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Lansdowne National Opinion Poll

84% Support Legal Recognition for Same Sex Relationships

While we are all aware of the enormous economic changes in Ireland over the past decade, it is easy to forget just how significantly attitudes have shifted. This is emphasised in a recent national opinion poll from Lansdowne Market Research (October 06), in which 84% of those aged 15+ agree that same sex relationships should be given legal recognition. The timing and mood of the country is now clearly right to make this move.

Support appears to have been growing, as another opinion poll at the start of 2006 indicated a 51% level of support. A marked contrast in attitudes exists between those aged under and over 40. Under 40's are much more in favour. Whether a person is married or has children has relatively little influence on their attitudes. As those who are married with children are marginally more supportive of same-sex marriage, the survey suggests they are more empathetic towards the issue. Those living in Dublin are also most likely to support same-sex marriage, but it would be wrong to assume that more rural and western counties do not support same-sex marriage, as the majority do.

With only 1 in 10 believing that same sex relationships should have no legal recognition, this is very much the minority view held in the country. As they also appear to have shrunk as a group from 16% (since the start of 2006), it also appears that this minority view is in decline. The main objection they give is on religious grounds, although the view that same-sex marriage is “unnatural” is also prevalent.

Of the 84% who support legal recognition, the majority (51% of the population) believe it should be called marriage, while the other 33% prefer the term “civil partnership”. Relatively few young people reject same-sex marriage but, where they do, it is predominantly on religious grounds, and many would support civil union as an alternative.

Use of the term “marriage” appears to be the lesser issue, regarding the introduction of same-sex marriage. While the word marriage can mean procreation, which is seen as the preserve of a heterosexual relationship, it is seen as having little, if any, religious connection. With the perceived growing popularity of marrying in a registry office, the term “marriage” may be seen more as a public declaration between two people of their commitment to each other than a religious ceremony. In a more secular Ireland, it appears increasingly accepted that legal marriage and religious blessings are, and should be, separate ceremonies. We are clearly a nation that likes choice, as many prefer being able to chose the ceremony, or mix of ceremonies, that suits them.

Adoption is where more significant debate still persists amongst the general public. While more support (39%) than reject (37%) same-sex couples being allowed to adopt, this is where the generational divide emerges. Only 1 in 4 aged under 40 disagree with same-sex couples adopting, but nearly half of those aged 40+ disagree. However, less than 1 in 3 of these older citizens “strongly disagree” with the idea, which suggests that attitudes maybe moderating over time.

A common concern around adoption is more about the child being teased for having gay parents, than their sexuality being influenced. It is an issue where the head and heart are still at conflict. Many accept that logically gay couples can - and do - make equally good parents but for some (older males in particular) it is taking some time to get used to. One thing is very clear! Children, whether in heterosexual or homosexual relationships, should all have the same legal rights - 93% of the population agree.

With a general election in 2007, it is another encouraging sign of how Irish attitudes have changed where only 18% of the population say they would be less likely to vote for a political candidate if he/she supported same-sex marriage. Nearly as many (16%) would be more likely to vote for them. As 64% say it would make no difference at all to their voting preference, homophobic attitudes of the past seem to have been filed away as part of our history. Ireland is evidently ready to move forward to legally recognise same-sex relationships.

Survey conducted by Lansdowne Market Research in October 2006 by telephone. Sample of 1000, nationally representative of all aged 15+. Quotas set on gender, age, social class and telephone region. Estimated margin or error +/- 3%


Richard Waring, Director, Lansdowne Market Research

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