As in the US, the issue of gay marriage divides Australians in a different way than most other political issues. Former Liberal (=conservative) Party PM Tony Abbott tried to stall a Parliamentary vote on the question by demanding a national referendum, which returned a 60 percent majority for legalizing gay marriage.
But while the outcome of the postal survey may not have been a big surprise to Australians, the district-by-district results were a different story, revealing demographic and political changes that will reverberate through Australian politics long after the debate on same-sex marriage fades. The data make it clear that Australian attitudes on race, gender and sexuality do not fit neatly into the traditional conservative-progressive divide. . . .I wonder what happens in the longer term to the alliance between white liberals and Mexican Catholic, Muslim or Hindu immigrants? Will something happen one day that will make them all switch to voting for conservative parties? Or will the issues of race and immigration continue to dominate, for them, over everything else?
In Mr. Abbott’s own safe Liberal Party seat in Sydney, 75 percent of respondents to the survey favored same-sex marriage. That is a serious repudiation of his years long campaign against same-sex marriage from voters who are otherwise sympathetic to his conservative policy positions. And it’s a pattern that repeated itself to varying degrees in seats held by the loudest opponents to same-sex marriage.
Meanwhile, politicians on the left face a related problem. The responses against same-sex marriage were disproportionately concentrated in Western Sydney’s immigrant communities, in districts dominated by the Labor Party, which has been pro-marriage equality.