Gay marriage delayed but not defeated

The Rudd government’s decision to block the ACT government’s civil union plans continued to attract criticism this morning, but also a religious defence.

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%┬áin 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.

7 thoughts on “Gay marriage delayed but not defeated

  1. We’re still more than 20 years behind the Danes, who in 1988 were 57% in support of gay marriage – which oddly enough they still haven’t officially got, though it does seem that gay civil unions are regarded as basically a type of marriage (newspaper reports at the time referred to couples marrying/tying the knot etc.)

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  2. As of 2008, people born in 1990 can also be counted, and by the next election three more years all in support according to this trend will also be able to vote. Couple that with the fact that the older voters are going down in numbers.

    Kevin Rudd has talked about having a referendum on the republic issue in 2013, I do believe, with initial input in 2010. So many issues about Australia the Constitution and Federalism could be dealt with in this period. If gay marriage doesn’t get the tick I’ll be very surprised.

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  3. Jensen obviously hasn’t read the Old Testament lately. Plenty of polygynous marriages there, no restricting it to one man and one woman. What was the God of the OT thinking?

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  4. I reckon it will be a long time before this becomes law. Even if it was 75%-25% in favour, both parties would still likely oppose it. That’s simply because too few of the 75% will care enough to change their vote because of it but enough of the 25% will.

    It’s not only numbers but intensity of belief that counts.

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