Same-sex marriage vote: High turnout favours 'NO'…but not enough to alter the outcome

So the ABS has reported that they have received surveys from 77% of registered voters already. 

Some commentators are talking about this level of turnout being ‘high’. It is by comparison with the vote for the Constitutional convention. 

But this level of turnout was not difficult to predict – in fact we did so in August when our own polling found that 75% of Aussies said they would definitely or probably participate. Basically, spot on, so chalk one up for the pollsters! 

But what does this level of turnout mean for the outcome? Does it mean that we all are passionately in favour of same sex marriage and were thus motivated to put down our devices for a moment, find a pen – and then the hard part – find a post box in which to stuff our completed survey? 

Or have the negative nellies tapped into a vein of underlying conservatism in the Aussie psyche? 

The answer is a bit of both. The results will be as follows (you heard it here first): 

  1. A clear majority have voted yes: 65% (plus or minus…4%, the margin of error in our poll) 
  2. BUT the higher turnout has definitely favoured the NO vote. In our polling, as illustrated in the chart below, those who said they were less likely to participate were much more likely to vote ‘NO’…so the higher the turnout, the more No votes. The ‘YES’ voters were always going to vote, and do so in droves. 

So why the high turnout? The No campaign has done a reasonable job of getting the apathetic and truly undecided to think about everything other than the heart of the issue. They have managed to position same -sex marriage as either ‘the thin edge of the wedge’ (‘what next, marrying your pet?), or as an anti-political correctness drive (‘I’m sick of being told what to say and think by inner city elites’). 

All of which means the result may be closer to 60:40 in favour, rather than 70:30 had turnout been lower. But still a drubbing for the ‘NO’ vote.