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Religious Tolerance logo

Gay marriage (a.k.a. same-sex
marriage, ssm, & marriage equality)

Canadian public opinion polls during
2003-JAN to AUG
, about two years
before gay marriage was legalized.

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See also descriptions of polls for other years

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A battle had been in progress for years over whether equal rights and equal protection against discrimination should be extended to homosexuals. Recently, this has expanded into the area of same-sex marriage. The core conflict is whether:

bullet Marriage should be a special privilege of heterosexuals, and restricted to one man and one woman. This is currently required by legislation in most jurisdictions and supported by social conservatives and most mainline religious institutions in North America, or 

bullet Whether all adults in loving, supportive, and committed relationships should be allowed to marry or enter into civil unions, regardless of their sexual orientation, as proposed by more liberal religious groups and some secular organizations.

Since mid-1996, a plurality of Canadian adults appear to favor same-sex marriage. By 2004-OCT, senior courts, in British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and Yukon had concluded that denial of marriage to gays and lesbians is unconstitutional. A lawsuit was underway in Saskatchewan at the time of the poll. Funds are being collected for a suit in New Brunswick.

By 2004-AUG, interest among Canadians about same-sex marriage seems to have decreased significantly. There have averaged fewer than one letter to the editor to the Toronto Star -- one of Canada's largest newspapers -- per week on this topic during the Summer.

Support for same-sex marriage is much higher in Canada than in the U.S. Year 2002 data from the U.S. appears to be close to Canadian data from 1996. We attribute the difference to the much larger percentage of fundamentalist and other evangelical Christians in the U.S., compared to Canada.

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2003-JUN? Centre for Research and Information on Canada poll (CIRC):

The Globe and Mail referred to this CRIC poll as "recent" when they published the results in 2003-JUN-11. The first question was:

"Do you support or oppose gay marriages?"

The poll was taken before the Ontario Court of Appeal ordered the Government of Ontario to start registering same-sex marriages.

Age/Gender Support Oppose No answer
Males 18 to 34 61.2% 33.9% 4.9%
Males 35 to 54 55.0 38.6 6.4
Males 55+ 24.6 67.8 7.6
Females 18 to 34 69.2 22.2 8.6
Females 35 to 54 62.2 28.0 9.8
Females 55+ 37.6 56.8 5.6

The second question was an apparent reference to the notwithstanding clause of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms -- Canada's constitution -- which allows a government in Canada to pass legislation that temporarily violates the Charter. It asked:

"If the Supreme Court of Canada said that the federal government had to give days and lesbians the right to be married, do you think that the government should or should not use its power to overrule the court's decision."

Age/Gender Should veto Should not veto No answer
Adults 18 to 34 22.5% 73.2% 4.3%
Adults 35 to 54 24.6 70.6 4.8
Adults 55+ 37.7 54.4 7.9

The results are similar to those of previous polls:

bullet A significant majority of adults favor expanding the institution of marriage to include same-sex couples.
bullet Support drops with age for both men and women.

One new piece of information is that the majority of adults of all age ranges feel that the federal government should accept a decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in favor of same-sex marriage. 1

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2003-AUG-30: NFOCF Group poll:

This poll was conducted via telephone during AUG-25 to 30. 1,015 Canadian adults were surveyed. The margin of error was ±3.2 percentage points. Results were released on SEP-5. Overall, they found 46% of Canadian adults favor SSM and 46% are opposed. 2 Pollster Richard Jenkins noted that few public policy issues have so clearly divided Canadians along generational lines as SSM. He said:

"Younger Canadians really are on side with gay marriage, and there's a real danger that this will alienate youth even further."

He found that  61% of adults under 35 support SSM while 62% of seniors oppose it!

Other findings:

58% reject the concept that marriage should be left to religious institutions.


52% said there is nothing morally wrong with homosexuality. This was 60% for adults under the age of 25. 33% disagree; 15% gave no opinion. It is not clear whether the question referred to homosexual orientation or homosexual behavior. It is also not clear whether the question referred to homosexuality in general, or homosexual behavior for the individual who was polled.


57% said that SSM does not threaten the institution of marriage; 32% disagree; 11% gave no opinion.


65% say that homosexual couples should be treated the same as heterosexual couples. 25% disagree; 10% gave no opinion.


Persons with a higher educational level, women, and urban dwellers tend to be more supportive of SSM. Residents of the Prairies are less supportive.


46% -- almost half -- of Canadian adults are "leaning to the Liberal party."

They sorted data by political party affiliation:
Party affiliation Concerning new definition of marriage Concerning having no legal status for SSM
Liberal 51% support 12% support
Progressive Conservative 44% support 24% support
Canadian Alliance 66% oppose 37% support

They also sorted data by region of the country and sex:

% who agree with SSM
somewhat or strongly:
Atlantic 45%
Quebec 61%
Ontario 42%
Prairies 33%
B.C. 51%
Women 53%
Men 39%

Unfortunately, these data is of limited usefulness because the percentage who had no opinion were not included. 3,4

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Polling data collected later in 2003 is contained in the next essay

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  1. "What Canadians think about gay issues," The Globe and Mail, 2003-JUN-11, Page A4.
  2. Susan Lazaruk, "Poll finds even split on same-sex unions. Research group reveals hot political issue also divides significantly along age lines," CanWest News Service, 2003-SEP-8, at:
  3. "Poll shows Canadians split over same-sex marriage," CBC News, 2003-SEP-4, at:
  4. "Public divided about definition of marriage," NFO World Group, 2003-SEP-5, at: This is a PDF file.

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Copyright © 2003 to 2016 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally published: 2003-AUG-31
Latest update: 2016-JUL-20
Author: B.A. Robinson

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