The Northern Ireland Life and Times (NILT) survey published today shows support across most sectors of Northern Ireland for marriages between same-sex couples to be recognised as valid. It found that overall 57% of people were in favour, 32% against and only 11% having no opinion.
But when you drilled down through the numbers the only age bracket were largest selection were opposed to same-sex marriage was the over 65s as shown in the graph below. Indeed support of those under 55 over more than two people are in favour for every one against (indeed it is closer to three to one of those with an opinion).
While every age group of working age has a majority in favour it is only those over 65 that have a majority against this sort of thing. Even there it is less than two to one.
When it comes to religious affiliation those who identify as Catholic are 65% in favour with 23% against, and As Protestant it is 44% for and 45% against. Those with no religion are split 75% to 22%.
Now seeing as both the Roman Catholic Church and the main Protestant denomination are both as adamantly opposed as each other why are these figures so different.
Unionist politicians are claiming that there is a clear majority against this sort of thing in Northern, this survey shows that is quite clearly not the case. Indeed within the heartland of their own vote their slim claim is within the margin of error.
Therefore would it be too forward to suggest that the rhetoric of unionist politicians instead of reflecting public opinion is actually helping to shape it on the protestant side? This may well be the case. Even with all that rhetoric there are almost as many of those who identify as Protestant supporting same-sex marriage as are opposed. They are not reflecting the views of the denomination that they belong to, nor the politicians that claim to represent them.
So why with only a sprinkling of notable exceptions do the politicians who identify as Protestant not split almost 50/50 when it comes to vote on same-sex marriage? In Westminster only Naomi Long in the Commons voted in favour and the in the Lords it was 9 against and 6 for. While in the Assembly only eight out of a total of 62 self-identifying Protestants have ever voted for marriage equality. These figures are far from a true reflection according to the NILT survey.
However, next time you hear any Northern Irish politician say that the overwhelming majority of people are against equal marriage, while that may be true of their mail bag or email inbox it would appear not to be a true reflection. It is time for politicians to get beyond the cries of upset that drown out the silent majority in favour of Northern Ireland moving with the rest of the UK on this issue.