UK influentials back gay marriage

February 07, 2013, 3:20 PM UTC

Majority of UK influentials back same-sex marriage, but Tories divided

A survey of UK opinion formers, who are influential Britons drawn from politics, business, media, academia, NGOs and the public sector, has found that a majority (58%) support same-sex marriage, while 27% are opposed and 16% are undecided (percentages add up to 101% because of rounding).

The poll was carried out in late-January, before the vote in the House of Commons on Tuesday in which a majority of MPs voted in favour of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, by 400 to 175, a majority of 225 votes.

Support for same-sex marriage was highest (80%) amongst influential Labour party supporters. However, the poll revealed that influential Tories are divided on the issue with 40% in favour of gay marriage, 43% opposed and 16% undecided.  Meanwhile, 66% of Liberal Democrat opinion formers support same-sex marriage, as do 60% of journalists.

A separate YouGov poll for The Sun conducted just before the vote in Parliament found that 71% of the public believes the Conservative party is divided, while just one in ten (10%) view the Tories as united. In the Commons vote, 136 Conservative MPs voted against the bill, while 127 voted in favour, 35 did not vote and five registered an abstention.

Influentials divided on religious provision

Included in the Marriage Bill is a proposal to change the law to allow religious organisations in England and Wales to conduct same-sex marriages, but religious organisations would need to ‘opt in’ and could not be forced to conduct these. Under this proposal, the Anglican Churches would continue to be banned from marrying same-sex couples.

The survey found that British influentials are divided on this measure, with 39% supporting it, 38% opposed and 23% undecided. These divisions were consistent across political party lines.

YouGov’s latest poll for the Sunday Times shows that British public opinion on same-sex marriage is similar to that of influential Britons. According to the poll, 55% of people in Britain support gay marriage, while 36% are opposed and 9% are undecided.