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Shifting public opinion towards the monarchy in Australia

28 January 2016
New research tracks the social bases of attitudes towards the monarchy over the last half century

Support for the monarchy in Australia is at its highest level since the 1990s thanks to the arrival of new royal family members and a declining number and frequency of royal scandals, new research reveals.

Crowd at the wedding of Prince William of Wales and Kate Middleton

The crowd at the wedding of Prince William of Wales and Kate Middleton in April 2011. Image: Flavio Ferrari/Wikimedia Commons.

Published in the Australian Journal of Political Science, the research – based on 46 years of public opinion data on the importance of, and whether to retain, the monarchy – shows that support for the monarchy has been rapidly improving since the early 2000s.

In 1998, a year before the republic referendum, 34 percent of Australians believed Australia should 'definitely become a republic', but by 2013 (the birth year of Prince George) this had dropped to 26 percent.
 
The data also reveals a number of new insights about Australian public opinion toward the monarchy, including:

  • The highest surge in support for the monarchy since 1988 was registered in the weeks immediately following Prince William and Catherine Middleton’s marriage on 29 April 2011. This is a similar level to when Prince Charles wedded Princess Diana in 1981.
  • All generations – except those who were teenagers when Whitlam was dismissed – have warmed to the monarchy over time. Since 1998, there is no statistically significant difference in opinion between those born in the 1930s and those born in the 1980s and 1990s.
  • Queensland and South Australia retain greater residual support for the monarchy than other Australian states.
  • Royals apart from the Windsors impact Australians’ attitudes about the crown. For example, high levels of support were recorded in Tasmania in 2010 when the Danish Crown Princess Mary visited Hobart the week prior to the election.
  • European and Asian migrants in Australia were steadfastly opposed to monarchy up until 2004, but now support the monarchy more than at any point previously.
  • Generally, urban dwellers and males are more likely to support a republic.

"Interestingly, the monarchy has become more popular in a better educated, more affluent and less religious Australia. This defies previous expectations that support for the monarchy would be in an inexorable decline," said doctoral candidate Luke Mansillo, from the University of Sydney's Department of Government and International Relations.
 
"Cultural events, such as royal marriages and the hype surrounding the birth of Prince George and Princess Charlotte, have fuelled many Australians' desire to keep their monarchy. These events have enabled younger cohorts of Australians to develop more positive attitudes towards the monarchy and have repaired older cohort's attitudes," he said.

Jennifer Peterson-Ward

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