Is 62 per cent enough to carry gay marriage vote?

AS THE closing date for the same-sex marriage postal survey nears, thoughts are turning to the final result and what

is-62-per-cent-enough-to-carry-gay-marriage-vote photo 1

Australians have until November 7 to return their postal surveys. Picture: William West/AFP

AS THE closing date for the same-sex marriage postal survey nears, thoughts are turning to the final result and what percentage needs to be achieved for it to be accepted.

More than 16 million survey forms have been posted to eligible Australians and an estimated 10 million survey forms had been returned as at Friday, October 6.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the turnout represents 62.5 per cent of Australians.

But is this enough? It’s hard to tell.

ABC election analyst Antony Green told news.com.au that turnout for the Brexit vote in the UK was 72.2 per cent and just 51.9 per cent voted to leave.

“No one has questioned that result even though it was relatively close,” Mr Green said.

He said the Brexit vote was a good comparison because it was a yes/no vote and people were also voting for a principle, not a piece of legislation.

“No one knew what Brexit actually meant and they still don’t,” he said.

In comparison the Irish referendum to approve same-sex marriage was also carried with 60.52 per cent turnout and 62.07 of the vote.

Mr Green said he expected the turnout for Australia’s postal survey to be similar to the Brexit vote, judging from the numbers that had already returned their surveys.

He said how much of a turnout was required to make the vote “legitimate” depended on how people measured these things.

However, he was confident Yes was likely to win.

“Yes is still 20 per cent ahead (according to recent polls), no turnout (figure) is going to turn that into a No vote,” he said.

While polls ahead of Brexit were wrong, Mr Green said they were only off by about 2 to 3 per cent — although in that case it was enough to turn the result.

“They weren’t wrong by 15 per cent,” he said.

But one expert is unsure that achieving a good turnout and a “simple majority” will be enough to silence critics in Australia.

is-62-per-cent-enough-to-carry-gay-marriage-vote photo 2

Australians being urged to vote in same-sex marriage survey. Picture: Morgan Sette/AAP Source: AAP

It is not compulsory to vote in the postal survey which means people not happy with the result could still argue it doesn’t represent all of Australia’s views.

Political scientist Sarah Maddison of the University of Melbourne said it would require leadership from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to legitimise the vote.

“I think there is very little question the Yes vote will be in the majority but the size of the majority is going to count in terms of the silencing the conservatives,” she said.

“I think this has been one of the problems with the survey from the outset: there has been no clear guidance from the government about what could constitute a legitimate response.”

Even if the turnout reached 70 per cent as Mr Green predicts, Prof Maddison was sceptical a simple 51 per cent majority would decide the issue.

“It is very hard to imagine (prominent No voter) Lyle Shelton accepting graciously that he and his colleagues in the No camp are in the minority,” she said.

“No campaigners and radical conservatives will keep pushing to have their reactionary position maintained in policy decisions.”

Prof Maddison wasn’t sure what percentage the Yes vote would have to reach in order to silence critics, and said she would be “picking a number out of the air”.

“Certainly 51 per cent won’t do it. I don’t think anyone involved in the campaign for marriage equality thinks that a simple majority will end the matter.

“Maybe it’s 60 per cent, maybe it’s 70 per cent, I don’t know. We’ve lacked clear leadership from the Prime Minister on that question,” she said.

In past statements, Mr Turnbull has said he believes the result would be respected in parliament.

“If the postal vote is carried, the legalisation of same-sex marriage will sail through the Parliament, believe me,” he told 2DayFM.

But Prof Maddison said it would still require leadership.

“This has to be the end of the matter but this has to come from our political leaders,” she said.

She urged people who had not yet voted not to be complacent.

“We need as many Australians as possible (to vote) to have as much validity as possible to make sure this question is answered once and for all.”

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

• Requests for replacement forms close on 6pm, October 20. You can also pick up a form from certain locations or call 1800 572 113.

• There’s a paperless option for eligible Australians travelling or living overseas, people in aged care facilities, or those with an illness, injury or disability, to respond online or by phone.

• Survey forms must be received at the ABS by 6pm (local time) on November 7 to be included in the count.

• Survey results will be published on November 15.

• More information is available at http://www.marriagesurvey.abs.gov.au

Email: charis.chang@news.com.au | Twitter: @charischang2

    Share on
    Article Is 62 per cent enough to carry gay marriage vote? compiled by www.news.com.au

    You might also like