MPs have cold shouldered Government plans for gay marriage

May 28, 2012

Only one in 25 MPs (4 per cent) across all parties believe that legalising same-sex marriage is a main priority for the general public, according to a new opinion poll.

This figure is far smaller than the other issues that MPs say matter to their constituents.

Top of the list is doing something about fuel tax (79 per cent), reducing the deficit (74 per cent) and ensuring the tax burden is spread fairly (69 per cent).

Gay marriage at 4 per cent ranks only one point higher than another Lib Dem cause – House of Lords reform, which is identified by only 3 per cent of MPs (though 17 per cent of Lib Dem MPs) as a key priority for their electorates.

The MPs from all parties have also revealed that their postbags are dominated by letters and emails from constituents urging them to oppose the measure.

Asked which national issues stand out in their correspondence from voters, around one in three cite calls from voters to oppose gay marriage.

This proportion (34 per cent) is far higher than that for any other issue facing the country.

Second comes welfare reform (23 per cent) followed by NHS reform (19 per cent), pensions (13 per cent), fuel prices (13 per cent), fuel taxes (13 per cent), unemployment and jobs (8 per cent), and the Budget (8 per cent).

Asked how voters divide on the issue, MPs say that they are overwhelmingly against.

Three out of four MPs say their correspondence is generally either opposed to the measure (19 per cent) or strongly opposed (55 per cent).

Only 16 per cent of MPs say their letter-writing constituents on balance support the change, currently the subject of a Government consultation exercise led by Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone.

Strong opposition to same-sex marriage is reported by MPs of all three main parties. But Conservatives are getting the heaviest grassroots flak.

Among Conservative MPs, 45 per cent report that letters and emails objecting to gay marriage are the most prominent items in their postbags. But a similar pattern is seen among Lib Dem MPs (30 per cent) and Labour MPs (23 per cent).

Among Lib Dem MPs the top concerns among letter-writing constituents are benefit reform (37 per cent) and NHS reform (36 per cent). But opposing SSM still comes in third at 30 per cent.

Among Labour MPs, the prime worry is again benefit reform (32 per cent) but opposing SSM comes second at 23 per cent followed by NHS reform (22 per cent).

ComRes were commissioned by the Coalition for Marriage (C4M), which is leading the campaign against gay marriage and which has attracted the support of over 530,000 people on its petition rejecting Government moves to redefine marriage.

Colin Hart, Campaign Director of C4M, commented: “This poll of MPs is quite remarkable. It shows that right across the Commons, MPs do not regard gay marriage as an important priority for their constituents.

“It also demonstrates that public opposition to the measure is vociferous and widespread.

“If Ministers decide to press ahead regardless of popular opinion, they will further undermine public confidence in Parliament and reinforce the growing impression that the ruling elite is out of touch with the strongly-held concerns and opinions of the British people.

“David Cameron should drop this idea before it causes yet more social divisions and ill-feeling.”

Andrew Hawkins, Chief Executive of ComRes commented: “Clearly this issue has touched a raw nerve with the public, and not in a positive way.

“It is however entirely in line with public polling which shows that Mr Cameron’s stance on same-sex marriage has already cost the Conservatives some support and could well be responsible for a number of the party’s MPs losing their seats at the next election.”

ComRes polled a representative sample of 152 MPs over the period April 18 to May 18, 2012. Results were weighted to the exact distribution of parties in the House of Commons.