Overwhelming support for truth in political advertising laws following referendum

Ballot papers are seen at a counting centre in Melbourne, Saturday, October 14, 2023. Australians will vote in a referendum on October 14 on whether to enshrine an Indigenous voice in the country's constitution.


New research from the Australia Institute shows more than 60 per cent of ‘No’ voters are concerned about the misinformation and disinformation that circulated on social media during the referendum campaign, with more than 80 per cent of that cohort wanting to see truth in political advertising laws in place before the federal election, expected in 2025.

The findings of the Australia Institute’s special exit poll show that an overwhelming nine in 10 Australians support truth in political advertising laws, regardless of how they voted in the referendum or their political affiliations.

The results highlight the need for federal parliament to follow the example set by South Australia and the ACT and enact laws to protect voters from misleading and harmful electoral conduct.

Key Results

The Australia Institute conducted a special exit poll, surveying a sample of 1,547 Australians from 6pm Saturday 14 October, about the Voice referendum and misinformation. The results were weighted according to the latest referendum count.

  • Nine in 10 Australians (87%) agree that truth in political advertising laws should be in place in time for the next federal election campaign; only 4% disagree.
  • Both those who voted “Yes” and those who voted “No” to the Voice overwhelmingly agree that truth in political advertising laws should be in place in time for the next federal election campaign (92% and 83% respectively).
  • Seven in 10 Australians (72%) agree they are concerned about lies and misinformation that circulated on social media during the referendum campaign, compared to one in five who disagree (17%).
  • Seven in 10 (72%) Australians agree it is now up to the Albanese Government to come up with solutions to close the gap, compared to 47% who agree it is up to No campaigners

“Misinformation and disinformation swamped the referendum campaign with arguments that often had little to do with what Australians were being asked to vote on,” said Dr Richard Denniss, Executive Director of the Australia Institute.

“Whether it is an election or a referendum, voters should go to the polls armed with the facts. In Australia, it is perfectly legal to lie in a political ad – and it shouldn’t be.

“If Australia is going to have a healthy democracy, we need to have healthy democratic debates.

“One of the main arguments for those voting against the referendum was that it would divide Australia. One thing that clearly unites Australia is the desire for truth in political advertising.

“Journalists, academics, peak multicultural bodies and civil society groups have called out the systematic, deliberate misleading advertising that tainted the referendum debate. Australia cannot afford to fight another election where political ads mislead the public without consequences.

“There is talk of the major parties voting together to increase the public funding they get – but there should be no increase in public funding while that money can be used to fund lies and untruths.

“South Australia has had working truth in political advertising laws for almost forty years. The ACT unanimously adopted truth in political advertising: Labor, the Liberals and the Greens came together to say ‘enough is enough’. It is time for federal politicians to draw a line under the divisive, misleading claims that have marred the referendum and recent federal elections.”

Related research