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SAME-SEX MARRIAGE

CANADIAN PUBLIC OPINION POLLS
DURING 2003

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Sponsored link.


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See also descriptions of polls for other years

We use the term "SSM" to refer to same-sex marriage

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Overview:

A battle has 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:

bulletMarriage 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 
bulletWhether 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, most Canadian adults appear to favor same-sex marriage. By 2004-OCT, senior courts, in British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and Yukon have concluded that denial of marriage to gays and lesbians is unconstitutional. A lawsuit is underway in Saskatchewan. 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:

bulletA significant majority of adults favor expanding the institution of marriage to include same-sex couples.
bulletSupport 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 is 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:
bullet

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

bullet

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.

bullet

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

bullet

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

bullet

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

bullet

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:

Region % 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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2003-SEP-8: SES-Research poll:

SES-Research released data from a ten-day poll of 1,000 Canadian adults. It was held about three months after same-sex marriages became available in Ontario. The specific question asked was:
bullet

"As you may know, there will be a vote in the House of Commons to legalize same-sex marriages. This would give gay and lesbian couples the same legal recognition as heterosexual couples. that is, couples made up of a man and a woman.

bullet

Some people think that same-sex couples should be allowed to be legally married and be recognized like couples made up of a man and a woman.

bullet

Other people think that only marriages between a man and a woman should be legally recognized.

bullet

Which of these two opinions, if either, best reflect your views?"

Half of the subjects were asked the above question; the other half was asked the question with the sentences in bold interchanged. 

They found that:
bullet

47% support SSM;

bullet

44% are opposed;

bullet

9% were unsure.

There is the expected age split:
bullet

60% of Canadian adults under 30 supported SSM

bullet

32% of those over 60 supported SSM

The greatest gap in opinion was found between church goers and others:
bullet

58% of Canadian adults who said they never attend religious services support SSM

bullet

24% of those who say they attend service weekly support SSM

As expected, support was highest in Quebec and British Columbia (53%) and lowest in Alberta (28%). There is a large percentage of Roman Catholics in Quebec, of secularists and followers of minority religions in British Columbia, and Evangelicals in Alberta.

Of particular note is the finding that:
bullet

60% of those who oppose SSM would vote against their MP in the next election if he is for SSM

bullet

37% of those who support SSM would vote against their MP if he opposed SSM

It is this kind of data that makes legislators very nervous about promoting equal rights for gays and lesbians and bisexuals including the right to marry.

The margin of error is 3.1 percentage points. 5

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2003-SEP: Centre for Research and Information on Canada poll:

Environics Research Group interviewed 1,500 adult Canadians for CRIC. The margin of error is 2.5 percentage points.

bullet

48%% of Canadians agree that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry.

bullet

47% feel that marriage should be prohibited

bullet

5% are undecided or gave no response. 7

bullet

As expected:
bullet

Age is a major factor:
bullet

63% of those aged 18 to 35 support legalizing SSM. This drops to:

bullet

51% for those 35 to 44;

bullet

48% for those 45 to 54,

bullet

38% for those 55 to 64 and

bullet

23% for those 65 and older

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2003-DEC: Compas Inc.

They asked each of the 1,000 subjects whether they "support or oppose keeping the definition of marriage as a union of one woman and one man to the exclusion of all others? Do you strongly or somewhat [support/oppose] this definition?"

Results were:

bullet

48% strongly support retaining the current definition of marriage.

bullet

15% somewhat support.

bullet

13% somewhat oppose.

bullet

18% strongly oppose.

bullet

6% didn't know or no response.

They gave the subjects three options concerning same-sex relationships:

bullet

30% don't recognize them at all.

bullet

37% recognize them as civil unions, not as marriages.

bullet

31% allow same-sex couples to marry.

bullet

2% don't know or no response.

They asked the subjects whether religious institutions should speak out on marriage laws:

bullet

49% said they should.

bullet

48% said they shouldn't.

bullet

3% didn't know or no response.

The margin of error is 3.1 percentage points. 8

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Related essays in this web site include:

bulletInformation about Canadian polls on other les/gay topics
 
bulletCanadian legislation and court battles about same-sex marriage and civil unions

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References:

  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: http://www.canada.com/
  3. "Poll shows Canadians split over same-sex marriage," CBC News, 2003-SEP-4, at: http://www.cbc.ca/
  4. "Public divided about definition of marriage," NFO World Group, 2003-SEP-5, at:  http://www.cbc.ca/  **
  5. "Political Crossfire -- Legalizing Same-sex Marriages; Generation and faith divide Canadians," SES-Research, 2003-SEP-7, at: http://www.sesresearch.com/  **
  6. Maragaret Philip, "Support for same-sex marriage still split. Though level of backing hasn't changed, debate heats up on use of word 'marriage'," Globe and Mail, 2004-OCT-7. See: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/
  7. "Canadians Reject Ban on Religious Symbols or Clothes in Schools Majority Sees Racial or Religious Background of Party Leaders as Irrelevant," CRIC, 2004-JUL-1, at: http://www.cric.ca/ **
  8. "Compas' twice yearly syndicated study of where Canadians stand on the ethical, moral, and value issues of the day," Compas, 2003-DEC, at: http://www.compas.ca/ **

  ** You need software to read these PDF files. It can be obtained free from:

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Copyright 1996 to 2005 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally published: 1996-SEP-25
Latest update: 2005-JUL-15
Author: B.A. Robinson

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