Some Conservative politicians are blaming the Coalition’s losses in last Thursday’s local elections on the Government’s energetic pursuit of (essentially Liberal Democrat) policies which voters deem unimportant. The reform of the House of Lords and the legalization of gay marriage are often cited in this context.
However, public support for gay marriage appears to be confirmed in a OnePoll survey published in today’s edition of The People newspaper (see, especially, pages 2 and 21). A sample of 2,000 adults aged 18 and over was interviewed online on 3 and 4 May 2012.
59% of respondents said that they supported plans to allow gay couples to marry, compared with 15% who believed that only civil partnerships should be possible (as now). 13% did not want gay relationships to have any form of legal recognition, while 13% were unsure what to think.
Moreover, two-thirds of those in favour of gay marriage (or 40% of the entire sample) wanted gay couples to be allowed to marry in a religious ceremony or in church, if they chose. There was a marked gender split, with women (45%) being more likely to agree than men (34%).
The OnePoll question-wording is not absolutely comparable with other recent surveys which have probed attitudes to gay marriage and the Church. Nevertheless, the following results are worth noting:
- In an ICM poll for The Sunday Telegraph on 7 and 8 March 2012 55% of Britons argued that the Churches should have the right to refuse to marry gay couples in church, in the event of gay marriage being legalized. 26% disagreed, with 18% uncertain.
- In a YouGov poll for The Sunday Times on 8 and 9 March 2012 37% thought the Church of England was wrong to defend marriage as an institution for just heterosexual couples. 47% said that it was right and 16% expressed no opinion.
- In a YouGov poll for The Sun on 3 and 4 April 2012 42% considered same-sex couples should be allowed to marry in church, with 43% opposed, and 15% undecided
Overall, therefore, the surveys for The Sun and The People do seem consistent in suggesting that two-fifths of the general public are well-disposed to gay marriages taking place in church.
Churchgoers, by contrast, seem hostile to the whole concept of legalizing same-sex marriage. 83% were against the idea according to the ComRes Cpanel study of October 2011, and over two-thirds of evangelicals were strongly opposed in November 2011.