At its conference last week, the ALP endorsed national legislation
which [would] allow same-sex couples to register their relationship and secure legal recognition of their relationship in areas such as property rights and superannuation benefits.
As usual, the idea did not please everyone:
The national secretary of the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association, Joe de Bruyn, said the Tasmanian scheme [on which the policy is modelled] gave same-sex couples the same status as married couples, which would demean and undermine marriage. …
He said the policy would be poorly received in suburban Australia and would make it harder for the Opposition Leader, Kevin Rudd, to win the 16 seats that Labor needed to defeat the Howard Government.
We’ve discussed the rather difficult-to-detect logic of the first claim before, and some newly unembargoed questions from the Australian Survey of Social Attitudes 2005 enable us to consider the second, at least if we consider it a near-equivalent to civil unions.
The overall result, with 48% of respondents being in favour of civil unions, was consistent with two other polls on the issue, which registered 45% and 52% support. As is common with questions on this subject, there was a big ‘neither agree nor disagree’ response of 19%, suggesting that this is still an open debate for many people. A third are opposed to civil unions.
Breaking down the results by other variables, we find that 52% of Labor voters support civil unions, compared to 45% of Liberal voters. Most in favour were Green voters (82%), least in favour Family First voters (26%). Among occupational groups, professionals were most in favour (64%), tradespersons least in favour (36%), probably reflecting in part the usual male (40% support) / female (56%) divide on sexuality issues. Mr de Bruyn’s shop assistant members were 53% in favour, 32% against, possibly reflecting male/female differences in the other direction.
As Fred Argy suggested in comments on the gay neighbours post, religion helps explain these attitudes – 42% of those who say they have a religion are in favour of civil unions, but 66% of those who say they do not. As we would expect, frequency of attending religious services is also important, with only a quarter of those who attend weekly favouring civil unions but over half of those attending once a year.
The only potentially troublesome group I can see for Labor are male, working-class voters who have defected to the Coalition before. But some of them are likely to be won-over by Labor’s industrial relations policies. And it is unlikely that the Coalition will make much of this issue, as its own support base is more in favour than against.