“No to plebiscite. Yes to same sex marriage.”: A South Australian perspective

Same Sex Marriage South Australia Research

“No to plebiscite. Yes to same sex marriage.”: A South Australian perspective

If the Australian Government was to hold a plebiscite tomorrow, what do you think the results might be? It seems the debate is gaining support, not necessarily to determine if the law should change but rather if in fact a plebiscite should be held at all.

The September Omnibus survey undertaken by McGregor Tan Research found that just 1 in 5 people (19%) are actually in favour of holding a plebiscite. However, the results indicated that if the plebiscite was held, the overwhelming majority (68%) of respondents would vote “yes” to change the law to support same sex marriage.

  • Those in favour of the Government polling its people are more likely to be 65 years and over, the same age group who are least likely to favour a change in the law to allow same sex marriage.
  • Females were more likely to be in support of changing the law, as well as the younger Gen Y cohort (18-39 years).

With the sampling tolerance of the survey at just +/- 5%, there is little need to hold a costly plebiscite when we already know the answer. It appears that our respondents also know this, as even those who would vote “no” to any change in law (17%) do not favour a plebiscite (45% in favour).

Interestingly in Australia’s history there have only been three national plebiscites:

  1. 1916: Military service conscription (defeated)
  2. 1917: reinforcement of the Australian Imperial Force overseas (defeated)
  3. 1977: choice of Australia’s national anthem (‘Advance Australia Fair’ preferred)

Before Australia holds its fourth non-compulsory, unbinding national poll, an enabling bill proposing the plebiscite and setting out its purpose must be passed by Parliament. The bill thereby becomes an Act enabling a vote to be conducted by the Australian Electoral Commission. The enabling legislation may or may not specify any actions expected of the government as a result of the plebiscite (source: Parliament of Australia www.aph.gov.au). The process of garnishing public opinion seems to be the sticking point at the moment and the root cause of much frustration and media attention.

Australia is country which has a system of representative democracy, which elects its Government in a fair, equitable and transparent manner to represent the public’s views for the prosperity and advancement of its people. On last night’s ABC’s QANDA program the Hon. Jay Weatherill, Premier of South Australia, proposed a simple solution “The federal parliament can get on with the business of passing the same-sex marriage legislation” which is a suggestion backed by results of this survey.

NB: The McGregor Tan Household Omnibus has been in operation for over 30 years and surveys a representative sample of the South Australian population. In each survey, 400 people, selected on a random probability design guided by age and gender quotas to ensure that each and every adult in the metropolitan area may have an equal chance of being selected. Where deemed necessary to provide for an additional level of statistical validity, the raw data maybe weighted to ensure consistency with known population data from reputable sources such as the ABS.

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