QUT Digital Media Research Centre researchers Axel Bruns, Samantha Vilkins, and Tariq Choucair published an article in The Conversation on 5 October, addressing polarisation and the Voice referendum.
As part of an Australian Laureate Fellowship project on the drivers and dynamics of partisanship and polarisation, they commissioned questions on Australians’ perceptions of unity and division in the country as part of the regular Essential Media opinion poll.
The results were remarkable: those who see Australia as united are mostly likely to vote Yes (58%), those who see it as already divided will most likely vote No (59%) in the 14 October referendum on an Indigenous Voice to Parliament. This means, that rather than Yes being ‘the voice of division’, as the No campaign claims, it is the No campaign that is giving voice to division.
Their research found considerable demographic differences, too: younger people see Australia as more united, older people (and especially retirees) as divided. People in the city are also seeing more unity, and those in the country see more division.
Overall, however, the country is not descending into deep division and polarisation in the way that countries like the United States appear to be: only 9% of all respondents saw Australia as very divided. This seems to point to the resilience of the Australian democratic system.
These results represent a momentary snapshot in the middle of the Voice referendum campaign, of course. Future research will test how these figures change in the aftermath of the referendum. Read more here.