Attitudes to same-sex marriage

same sex relationships social inclusion social policy
The Federal Parliament is currently debating a motion on same-sex relationships moved by Adam Bandt—the recently elected Australian Greens party member for the seat of Melbourne. The motion notes there is ‘widespread support for equal marriage in the Australian community’ and calls on ‘all parliamentarians to gauge their constituents’ views on the issue of marriage equality’. As a result of this and other related debate, there is currently great interest in what public opinion polls may be able to tell us regarding changing attitudes towards same-sex marriage.

Not surprisingly, public opinion polls on this issue, as on any other, can differ markedly depending on the questions asked, the context and the survey reach—some may have been directly commissioned by interest groups, while others may reflect the views of particular geographic, demographic or socio-economic groups. However, the outcomes of several polls from a variety of groups conducted over the last six years or so may suggest a shift in public opinion in favour of same-sex marriage. The following is a very brief chronological listing of selected polls.

Opinion polls
Just published Roy Morgan Research survey data indicate that attitudes towards homosexuality and whether gay couples should be allowed to adopt children have become more liberal at a national level over the last 12 years. However, 'anti-gay sentiment remains entrenched in politically sensitive areas such as Sydney's west and south-west, pockets of Melbourne's south-east and in regional Queensland'. For more detail, including results by electorate, see: M Davis, 'Country divided as support for gay marriage varies wildly', Sydney Morning Herald, 15 November 2010; and 'The tricky political topography of same-sex marriage', website, 15 November 2010.

On its website, campaign organisation, Essential Media Communications, states it ‘exists to help the organisations we believe in win campaigns’. Their latest Essential Report, published on 15 November 2010, includes the results of a survey which found 53 per cent of respondents supported same-sex marriage. 

Same-sex marriage lobby group, Australian Marriage Equality, commissioned two Galaxy polls in 2009 and 2010. Their fact sheet, Marriage Equality and Public Opinion, summarises a selection of these and other poll results between 2004 and 2010. These poll results show an increase in support for same-sex marriage from around 40 per cent to about 60 per cent over the last six years. The October 2010 Australian Marriage Equality Same Sex Marriage Study found ‘the majority (62 per cent) of Australians agree that same-sex couples should be able to marry'.

In a poll published in the Sydney Morning Herald on 8 August 2009, 59.6 per cent answered 'yes' to the question, 'Should same-sex marriages be recognised by the Federal Government?'

In November 2009, the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee held an inquiry into the Marriage Equality Bill 2009. The final report stated: 'This bill recognises the increasing support for same-sex marriage in Australia, with opinion polls over the years showing a steady rise in support for marriage equality'.

In June 2007, a Galaxy Poll conducted on behalf of the GetUp lobby group found that 57 per cent of the 1100 people interviewed supported same-sex marriage while 37 per cent were opposed. See: M Schubert, ‘Public backs gay unions, equality’, The Age, 21 June 2007.

In June 2004, a survey conducted by Newspoll found 38 per cent of respondents in favour of same-sex marriage and 44 per cent against.

Image source: 'Sweden approves same-sex marriage legislation',