Same-sex Marriage debate in Australia: Public opinion and policy congruence
Stream: Panel 24 - Australian Politics / Media & Politics: Elections, Electoral Systems and Political Behaviour
Date: Tuesday, 27 September 2016
Time: 11.30 am – 1.00 pm
Democratic theory is predicated on the representative role of parties. In particular, representative democracies require that a certain degree of congruence exists between public opinion and the policies pursued by legislators. This paper seeks to identify the degree of this congruence on a particular issue: same sex marriage. This policy area is particularly useful for studying the link between public opinion and legislator policy activity as it is one of the few matters of public concern for which reliable data is available for both voters’ preferences in every Australian electorate and the position taken by most legislators in the Australian Federal Parliament. We study the relationship between public opinion on same-sex marriage and legislator’s position on this issue, and the individual and environmental factors that condition this relationship, using the unique Vote Compass data, collected during the 2013 federal election campaign, information from the 2011 Census, and advances in public opinion estimation. This methodology is used to create estimates of support for same-sex marriage in all 150 electoral divisions contested in this election. We then estimate the probability a parliamentarian would support same-sex marriage legislation in 2012, 2015 and the likelihood they would change their position from no to yes between these years. This study’s findings provide the first Australian test of the relationship between public opinion and legislators’ policy positions.
Andrea Carson (Presenter), University of Melbourne
Shaun Ratcliff (Presenter), Monash University
Yannick Dufresne (Presenter), Universite Laval