the end of the year has been dealt a blow by a special Newspoll showing Australian voters have swung in behind a national plebiscite.

“More Australians now support a popular vote on same-sex marriage than holding a free vote in parliament in a surprise reversal of the views expressed just 10 months ago when Bill Shorten and others vowed to block the plebiscite in the Senate.

“The Newspoll, conducted exclusively for The Australian, reveals that 46 per cent of voters prefer a plebiscite while 39 per cent want politicians to decide the outcome, with 15 per cent undecided.”

The same line was picked up by Sunrise, calling the result “a huge blow” to the push for a private members bill for marriage equality.

But the headlines are a lie. Voters have not suddenly changed their minds about a plebiscite. They have been deceived about a plebiscite. It’s an object lesson in how to rig an opinion poll by skewing the question to get the answer you want.

The question The Australian asked was, “should the issue be resolved by means of a national plebiscite or by politicians voting in parliament.” (my emphasis)

It makes it sound like an either/or proposition. But it is not. A plebiscite is not an alternative to a vote in parliament, just an expensive add-on. 

People thought they were being asked if they wanted a public vote that would actually change the law – ‘resolve the issue’, as the paper put it, instead of a parliamentary vote. But there is no way to do that in the Australian system. Laws can only be changed by politicians voting in parliament.

A plebiscite has absolutely no effect: it’s just a great big bloody expensive opinion poll that politicians can ignore if they like. As many of them have said they will.

The issue can only be ‘resolved’ by politicians voting in parliament, whether or not a plebiscite – which is nothing more than a $160m taxpayer funded opinion poll – is held first.

We have been here before: this is the same lie the last time the government tried to foist a plebiscite upon us. But when it was explained to people that a plebiscite would not be binding, and would cost more than $160m, support for the idea fell dramatically, as we wrote here: 70% do NOT support a plebiscite.

The last poll which explained all this found only 25% supported a plebiscite.

A plebiscite resolves nothing. And when people know that, they do not support it.

About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years. "Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe." (Daniel Witthaus, "Beyond Priscilla", Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)