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How the pretty royals are turning young people into monarchists

Support for the monarchy has almost doubled among Australians under the age of 30. Monarchists and republicans agree Wills and Kate are partly responsible. Crikey intern Luke Cooper talks to both sides.

The telegenic Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their bouncing baby boy are doing more than selling magazines and promoting Australian tourism — they’re turning Australians under 30, who usually lean republican, into monarchists. The proportion of young Australians who support the monarchy has almost doubled in the past two years.

The latest Fairfax-Nielsen poll, released a day after Wills and Kate flew into Australia, shows that 60% of 18- to 24-year-olds support the current system. The poll is a sharp contrast to 2012, when a survey commissioned by the Australian Republican Movement from UMR polling found 31% of voters under the age of 30 supported the monarchy and 45% were in favour of becoming a republic.

Jai Martinkovits, the 26-year-old executive director for Australians for Constitutional Monarchy, told Crikey that Wills and Kate are partly responsible for the switch: “The fact that young royals are connecting with young people in Australia is definitely a factor impacting Australian support. It’s very encouraging [that] young people instinctively realise there’s a sense of service and duty that the royal family engages in.

There has been a very definite trend, which has been an increase in liberal support … What we are seeing is the level of support amongst the youth growing. This represents a ticking time bomb for republicans because, apart from the very old, the next highest level of support is amongst the youth.”

The royals’ Australian visit has brought the republican debate back into the spotlight, with critics claiming the boost in pro-monarchy sentiment comes from their celebrity status. Sonia Feng, a 22-year-old republican involved in lobbying efforts, told Crikey: “There is a general celebrity culture about the royals and especially young royals — they’re very prolific in the media.

A lot of people don’t actually think about the constitutional monarchy and what that actually is. They see these royal figures and they indulge in that celebrity culture, and there’s this great trust in them.”

Feng says young people who are charmed by images of the young Duke and Duchess haven’t really put much thought into what a republic would mean. “With the royals coming, it’s an image that is presented to us, and a lot of people remember them and indulge in their personalities and that’s all they ever know, because the monarchy has always been there in the background,” she said.

David Morris, national director of the Australian Republican Movement, says Wills, Kate and baby George are a distraction. “The mainstream media has become a real cheer squad for the celebrity monarchy,” he told Crikey. “Australia’s nationhood is not about celebrities from another country; it’s about who we are as a nation and where our allegiance lies.”

He says the real problem is young people’s apathy about the issue. “We have found amongst young people that there is a lack of engagement with the issue of the republic, [which is] very clear because the issue has been off the agenda for a long time — there has not been much discussion,” he said.

Our research still shows support for a republic is two to one amongst young people; it’s just there is a huge proportion amongst young people who don’t have a view.”

For Martinkovits, the issue for young voters lies in their distrust of politicians and the current federal government. “Australians have a very low level of trust for politicians, and they don’t want to bear a system where you increase the power of the political class,” he said.

On this week’s episode of the ABC’s Q&A, feminist social commentator Eva Cox said the lack of support for a republic came from a distrust of politicians extending back to the 1999 referendum:

People did not want to vote for a republic which actually had people elected by politicians. They did not want a head of state that was elected by politicians. Until we actually build up some trust in the government and elected politicians and the idea that people should be allowed to elect their own head of state, then I don’t think we’re going to get a republic.”

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  • 1
    mikeb
    Posted Thursday, 24 April 2014 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    The problem for republicans (& I am one) is that there is no pressing need for change. Whitlam’s sacking has long faded from memory & events like that will probably never happen again. Apart from that the current Royals including Chas & Cam seem like a decent lot, and there are plenty of things to like about them. The hangers on are a bit tedious but at least the “crown” seems to be in good hands over the foreseeable future.

  • 2
    Jackson Harding
    Posted Thursday, 24 April 2014 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    I voted for a Republic, and I will do so again, if we’re ever given another chance. I do wish however the previous campaign had spent more time better ellucidating the fact that if we have a directly elected President the stark reality is that no matter who we vote for, a politician will become our President.

    Constitutional monarchy does have it’s good points. Perhaps instead we should consider the solution Norway enacted when they became independent from Sweden. Import Harry, or Wills and Kate’s second born and make them our own monarch. As much as hereditary monarchy is said to be against Australian ideals, lets face it, it’s worked rather well for the past 113 years.

  • 3
    UTS LIBRARY
    Posted Thursday, 24 April 2014 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

    Great idea, Jackson! We’ll take Harry (neé Hewitt) … give him a couple of years to do his thing and in a few years we’ll have our Republic!

  • 4
    UTS LIBRARY
    Posted Thursday, 24 April 2014 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    So the Brits can have their royal house of Tudor (Saxe-Coburg-Gotha), and we can have the royal house of Hewitt.

  • 5
    Pedantic, Balwyn
    Posted Thursday, 24 April 2014 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    The glamour of the “Royal Couple plus their son/heir” is undeniable. However, it disguises an issue that should be of serious concern to Australians of all ages. The Queen and her family may be admirable individuals, but they do not represent Australia or its interests to the rest of the world.
    The Queen and the “Firm” promote the interests of the United Kingdom in any interaction with other countries. For many overseas, but especially our trading partners in Asia without any history within the British Empire, find it very confusing that that our head of state is British, not Australian. It makes them wonder if they are dealing with the decision makers or should they go higher to the UK?
    Members of the Royal Family have expressed surprise that we continue with an outmoded concept of a British head of state, recognising that their job is to support the betterment of Great Britain at the expense of other parties, like the Aussies.
    So it is to the advantage of our businesses, and there are plenty of other reasons that we move forward to adopt an Australian head of state, who will exclusively uphold the interests of Australia and its peoples.

  • 6
    AR
    Posted Thursday, 24 April 2014 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

    Monachary is only Martinkovits’ day job - he is also chief hack at CAN-Do, the Oz extrusion from the Teabag vat of slime, DNA & patronage courtesy of Dames Jones & Flint.

  • 7
    Philip Howell
    Posted Thursday, 24 April 2014 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps the public reaction would be different if the media ever reported on serious alternatives to the 1999 proposal. I’ve been publicising the Advancing Democracy model for 18 months, but the media prefers to re-hash the debate from 1999 rather than report something new.

    One comment above asserts there is no pressing need for change. There are many arguments to the contrary on the Advancing Democracy website, but here’s one of contemporary relevance.

    No-one is happy with the standard of Parliamentary debates. One key aspect of that problem is the absence of an independent, impartial chair of debates. This is because the Constitution requires a partisan politician like Bronwyn Bishop to preside.

    Political impartiality is also what everyone wants in a head of state. So make the new head of state take the place of the speaker, and deputy take the place of the Senate president. Prevent the head of state from adopting any other roles, and we would have a head of state who actually does something useful, and doesn’t meander around the country making vaccuous speeches.

    People would see the benefit in this approach if they were ever prompted to properly consider it. It is one aspect of the Advancing Democracy model at http://www.advancingdemocracy.info.

  • 8
    Graeski
    Posted Friday, 25 April 2014 at 12:25 am | Permalink

    Well yes - this is the same demographic that was hopelessly in love with Justin Beiber only a few years ago. Does that tell us anything?

    I pretty much agree with mikeb - and the risk of our head of state being up for sale to our pollies horrifies me.

    Here’s a thought. Maybe every decade or so we could throw the names of every Australian between the ages of 21 and 65 (70, if Joe gets his way) into a hat and instead of having a $20 million lotto draw, have a “head of state” draw. Random selection by raffle is no less logical than random selection by birth and has the additional advantages of avoiding politics and elections and removing hereditary monarchy. Plus could anything be more Australian? We could even have the award night at Crown Casino … with a real crown!

    King Shannon de Bondi. Queen Narelle Grong Grong.

    OK. Maybe it wouldn’t work.

  • 9
    tim readfern
    Posted Sunday, 27 April 2014 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    i think all royal visits should be financed by kickstarter campaigns in the future. if they can raise $50m for a holiday to australia then good luck to them, just don’t waste taxpayers money on a couple of privileged twats to walk around and look at things for a week.

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