YouGov Survey finds strong support for formal separation of government and religion

By Max Wallace, Secretary and Treasurer of the Secular Association of NSW.

A YouGov survey undertaken on behalf of the Secular Association of NSW on 6-7 February 2023 has found that approximately 53 per cent of Australians favour an amendment to the constitution to formally separate government and religion. 13 per cent are opposed and 33 per cent took the "don’t know" option.

Anthony Albanese has said he supports separation of church and state, as did Scott Morrison and Kevin Rudd before him. But when federal politicians say this, they only mean it as a statement of principle, not something they would ever seriously consider taking to the public as a constitutional amendment.

When state politicians say this, they never intend to legislate an amendment to their state constitutions to make separation of church and state a reality.

This commitment to a secular state is only wheeled out when circumstances require it.

The YouGov survey found that the lowest level of support in a state for separation of government and religion was in Western Australia, which had a near majority 46 per cent.

The low level of opposition to an amendment to the constitution to separate government and religion, at just 13 per cent, indicates the depth of feeling in the increasingly secular population of Australia.

At the last Census in 2021, Christianity slipped dramatically to 44 per cent of the population, and citizens characterising themselves as having 'no religion' rose dramatically to 39 per cent.

Other data that came from our survey:

  • Men were more likely than women to approve of a constitutional amendment (59 per cent versus 47 per cent).
  • All age groups, with the exception of the over 65s (at 43 per cent), approved in majority.
  • All income groups, except those earning less than $59k per annum (49 per cent), approved in majority.
  • Those with no tertiary education had the lowest approval rate at 45 per cent; those with TAFE qualifications had a 50 per cent approval rate; and those with university qualifications had a high 69 per cent approval rate.

A reasonable conclusion from the survey is that there is a critical mass of support for separation of government and religion in Australia.

One opportunity to make that a reality would be when there is a referendum for citizens to decide whether Australia should become a republic -- but so far, the Australian Republican movement has shown no interest in this possibility.