It was certainly one of the more contentious Australia Days for a little while, with protests across the country last Friday demanding that our national day be moved out of respect for indigenous Australians.
However, a new study (which you can download here) has found that only 27 per cent of Australians would support a referendum on changing the date of Australia Day, while 73 per cent would vote no.
The findings are part of this year’s national study about attitudes towards Australia Day conducted among a representative sample of 1001 Australians 18 and older by Review Partners/ Research Now SSI.
It also found that when it came to youth network Triple J’s decision to move its annual music poll, the Hottest 100, to the 27th of January out of respect for indigenous Australians, only 17 per cent considered it a good decision, 32 per cent calling it a bad decision and 51 per cent saying they didn’t really care.
The issue of changing the date would also translate to voting intentions at the ballot box in a general election.
Only 16 per cent of people said they would be more likely to vote for a party that wanted to change the date, but more than twice that number (39 per cent ) would be less likely to vote for such a party. The other 45 per cent felt it would have no effect on their decision.
Four out of 10 Greens voters (39 per cent) said they would be more likely to vote for party that planned to change the date. On the other hand, more than half (53 per cent) of Coalition supporters were less likely to vote for a party that proposed a new date.
When asked to rate the importance of changing the date against becoming a republic or changing the flag, 26 per cent said a republic was most important, 13 per cent gave top priority to changing the date, while only five per cent nominated changing the flag. The majority people (55 per cent) didn’t want to make any changes.
The study also found substantial support for recognising and respecting the importance of Indigenous people, history and culture to Australia.
It asked participants how they would feel if the Australian Government decided to establish a national ceremony at sunrise on Australia Day to recognise the importance of Indigenous people, their history and culture to Australia.
A total of 61 per cent said it would be a good or very good decision, only 16 per cent thought it was bad or very bad and the remaining 23 per cent didn’t really care.
A clear majority (70 per cent) believed that ‘the debate has become a political issue which is creating unnecessary divisions between Australians’ and that ‘we should focus on bringing about real practical change in the lives of disadvantaged Indigenous people.’ (69 per cent)
On the other hand, only one in three (33 per cent) agreed that ‘holding it on January 26th is like asking Indigenous people to dance on the graves of their ancestors’ was a reason to change the date.
The study also presented research participants with five TV ads that ran in the lead up to Australia Day. One of these featured Alice Springs Indigenous Councillor Jacinta Price suggesting there should be more focus of overcoming Indigenous disadvantage than changing the date.
It generated the most positive response of all ads shown, with 57 per cent saying they loved or liked the ad and 63 per cent believed it presented a good or very good message.
The anti-ad run my Mark Latham presenting a hypothetical future where people were afraid to celebrate Australia Day because of retribution from the thought police enjoyed gained support from almost half the population, with 47 per cent saying they loved or liked it and 49 per cent believing it had a very good or good message.
Commenting on the study, Review Partners research director Paul Costantoura said: “This year’s study found that attitudes have changed only marginally since 2017.
“In 2017, 16 per cent initially said yes change the date, 59 per cent said no don’t change it, and 24 per cent, or one in four didn’t really care.
“In 2018, 19 per cent initially said yes, 62 per cent said no and 19 per cent, or one in five didn’t care, which suggests that attitudes are polarising with fewer people sitting on the fence.
“However, this year we also asked the undecideds how they would vote if a compulsory referendum were held. A majority opted for the status quo, resulting in a total national vote of 27 per cent in favour and 73 per cent opposed to change.
“To make sure people knew the arguments, we explained to them that, for some people, it represents the day when Australia’s original Indigenous peoples were invaded by the British, had their land stolen from them and were slaughtered in their thousands by the early British settlers.
“After reading this, the total number wanting a new date increased to 33 per cent, with 67per cent opposed to change,” Costantoura said.