Despite gaining twice the exposure of the No camp on mainstream and social media, campaigners for the Voice to Parliament have failed to win over large numbers of voters, new research has found.

Key points:

  • A university group analysed more than half a million social media posts and news stories about the Voice
  • Researchers say the “lion’s share” of debate has been with the Yes campaign
  • But Yes content appears to have had less engagement and impact on social media

Researchers from La Trobe University fed more than half a million X (formerly Twitter) posts and mainstream news stories, plus 50,000 Facebook and Instagram posts into an algorithmic analysis to identify major narratives in the campaign since the referendum date was announced.

Lead researcher and political communication professor, Andrea Carson, said the analysis showed positive language centred around the Yes campaign made up more than 40 per cent of media coverage and social posts.

That’s compared to less than 20 per cent for negative language attributed to the No campaign.

“The lion’s share of the debate has actually been with the Yes campaign,” Professor Carson said.

Andrea Carson said Yes content appeared to have had less engagement and impact on social media.(ABC News: Darryl Torpy)

But Professor Carson said concurrent research suggested that coverage failed to change public opinion.

“If we look at the polls … something else we’ve been tracking … the Yes campaign is not able to arrest the gains by No even though it’s dominating the free media space,” she said.

Professor Carson said Yes content appeared to have had less engagement and impact on social media, a critically important place for campaigning.

“We know that on the demand side (meaning how much an audience engages or reacts to social media posts), No has been well and truly out-performing the Yes side,” she said.

“Here it seems that the negative messaging and the fear that’s coming from the No camp have really been able to pick up Australians’ attention.”

Director of polling firm RedBridge, Tony Barry, said the Yes23 campaign had been incredibly well-resourced, but not well-targeted or focused in its messaging.

“To have $50 to $100 million is a huge benefit and they have not used that wisely is the truth of it,” he said.

RedBridge has been reporting lower support for the Yes campaign than other polls.

Mr Barry said the Yes campaign had fragmented its messaging rather than focusing on simple, consistent themes.

“The Yes campaign have basically talked people into voting No,” he said.

Tony Barry says the Yes campaign had fragmented its messaging.(ABC News: Peter Healy)

“It’s clear they didn’t set a strategy and stick to that strategy which is critically important in all political campaigns of this nature.”

Yes23, the organisation running the campaign, did not respond directly to Mr Barry’s criticism but told the ABC it was “throwing everything at” the final days of the campaign.

“Millions of Australians haven’t made up their minds on how they will vote, and we’ll be looking to have conversations with these undecided voters in the coming days,” a spokesperson said.


Professor Carson said the research does not suggest the Yes campaign is to blame for bad poll numbers and there could be many reasons why support for the Voice to Parliament slipped.

“We should be careful about putting too much carriage on campaigning alone,” she said.

“There’s a whole myriad or multi factorial reasons for why No, at this point in time, is about 17 percentage points ahead of Yes.”


Posted , updated