Same-sex mar­riage sup­port drops in poll

Sunday News - - WORLD -

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.

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