CANADIAN PUBLIC OPINION POLLS
See also descriptions of polls
for other years
We use the term "SSM" to refer to same-sex marriage
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:
|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 |
|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
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.
2003-JUN? Centre for Research and Information on Canada poll
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.
|Males 18 to 34
|Males 35 to 54
|Females 18 to 34
|Females 35 to 54
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."
||Should not veto
|Adults 18 to 34
|Adults 35 to 54
The results are similar to those of previous polls:
|A significant majority of adults favor expanding the institution of
marriage to include same-sex couples.|
|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.
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.
58% reject the concept that marriage should be left to
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
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
46% -- almost half -- of Canadian adults are "leaning to the
They sorted data by political party affiliation:
||Concerning new definition of marriage
||Concerning having no legal status for SSM
They also sorted data by region of the country and sex:
||% who agree with SSM somewhat or strongly:
Unfortunately, these data is of limited usefulness because the percentage
who had no opinion were not included. 3,4
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:
"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.
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
Other people think that only marriages between a man and
a woman should be legally recognized.
Which of these two opinions, if either, best reflect your
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:
44% are opposed;
9% were unsure.
There is the expected age split:
60% of Canadian adults under 30 supported SSM
32% of those over 60 supported SSM
The greatest gap in opinion was found between church goers and
58% of Canadian adults who said they never attend religious
services support SSM
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:
60% of those who oppose SSM would vote against their MP in the
next election if he is for SSM
37% of those who support SSM would vote against their MP if he
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
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.
48%% of Canadians agree that same-sex couples should be
allowed to marry.
47% feel that marriage should be prohibited
5% are undecided or gave no response.
Age is a major factor:
63% of those aged 18 to 35
support legalizing SSM. This drops to:
51% for those 35 to 44;
48% for those 45 to 54,
38% for those 55 to 64 and
23% for those 65 and older
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?"
48% strongly support retaining the current definition of
15% somewhat support.
13% somewhat oppose.
18% strongly oppose.
6% didn't know or no response.
They gave the subjects three options concerning same-sex
30% don't recognize them at all.
37% recognize them as civil unions, not as marriages.
31% allow same-sex couples to marry.
2% don't know or no response.
They asked the subjects whether religious institutions
should speak out on marriage laws:
49% said they should.
48% said they shouldn't.
3% didn't know or no response.
The margin of error is 3.1 percentage points.
Related essays in this web site include:
- "What Canadians think about gay issues," The Globe
and Mail, 2003-JUN-11, Page A4.
- 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:
- "Poll shows Canadians split over same-sex marriage," CBC News,
- "Public divided about definition of marriage," NFO World Group,
- "Political Crossfire -- Legalizing Same-sex Marriages; Generation and
faith divide Canadians," SES-Research, 2003-SEP-7, at:
- 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,
- "Canadians Reject Ban
on Religious Symbols or Clothes in Schools Majority Sees Racial or
Religious Background of Party Leaders as Irrelevant," CRIC,
- "Compas' twice yearly
syndicated study of where Canadians stand on the ethical, moral, and
value issues of the day," Compas, 2003-DEC, at:
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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