The poll puts support for a republic at 49 per cent and against at 47 per cent, with 4 per cent of people undecided. But, crucially, it suggests that change would be backed by voters in only three states: New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. To be carried, the vote for change needs to be approved by a majority both at national level and in four of Australia's six states.
The latest survey demonstrates the apparent volatility of the electorate. Three opinion polls last week gave the "no" campaign - a coalition of monarchists and dissident republicans - a lead of between 8 and 15 points. Some commentators dismiss the polls as unreliable since there is no core of traditional support for either side. The polls have fluctuated in recent months, often putting the two camps neck and neck.
Australians will be asked on Saturday to vote "yes" or "no" to a proposal to abandon their constitutional monarchy in favour of a republic, replacing the Queen with a president appointed by parliament after public consultation.
Yesterday's poll, conducted by Quadrant for the Sydney Sunday Telegraph, predicted that the referendum will fail in Queensland, Tasmania and Western Australia. It found 54 per cent of women are against a republic, while 58 per cent of men are in favour. The biggest stumbling block for the "yes" campaign is the method of choosing the president; 70 per cent want the head of state to be elected by popular vote.
When asked to nominate the person that they would most like to be president, a majority of respondents named Sir William Deane, the current Governor- General, the Queen's representative.
Andreas Whittam Smith,
Review, page 4