Support for marriage equality surges

October 6, 2017
Brisbane rallies for Yes in September. Photo: Alex Bainbridge

Polls released in the first week of October have shown a surge in support for marriage equality, the result of new Australian Electoral Commission enrolments by young people, women and inner-city residents who are more likely to vote Yes.

An Essential poll published in the October 4 Guardian showed 61% supported a change to the Marriage Act, compared with 58% a week ago. Only 32% opposed a change in the act. Of those who had sent their ballots back, 64% said they voted Yes with only 30% saying they voted No.

A Reachtel poll released on October 2 showed 64% of respondents who had sent back their ballot voted Yes compared with 15% who had voted No.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported on October 3 that it had received ballots from about 9.2 million people, 57.5% of enrolled residents, by September 29. This figure is lower than the poll turnout figures because it takes two to six days for the posted forms to be received.

A poll conducted for the Equality Campaign by Newgate Research found that 69% of enrolled 18 to 24-year-olds had voted and posted their forms, compared with the 34% of 18 to 24-year-olds who took part in the 1998 postal ballot to select delegates for the Constitutional Convention on the republic.

Equality Campaign spokesperson Tiernan Brady said Australia was on track to “smash” Ireland’s turnout of 64% in its referendum on same-sex marriage but there was “no room for complacency”.

“For the rest of this campaign we will not give up any single day, making sure that everybody out there knows how important this is — this is a vote about the lives and dignity of real people.”

Brady urged young people and others who had yet to return their ballot “to make sure it goes in the post box or else it just won’t count”.

New statistics from the Australian Electoral Commission show that an extra 98,000 people added their names to the electoral roll between August 8, when the postal survey was announced, and the deadline for registration of August 24. It also processed more than 930,000 enrolment transactions, mostly voters changing their details.

There were more new enrolments from women (57,152) than men (40,907) and about two-thirds of new enrolments (65,274) were people aged between 18 and 24.

The figures are good news for the Equality Campaign because polls show the highest rates of support for equal marriage are among women (63%), the young (65%) and those who live in the inner city.

GetUp! data analyst Ben Raue said the new figures “fit with a pattern we’re seeing that supporters of marriage equality really care about voting in the survey”.

Raue said the scale of new enrolments meant those who had joined the roll were likely to be “ordinary people who ... may not bother to keep updated for a federal election”.

The addition of the new voters, which has expanded the electoral roll to 16 million, is the most successful enrolment campaign in Australian history.

Brady said: “The enrolment campaign was a huge success. The breakdown of who has registered is a reflection how important this issue is. The support levels among women have always been really brilliant for marriage equality. Women understand the challenges that face people as they try to be treated equally and fairly.”

According to Vote Compass, five of the electorates with the highest increase in voters — Melbourne (1487), Sydney (1140), Melbourne Ports (1092), Higgins in inner south-east Melbourne (1004) and Fenner in the ACT (993) — were also in the 10 electorates with the highest support for marriage equality, in an indication the Yes campaign is likely to benefit from the new enrolments.

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