Polls show Australia Indigenous referendum support slipping, likely to fail

FILE PHOTO: A Kaurna elder, Uncle Moogy, performs a traditional smoking ceremony with spectators, in Adelaide, Australia February 23, 2023. REUTERS/Jill Gralow/File Photo

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Support for a referendum to constitutionally recognise Australia's Indigenous people slipped further, with the landmark proposal set to fail in a national vote roughly three weeks away, two opinion polls showed on Monday.

Support for a "Voice to Parliament", an Indigenous committee to advise parliament on matters affecting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people, fell to 33%, down 15 points since May, the Australian Financial Review (AFR)/Freshwater poll showed. The 'No' vote had reached 50%.

Despite the Anthony Albanese-led Labor government's campaign drive to win undecided voters, opposition to the referendum rose three points to 56%, a Newspoll conducted for The Australian newspaper showed. Support dipped to 36% from 38% in the previous poll on Sept. 3.

Altering the constitution requires a national referendum in Australia and only eight have passed since 1901 when the country was formed. The proposal must get a majority of votes nationwide and at least four of the six states must back the change.

Australia, which will hold the referendum vote on Oct. 14, has no treaty with its Indigenous people, who make up about 3.2% of its 26 million population. They were marginalised by British colonial rulers and are not mentioned in the 122-year-old constitution.

The referendum debate has divided opinions with supporters arguing the Voice will bring progress for the Aboriginal community, while opponents say it would be divisive. Others have described it as tokenism and toothless.

Voters who had switched their stance to reject the proposal in the past five months said the Voice was creating distraction from their top two issues - the cost of living and the cost of housing, the AFR survey said.

It also showed the approval ratings for Albanese, who has staked significant political capital on the referendum, fell 5 points to 46%.

In the Newspoll survey, Albanese's ratings improved slightly to 47% though that remained at historically low levels, while on a two-party preferred basis, Labor enjoyed a 54-46% lead against the conservative opposition coalition.

(Reporting by Renju Jose in Sydney; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)

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