Today's Australian newspaper has the first Newspoll to measure public attitudes towards a possible Australian republic in four years, and the trendlines are not good for the republicans.
I've covered the value of Newspoll here before - for the benefit of non-psephologists, Newspoll is regarded by Australia's political class the gold standard for polling, similar to ICM in the UK. It has also been around for a long time so it is able to give us an accurate long-term view.
The poll suggests that republican support is at its lowest level in 17 years with headline figures of 41 republic, 39 monarchy, 20 undecided.
To those of us that read The Monarchist, that might sound pretty bleak. But to Australian constitutionalists fighting the good fight, these are the best non-referendum figures we've had in nearly twenty years. How?
Look at these figures from past Newspolls in August 1999 (before the referendum campaign), 2002 and 2006. Remember that Newspoll is the gold standard for Australian politicos (who are largely republican).
The split in the November 1999 referendum was 55-45 to No. Yet just a few months before the referendum, the August 1999 poll suggested that 51% preferred an in-principle republic. The actual referendum result suggests that virtually all undecideds and some in-principle republicans unhappy with the republican model proposed, voted No.
If we apply that same rough "guesstimate" formula to a theoretical 2011 referendum, the No vote would probably be 60%+, and would probably kill modern republicanism as a meaningful issue in Australia, unless something prompted it to rise up again.
The other clear subset shifting their views on this question via these polls are Coalition (conservative) voters. Opposition to a republic amongst these voters is rising rapidly. The laws of Australian political science dictate that a referendum needs virtually unanimous organised political support to succeed here. Having one side of politics hardening its opposition to a republic is a sure-fire way to secure its defeat.
One final comment - many Australian republicans hope that Prince Charles' accession to the throne will be a "silver bullet" to aid the republicans and revive their support. Today's poll projects that republican support would rise were Charles to be king. But even then, the republicans would still be behind where they were in the polls in August 1999, just three months before the referendum. And we know how the referendum ended. Even if attitudes to Charles don't change after he becomes king (and I think they will - considerably) his reign won't be enough to see the end of the monarchy. William's impact is a little unclear, but his succession would see more young people and Labor voters support the monarchy. Who would have thought that the Australian Labor Party was a hotbed of Spencerphile English nativist restoration?
My conclusion about this poll? While it still suggests that slightly more Australians are prepared to voice support for an in-theory republic than the monarchy, nowhere near enough Australians care enough to make Australia a republic. Attitudes to the status quo are warming, and have done so for a decade. There's some measurable scepticism about Charles' suitability to be king but it's nowhere near enough to secure sufficient support in a referendum.
After reading this poll, I'm very confident in predicting we'll be seeing royal tours in Australia for a very long time to come.