A majority of Catholics, Christians and other religious groups support same-sex marriage and are inclined to vote for it in the forthcoming postal survey, according to new polling commissioned by advocates.
The “yes” side starts the campaign with the backing of 66 per cent of all Australians, with support among the non-religious at 79 per cent, compared with 58 per cent among people of faith, the research shows.
Catholics and non-Christian religions were more likely to support same-sex marriage, with two thirds of both those groups indicating they were in favour. For Anglicans, Uniting Church and Church of England, the figure was 59 per cent.
Marriage equality advocates will use the findings to encourage Australia’s 5 million Catholics to ignore directives from the church’s leadership and instead vote with their conscience.
The polling was commissioned by the Equality Campaign. It was conducted last week by Jim Reed of Newgate Research, formerly of Liberal-aligned Crosby/Textor, and surveyed 1000 people online.
They were asked: “If you were to vote, do you think that you would vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to allowing same-sex couples to marry in Australia?” Respondents had to choose between “yes” and “no”.
Mr Reed said the margin of error within each religious category was up to 8 per cent. But even at the maximum margin of error, a majority of people in each group supported same-sex marriage. The overall margin of error was 3 per cent.
The results echoed a survey by Crosby/Textor in 2014, which also found two thirds of Catholics backed same-sex marriage, and put the overall level of support at 72 per cent.
“It really confirms a lot of the other published polls that around two thirds, that is a majority, are intending to vote yes,” Mr Reed told Fairfax Media.
“What we’re seeing in this latest poll is confirmation that there is a majority support for same-sex marriage, even when they’re given the very real decision of a vote rather than more general ideological support.
“They give an indication certainly that a majority of people of the major faiths also support same-sex marriage and probably will do so in this vote.”
Last Sunday, Fairfax Media revealed the Catholic Church was threatening to sack any of its 180,000 teachers, nurses and other parish employees who entered a same-sex marriage, if it were to be legalised.
Subsequently, Archbishop of Melbourne Denis Hart issued a collective call to arms, telling followers in a letter: “It is vital that we Catholics vote, so that our viewpoint can be heard on this vital public issue.”
But the polling suggests the Catholic leadership is out of touch with its base, 66 per cent of whom said they were inclined to vote for same-sex marriage in the coming postal survey.
“The upper management of the church isn’t listening to the flock,” said Tiernan Brady, executive director of the Equality Campaign and a practising Catholic. “The flock have made their mind up on this, they support marriage equality.”
Monica Doumit, spokeswoman for the Coalition for Marriage, said despite the poll results people of faith “continue to be concerned” about the implications of same-sex marriage for religious freedom.
“This is about more than the narrow protections offered to professional clergy,” she said. Rather, it was about the ability for religious people to express their view on marriage without fear of intimidation.