Labor machine man puts family first

The moment on Insiders this morning when new NSW Opposition Leader John Robertson is torn between the Labor line on gay marriage and the life chances of his gay son. He says the right thing in the end, but his initial equivocation was painful to watch:

BARRIE CASSIDY: Just a couple of quick questions and quick answers. You’ve dealt with marijuana and a little more directly than Bill Clinton.

Gay marriages?

JOHN ROBERTSON: Look it’s a federal issue.

And I have a son who’s openly gay. Obviously I think he is a wonderful person.

But it’s a matter for the Commonwealth.

BARRIE CASSIDY: Do you support his right to marry?

JOHN ROBERTSON: Well I see him as a person who is a genuine person who can make a contribution to our society. He’s bright, he’s intelligent.

And to be blunt I think people should have the same rights.

A blip in the same-sex marriage opinion trend?

Today’s Essential Research survey reports a drop in support for gay marriage since November 2010, from 53% to 49%. Those against are up from 36% to 40%.

The margin of error for a poll like this is about 3% in either direction, so it is possible that there is no real change. But this does seem to be the first poll for several years that has found minority support for same-sex marriage. While the demographics of opinion on this subject leave little doubt that there is an emerging clear majority view in support of same-sex marriage, the campaign for it may experience a few short term ups and downs.

Should marriage be privatised?

I’ve often disagreed with social democrats about privatisation, but it is not often that I do so to oppose a privatisation proposed by a social democrat. But that’s my response to an opinion piece in yesterday’s Weekend Australian suggesting privatisation of marriage, written by Tim Soutphommasane.

Tim’s argument seems similar to that of Tamara Metz in her book Untying the Knot: Marriage, the State and the Case for their Divorce, which I reviewed in Policy late last year.

As opposed to the libertarian view that marriage should be done via contract law, Tim and Metz see the need for specific legal relationships applying to domestic relationships. I largely agree with this part of the argument; people should not be able to contract their way out of all the obligations attached to partnerships and especially parenting. With contract, too many people will not make them, or will make contracts that are one-sided or fail to foresee future issues. ‘Off the shelf’ legal arrangements can deal with these problems. Continue reading “Should marriage be privatised?”

Lonely Australia?

Following up on the social capital theme, there have been some more results released from the Australian Survey of Social Attitudes 2009, including a question on loneliness.

Most people never feel lonely or feel lonely less frequently than once a year. However about 18% feel lonely daily or weekly. In a different question on the same subject, 22% agreed or strongly agreed that ‘loneliness has been a serious problem for me at times’.


Question: How often do you personally experience loneliness in your life? Continue reading “Lonely Australia?”

And yet more gay marriage polling…

The Fairfax broadsheets this morning have the third recent gay marriage poll, with the usual pattern – a small but safe majority in favour, and a bit over a third against.

Though so far this is causing Labor most grief, Peter Hartcher argues in the SMH that it may eventually be more troublesome for the Coalition.

This is because while Labor voters clearly support gay marriage, Liberal voters are fairly evenly divided. In this poll Coalition voters were 51% against /42% favour. But in the Essential Research poll earlier in the month they were even at 45%/45%, and in the Galaxy poll last month 48% favour/ 46% against.

The Coalition members who spoke in the debate on Adam Bandt’s motion last week reflected this balancing act, supporting just about every aspect of gay equality except marriage.

And more gay marriage polling…

More polling today, this time from Essential Research, on same-sex marriage.

This 53% support, 36% oppose result is less decisive than the 62%/33% result recorded by Galaxy Poll in October.

There were differences in the questions, with Galaxy prefacing its question by telling respondents that gay marriage already existed in other countries. Perhaps that helped sway respondents without strong views. Continue reading “And more gay marriage polling…”

Same-sex attitudes, Australia and the UK

A favourite theme of some expat gay friends living in London is how much more progressive Europe is compared to Australia on gay issues. The latest trigger was this story about how, allegedly, straight male UK uni students are now happy to kiss each other on the lips.

I’m quite willing to believe that London, or at least central London, is the gayest place on the planet. But just as data is not the plural of anecdote, a lot of well-tolerated gay men in a concentrated space doesn’t necessarily tell us a lot about attitudes overall. So I went looking for some comparable survey evidence.

The British Survey of Social Attitudes has a very similar questions in similar years to the various Australian surveys I pieced together in this post earlier this year. Continue reading “Same-sex attitudes, Australia and the UK”

Is demography destiny in public opinion?

The latest survey on gay marriage finds 62% of voters in favour and about a third against. This is pretty much unchanged from last year. The issue has gone up the political agenda, thanks largely to the Greens (how I hate to say anything nice about them…), but so far opinion is not moving much.

But the demographics of this issue remain very striking, and look to be a case of demography as destiny in public opinion. The case against gay marriage seems lost. Eventually politics will catch up with opinion, so I think it now a case of when we get gay marriage rather than if.

The jobs for divorce

Overcoming Bias blog reports on an interesting American study of divorce rates by occupation. It found, among other things, that

Dancers and choreographers registered the highest divorce rates (43.1 percent), followed by bartenders (38.4 percent) and massage therapists (38.2 percent). … Three types of engineers — agricultural, sales and nuclear engineers — were represented among the 10 occupations with the lowest divorce rates.

Using 2006 census data for people aged 30 to 49 years I found that there were very similar patterns here. Of the groups I examined bar attendants and baristas were the most divorced or separated, with massage therapists second, and actors and dancers fourth.

As in the US, engineers were among the least likely to divorce, with accountants and solictors only slightly more prone to marital breakdown.

Class background and financial situation probably explains some of the differences. But plumbers, bricklayers and carpenters have slightly more stable marriages than psychologists and human resource professionals.

For most occupations, there is a general approach to marriage – those most likely to divorce are generally also least likely to get married in the first place (a negative correlation of about .75 between divorce rates and marriage rates).

I think personality types may explain some of these differences. Continue reading “The jobs for divorce”