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97%+ of "No" Voters Don't Know What They Are Voting On

Abstract: The Voice Referendum seeks to provide recognition to the First People of Australia and a body known as the Voice which can make representations to the parliament and executive. The Australian Parliament will determine the powers and procedures of the Voice. According to current aggregated opinion polling, the "No" case to the Voice is currently leading. It is hypothesised that many self-described "No" voters are more influenced in their decision by extrapolations, "fake news", etc A survey conducted of 118 "No" voters from September 7 to 15, 2023, indicated that more than 97% could not describe what the Constitutional change would be.

Method: The Facebook group: "The Voice 2023 - Yes or No" consists of a "paper membership" of approximately 8.8K people, with an active membership of approximately 250. All the administrators of the page are "No" supporters, based on their public posts. From encounters and discussions, an opportunist selection of 118 "No Voters" was made between September 7 and September 15. Each was asked the question: "Do you know what you're voting on? The actual words to the constitutional amendment?", or a minor variation thereof. It must be emphasized that these participants are not just quiet "no" supporters, but activists promoting a particular position.

Results: Of the 118 "No Voters", 3 (2.5%) provided either a correct answer or a link to the correct answer. One provided an incorrect answer but then changed their mind, having received the AEC referendum booklet. Two (1.7%) provided the Referendum Question, rather than the Amendment. Four (4.2%) admitted that they did not know and asked for more information that was provided. Five (4.2%) gave political partisan positions, such as they wouldn't vote in favour of anything that came from Prime Minister Anthony Albanese or the Labor Party. Six (5.1%) thought it was the Uluru Statement from the Heart or the key components of the Statement; Voice, Truth, and Treaty. Four (4.2%) gave the surprising response that it was a takeover of the World Economic Forum, the United Nations, or Agenda 2030, and an additional 2 (1.7%) claimed it was a communist takeover. Two (1.7%) thought it was to reverse the 1967 referendum and another three (2.5%) thought it was to add another arm of government. Three (2.5%) claimed that "everyone knows", whereas two (1.7%) claimed that nobody knows, whilst one (0.8%) thought it was about changing Australia Day.

Discussion: The official "No" campaign leaflet, published by the AEC, includes the summary recommendation: "If you don’t know, vote no". This has had significant traction among "No" voters who have shown a lack of understanding of the actual constitutional amendment, which is also provided by the AEC. Recently, based on recorded evidence, it has been reported that the "No" campaign has instructed volunteers to engage in a deliberate campaign to spread "fear and misinformation" and "flat out lie" in an effort to convince referendum voters of its agenda. A difficult question for "no" advocates is whether they are lying or being lied to, and the veracity of their answer would be likewise difficult to determine.

Concluding Remarks: In May this year the Lowry Institute published an opinion that Australia's international reputation would be seriously damaged if the referendum fails, and refereed to Nick Bryant's remark that a successful "No" vote "would be an Australian equivalent of a Brexit or Trump moment". As this small survey has shown, there is a high degree of veracity in this comment as both the Brexit referendum and the Trump election were dominated by misinformation and notably a high level of remorse in the years that followed. These results highlight the importance of governance requiring an accurately informed public sphere and the propensity of online opinion toward demagogic control, rather than a deliberative democracy.

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