Fixing recognition, racism and disadvantage as "decades of government policies haven't helped" are the most persuasive arguments for the proposed Voice to Parliament, while the "no" case is riding high on a rejection of more cost, bureaucracy, and "special privileges".
The main "yes" and "no" arguments for and against a constitutionally enshrined Indigenous body to advise Parliament and executive government have become more entrenched in an exclusive survey of just over 8,600 voters conducted by ACM, the publisher of this newspaper.
The survey shows only 34 per cent of people across both major cities and regional areas plan to support the proposal to alter the constitution to establish an Indigenous Voice, with the "no" vote growing to 61 per cent.
Just 5 per cent of respondents say they are still undecided ahead of the historic October 14 referendum.
In Canberra, where support remains the strongest, fewer than half of the people surveyed (48 per cent) intend to vote "yes", down from 52 per cent in June.
A significant majority of respondents (72 per cent) still feel the government has not done enough to explain the Voice. That figure has not changed since the previous ACM survey in June.
In all, 8,638 people completed the online questionnaire conducted by ACM's research unit Chi-Squared between August 22 and September 4. Respondents included ACM readers, non-readers as well as members of the Crackerjack regional audience panel.
Conducted just as the Prime Minister officially named the date of the referendum and launched the "yes" campaign, the survey shows some dilution in the reasons for and against the Voice, but the top "yes" and "no" reasons remain the same.
Among "yes" voters, 39 per cent back the Voice because they believe it will "finally recognise the First Peoples of Australia and help address the problem of racism and Indigenous disadvantage". The second most popular reason for backing the Voice (33 per cent) is that it is needed because "decades of government policies haven't helped us 'close the gap' between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians."
"Voting 'yes' is for me a no-brainer and it should be the same for many," a male "yes" voter aged between 18-39 offered.
Older survey participants offered similar comments.
"I voted 'yes' in 1967 and I will vote 'yes' in 2023. It is the only moral choice. If you don't know, find out. That's the responsible approach," a female reader, aged 75 and over, said.
Another said, "For goodness sake let's just do this! It's time!"
Some 19 per cent said the Voice would "empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities to take control of their own destinies and future," while 8 per cent felt the Voice will be a "unifying moment for Australia".
Only 3 per cent said they were backing it because Australia would be perceived as a racist country if the referendum failed.
"I wish I could have chosen more than one answer. I do believe the world sees Australia as racist. I do believe decades of govt policy has failed Indigenous people," a female "yes" voter aged 40-59 said.
There has been more of a shift on the other side.
The top reason (31 per cent) among people planning to vote "no" is that "we already have a Federal Parliament to make decisions for all Australians and we don't need more government cost and bureaucracy". This is down from 36 per cent in June.
"Do not divide the country by this referendum. Use the money for health, schools, etc," a 60-to-75 female "no" voter pleaded.
A quarter of "no" voters were concerned that the Voice gives one part of Australia's multicultural community "special privilege above everybody else", while 19 per cent said the Voice had the potential to divide Australia.
"Aboriginal people are already mentioned in the constitution and already have special privileges. I worry that there will be a racial divide and as the minority the Aboriginal communities will suffer for it," a female aged 18-to-39 planning to vote "no" commented.
Voice doubt appears to be increasing.
The percentage of people who want First Nations people recognised in the constitution, but "worry that the federal government's proposed model gives the Voice unlimited scope to influence public policy beyond Indigenous affairs" has jumped to 17 per cent from 13 per cent in June.
"How can we be expected to vote for something that has not been explained?," a male aged 40-59 , who described themselves as undecided, commented.
"I fully support recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in the constitution, but I do not support a Voice to Parliament that does not have a definition, a process and a policy of how it will operate. Who would ever give a government a blank check to do whatever they like? No one."
IN OTHER NEWS: