A demographic view of the same sex marriage survey results

A demographic view of the same sex marriage survey results

Georgia Allan 16 Nov, 2017

Yesterday, the results of the Marriage Law Survey were released by the ABS – and the result was YES – Australians should be allowed to marry whoever they love, regardless of their sex.

Overall, 7.8 million Australians, or 61.6% of respondents, voted yes, in support of changing the marriage law. The survey had a very high response rate, at 79.5% of eligible participants – one of the highest response rates seen on a voluntary survey. Eligible participants, in this case, were those on the Electoral Roll, meaning they needed to be 18 years or older, and an Australian Citizen.

.id has put together a special page on our free Australian community profile page, showing the response for each federal electorate, in both a map and table.

Out of the 150 Federal Electoral Divisions across Australia, 133 returned a majority of Yes responses (more than 50%). Electorates with the highest Yes response were:

  1. Melbourne, VIC (83.7%)
  2. Sydney, NSW (83.7%)
  3. Melbourne Ports, VIC (82.0%)
  4. Wentworth, NSW (80.8%)
  5. Grayndler, NSW (79.9%)
  6. Brisbane, QLD (79.5%)
  7. Higgins, VIC (78.3%)
  8. Griffith, QLD (76.6%)
  9. Goldstein, VIC (76.3%)
  10. Warringah, NSW (75.0%)

These are all inner-city electorates, with younger populations – identified as being the most likely supporters of marriage equality.

Melbourne and Sydney have the highest proportion of people aged 18 to 24 years of all electorates, 20.9% and 17.3% respectively. The proportion of population aged 25 to 34 years is also very high in all of the electorates listed above.

These electorates are also highly educated, for example in Wentworth, 46.3% of eligible participants have a Bachelors degree or higher. And as religion has played a major role in the discussions surrounding marriage equality, it is unsurprising that the electorates with large Yes responses also reported high levels of No Religion in the Census – e.g. Grayndler (40.0% of those eligible) and Melbourne Ports (37.3%)

Just 17 electorates returned a Yes response of less than 50%. Electorates with the lowest Yes response were:

  1. Blaxland, NSW (26.1%)
  2. Watson, NSW (30.4%)
  3. McMahon, NSW (35.1%)
  4. Fowler, NSW (36.3%)
  5. Werriwa, NSW (36.3%)
  6. Parramatta, NSW (38.4%)
  7. Chifley, NSW (41.3%)
  8. Calwell, VIC (43.2%)
  9. Barton, NSW (43.6%)
  10. Maranoa, QLD (43.9%)

The NSW electorates listed above are all located in Western Sydney. So what may have influenced the response in this area?

Data suggests that it is not age related, as many areas of Western Sydney have a high youth population. There also doesn’t seem to be a correlation with education, as the areas listed above all have levels of education similar to the Australian average.

It seems in the case of a low Yes response, religion has the strongest correlation. These areas have very few people reporting No Religion.

Predominant religions in these electorates include Catholicism, Buddhism and Islam. However, I really want to stress that religion is not the only factor that plays into people’s decisions about social issues.

Since the results have been released, there has been a surge of negative comments on social media about migrants and people with strong religious beliefs in Western Sydney. However, even if you made some incredibly unrealistic assumptions, they still do not account for all the No responses in the electorate.

If you assume the same participation rate as that seen across Blaxland for eligible participants (18+, Australian Citizens) in the area with Islamic, Catholic or Eastern Orthodox beliefs, this would equate to 40,018. Even if you assume that all of them responded No – a highly unlikely assumption — they would still only account for 70% of No responses.

On a closing note, we’d like to give a little tip of the hat to our friends over at the ABS, who managed to pull off rather a complicated exercise in a relatively tight timeframe. Following the drama around last year’s Census, all eyes were certainly on our national collections agency, and while not everyone agreed with the process of a survey, reaching out to over 16 million people in three months is no mean feat.

.id is a team of population experts, who use a unique combination of online tools and consulting to help organisations decide where and when to locate their facilities and services, to meet the needs of changing populations. We provide free resources to help you make the most of demographic data. Access .id’s demographic resources here.

Georgia Allan

Georgia completed a Masters in Population Studies and Demography at Flinders University in Adelaide. At .id, Georgia is a consultant in .id's housing team. She was heavily involved in the creation and continued development of, the online tool developed to give councils an accessible evidence base for planning and advocacy. Georgia has prepared housing demand and supply analysis for a range of councils, including those in inner-city, middle ring, growth and peri-urban areas. When not in the office, she is likely to be cooking, knitting, crocheting, or buried in a good book.

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