The Australian Election Survey 2007, conducted after last November’s election, provides some further polling evidence on where the public stands on this issue. In a question about whether same-sex marriage should be recognised by law, the public is now evenly divided, with 43.6% in favour and 43.2% against. That’s less than the June 2007 figure of 57% in favour in a GetUp! Galaxy poll, but I thought at the time that this number was suspiciously high and probably due to it being asked directly after a question on various other forms of discrimination against gays. However the AES result is above the 35% in favour in the 2005 Australian Survey of Social Attitudes.
The three polls all had different question wording, but there are some consistent patterns of opinion. Men and women are mirror images on this issue; 34% of men are in favour of same-sex marriage and 53% against, while 52% of women are in favour and 35% against. I can’t immediately think of any other issue on which male and female opinion is so different.
According to the AES, support for same-sex marriage is effectively 50% among Labor voters (49.7%), and at a bit over a third of Liberal voters (34.5%). Green voters are most in favour (77%).
There is a clear educational divide: 60% of bachelor degree holders, but only 37% of people with trades qualifications.
And people with no religion are much more in favour (66%) than Catholics or Anglicans (39% each).
But the most important factor for the future of this issue is age. In the AES only 23% of those born in the 1930s support same-sex marriage, but it goes up with each decade: 1940s, 36%; 1950s, 44%; 1960s, 53%; 1970s, 59%; 1980s, 65%. The younger groups are under-sampled in this survey, so it is quite possible that with such marked age effects supporters of gay marriage are already a majority. Whether or not we are at the 50% mark, it is in my view now inevitable that it will be reached.