The answers on the yes or no question showed majority support in a majority of states – the threshold required for the referendum to succeed – but also revealed a sharp fall in support in NSW and a weakening in support in Queensland.
The latest results show the reform has support from 58 per cent of voters in NSW, 65 per cent in Victoria, 56 per cent in Queensland, 61 per cent in Western Australia, 56 per cent in South Australia and 71 per cent in Tasmania.
Survey findings in September showed 65 per cent support in NSW, 64 per cent in Victoria, 59 per cent in Queensland, 60 per cent in Western Australia, 71 per cent in South Australia and 73 per cent in Tasmania.
Resolve director Jim Reed said the fall in support from September was not dramatic by itself but significant because it continued a long-term decline over several years from highs of about 75 per cent support.
The 60 per cent “forced-choice” support in the combined result for December and January slipped to 58 per cent when the January figures were split from the total, he said.
“The Yes vote still holds a lead nationwide and in every state, so it meets the double majority test, but this downward trajectory makes a result later this year less clear now,” he said.
“The comments we collected in this latest poll suggest that the recent drop is about voters feeling they don’t have enough information to make what they regard as an important decision.
“Esoteric legal and academic arguments about voting on principles don’t wash in the real world. Voters want to at least know its starting conditions before they grant it perpetual status.
“This is about knowing what the make-up, powers, scope and outcomes of the Voice will be. It is not a public rejection of Indigenous recognition at all, and should not be confused with that.”
The Resolve Political Monitor surveyed 3618 eligible voters in two stages, one in December and one in January. The second stage was held from January 17 to 22, when critics of the proposal stepped up their calls for more detail about how it would work.
Albanese is aiming to put the question to Australians in a referendum in the final months of this year to set up a body to be called the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice with the power to “make representations to parliament and the executive government” on matters relating to First Australians.
His plan centres on an amendment to the constitution that would say: “The parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws with respect to the composition, functions, powers and procedures of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice.”
The use of two survey tracks over two months produces a higher survey sample to provide more confidence in the estimates for majorities in each state. The margin of error for the national results was 1.6 per cent and ranged in size for each state, with a margin of error of 2.9 per cent for NSW and 8.9 per cent for Tasmania.
Questions about awareness and understanding of the Voice and the idea of a legislated Voice, rather than one enshrined in the Constitution, were only put to respondents in the second track conducted last week, with a group of 1606 respondents.
Asked if they could confidently explain to a friend what the Indigenous Voice was and how it would work, only 13 per cent of respondents in the January survey said they could do so.
Another 63 per cent said they had heard of the Voice but did not understand it and would struggle to explain it to others, while 23 per cent said they had never heard of it.
Cut through the noise of federal politics with news, views and expert analysis from Jacqueline Maley. Subscribers can sign up to our weekly Inside Politics newsletter here.