The nation’s youngest voters — the generation who missed out on casting a ballot in the republic referendum 17 years ago — are the least supportive of the new push for Australia to dump the Queen.
A special Newspoll, taken exclusively for The Weekend Australian, also reveals a sharp divide has opened between the sexes, with 57 per cent of men backing a republic but only 45 per cent of women in favour.
The poll of 1837 voters finds overall that 51 per cent of Australians are in favour of the constitutional change, up 10 points from 41 per cent five years ago, but back to the same level as 1999 when the referendum failed.
Some 37 per cent are opposed, with 12 per cent undecided.
Malcolm Turnbull’s belief that the republic is not worth revisiting until the end of the Queen’s reign is reflected by the poll. It reveals that support for the republic would jump to 55 per cent if Prince Charles became king — the highest level recorded by Newspoll since it began measuring the debate in 1987 — with majority support across all demographic and political groups, including women and younger voters.
The poll, taken from January 28 to 31, shows a majority of baby boomers and Gen X members are happy to abandon the royals but support for constitutional change has not reached a majority among Gen Y — those people who grew up or were born during the John Howard era.
Tony Abbott recently said support was growing for the monarchy because of interest in the young royals. Prince William has visited Australia twice in recent years, including a highly successful 10-day tour with his wife Kate and baby George in 2014, which drew solid crowds.
Jessica Winning, 23, represents the very clear divide shown by the poll. She supports a monarchy while her father Brent, 53, wants a minimalist republic. Ms Winning, a history major at Macquarie University with a particular focus on the period between Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, said she didn’t mind who was on the throne, be it Charles, William or George.
“Whatever changes in future years, there will be a sense of excitement I think with someone new and what that new generation will bring to the position,” she told The Weekend Australian.
Last week Ms Winning got into an argument with her aunt about the issue.
“I just said to her, ‘what exactly do you want from a republic? Do you want Malcolm Turnbull’s face on the coin? Our coin has a tiara’.
“I just think it is really important that young Australians understand their history and their roots and where all the institutions come from, what they are founded on.”
Support for a republic stands at 46 per cent among 18 to 34-year-olds, rising to 51 per cent among those aged between 35 and 49, and climbing to 54 per cent among the over 50s.
GRAPHIC: Republic Newspoll
Mr Winning, a project manager and town planner by training, said he was “buggered if he knows” how he ended up with a daughter who was a monarchist.
When he was her age he was as republican as she is now a royalist.
“Her mother and I gave her a good upbringing,” he said.
“Who knows where we went wrong? Who knows what our children get up to?”
Mr Winning said he supported a minimalist republic model but agreed with Mr Turnbull the time to move might not come until after the Queen moves on, by whatever means. “I don’t think people are apathetic, but the time is approaching. It’s not here yet,” he said.
The Prime Minister, who led the failed 1999 “yes” campaign for the republic, last month said he did not expect the issue would be revisited until “after the end of the Queen’s reign”. “I’ve led a ‘yes’ case for a republic into a heroic defeat once. I’ve got no desire to do so again,” he said.
He said a move for a republic would not succeed if it was seen as politically driven and it needed to have grassroots support.
The poll shows Coalition voters are divided over the debate, with 47 per cent supporting a republic and 45 per cent against. There is much clearer support among Labor voters where 59 per cent are in favour of dropping the monarchy and 30 per cent opposed.
The poll shows if Prince Charles became king, support for a republic would rise from 51 to 55 per cent, with those opposed declining from 37 to 34 per cent.
The biggest rise in support would be among women, those aged between 18-34 years and Coalition voters.
Under that scenario, 59 per cent of men and 51 per cent of women would back a republic.
Support would also climb to 52 per cent of 18 to 34-year-olds, 53 per cent of 35 to 49-year-olds and 59 per cent of the over 50s.
Among Coalition voters support for a republic would rise from 47 to 53 per cent.
The only group where the switch to King Charles would make no difference was Labor voters. Their support for a republic is 59 per cent regardless of whether it is the Queen or her son on the throne.
The Australians for a Constitutional Monarchy group has in recent years cheered the rise of “young fogeys”, saying people aged under 30 have become strong supporters of the existing system.
The Australian Republican Movement has sought to revive its purpose under the leadership of Peter FitzSimons and recently appointed Australian of the Year David Morrison lent his support to the cause.
Labor leader Bill Shorten says he would advance the case for a republic if he won the election, promising a referendum within a decade. “While it’s clearly not the most important issue facing Australia right now, we believe this is a debate we should be having,” the Opposition Leader said.