Same-sex marriage support drops in poll
SYDNEY Support for same-sex marriage has crashed ahead of the Australian government’s postal survey on the issue, and only twothirds of voters are inclined to take part, according to the latest polling from same-sex marriage advocates.
At the start of a two-month campaign, the confidential research provided to Fairfax Media shows support for a ‘‘no’’ vote has risen, as has the number of people who say they don’t know how they will vote.
And alarmingly for ‘‘yes’’ campaigners, turnout could be very low, with just 65 per cent of voters rating themselves as very likely to participate – falling to 58 per cent among those aged 18 to 34.
The results have prompted a concerned campaign veteran to declare: ‘‘There is every chance we can slip behind and lose this.’’
The research was conducted for the Equality Campaign by Newgate Research pollster Jim Reed between August 28 and September 6, with a sample size of 800 and a 3.5 per cent margin of error.
It showed that 58.4 per cent of those surveyed said they would back a ‘‘yes’’ vote, down six percentage points from two weeks earlier, while support for a ‘‘no’’ vote rose two percentage points to 31.4 per cent. The ‘‘unsure’’ vote rose three percentage points to 10.2 per cent.
The findings from the polling, which was conducted before Aust- ralia’s High Court dismissed a legal challenge to the postal vote, were released to serve as a wakeup call to ‘‘yes’’ campaigners who believed victory was assured. Campaigners pointed to the 1999 Australian republic campaign, the Brexit vote and the election of United States President Donald Trump as evidence that ‘‘nothing can be taken for granted’’.
The ‘‘no’’ campaign has successfully portrayed itself as the underdog in the postal survey, based on years of research showing that a majority of Australians support same-sex marriage.
Opponents of change will be buoyed by the significant rise in voters declaring themselves undecided.
The intensity of the debate has GETTY IMAGES already forced LGBTI organisations to dig deeper. Switchboard Victoria manager Jo Ball said her support service had taken 30 per cent more calls since the survey was first announced, and recruited 16 additional volunteer counsellors, with more coming.
An angry clash between ‘‘yes’’ and ‘‘no’’ supporters outside a Brisbane church on Thursday night, which saw one arrest and one minor injury, has prompted government leaders to again call for respectful debate.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said there would always be ‘‘isolated cases’’ of unpleasantness and warned: ‘‘You cannot expect your side of the argument to be respected unless you respect the other side of the argument and the people who put it.’’
Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, who is responsible for the postal vote, said it was disappointing that people ‘‘take things to extremes’’ in any political debate.
The major parties will work over the weekend on a bill to ensure normal election safeguards apply to the marriage campaign.
Labor has pitched for the rules to go further and ban ‘‘vile’’ content, but Cormann appeared to rule that out, saying: ‘‘You don’t want to put inappropriate limits on the freedom of political expression.’’
He was largely backed by the Australian Human Rights Commission, whose representative Ed Santow said people had to take personal responsibility for their conduct during the campaign.
He said the government should consider rules limiting speech with ‘‘very serious harmful effects’’, such as incitements to violence. Fairfax
Supporters of the campaign to legalise same-sex marriage in Australia say the findings of a new poll are a wakeup call for ‘‘yes’’ campaigners who believed victory was assured.