Posted originally on Buzzfeed News on May 28, 2015, at 10:01 p.m. ET
Support for legal rights for same-sex couples tops 70% in some countries where lawmakers are attempting to jump-start attempts to establish marriage equality in the wake of Ireland's historic vote last week.
This is among the findings of a new BuzzFeed News/Ipsos poll of 23 nations which was conducted online over a two-week period beginning about a month before Irish voters voted for marriage equality by a 24-point margin.
We have the clearest picture of attitudes in the 16 of the countries we surveyed where the internet is widely accessible because it was possible to get a sample in our online survey that is representative of the country as a whole. These are concentrated heavily in Europe and North America.
But data collected from the seven additional countries in our survey — Mexico, Brazil, China, South Africa, India, Turkey, and Russia — also suggests there may be surprisingly broad support for partnership protections in many corners of the globe. (We included these countries in our analysis only where our findings appear to reflect broader public opinion based on other surveys despite our limited sample. But they're marked with an asterisk as a reminder that these figures may not be truly representative.)
This is what we found.
Not surprisingly, support for marriage equality tends to be strongest in Western Europe, the region that saw its first marriage equality law passed in the Netherlands in 2000. Our three Latin American countries — Brazil* and Argentina, which have marriage equality, and Mexico,* where it is on the verge on becoming a nationwide reality through the courts — also show majority support for at least civil unions. But our data also hints that majorities support at least civil unions in Japan, South Korea, and possibly China.*
The BuzzFeed News/Ipsos survey found clear support for marriage equality in the only two Western European countries without marriage equality: Germany, which has civil unions but not marriage, and Italy, which has no protections for same-sex couples at all despite multiple court rulings ordering parliament to enact them.
We found that 68% of Germans favor marriage equality even though the ruling party of Chancellor Angela Merkel has reiterated its opposition to marriage equality in the wake of the Irish vote. Though only 48% of Italians support marriage equality, a total of 75% favor some kind of legal recognition for same-sex partnerships, something Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has been unsuccessfully trying to enact since taking office in early 2014.
We found that just under 50% of people in the United States support marriage equality, which is a lower figure than a recent Gallup poll that found a record 60% support it. One likely reason: An additional 20% of respondents in our survey said “same-sex couples should be allowed to obtain some kind of legal recognition, but not to marry.” Respondents in the Gallup poll only had the choice of saying they supported marriage rights for same-sex couples or not.
The 2015 survey used the same question as a 2013 survey of most of these countries — also conducted by Ipsos — which allowed us to be able to compare results between the two.
Argentina, which became the first country in Latin America to allow same-sex couples to wed with a law passed in 2010, had one of the largest increases in support for marriage equality in the last two years, 11 points.
That often is the case, but not always. The different experience of Great Britain (not the United Kingdom, since its marriage equality law doesn’t affect Northern Ireland) and France is especially interesting, because both enacted marriage equality laws in 2013 but have seen very different trajectories in public attitudes. In Great Britain, the roughly 12-point increase in support for same-sex marriage appears mostly to have been people who said they only supported civil unions in 2013 moving into the marriage equality column. But in France, support for marriage equality remained basically unchanged at just over 50%.
That may just be a reflection of the continuing deep unpopularity of the president who pushed through the marriage equality law, François Hollande. But it could also be the result of a continuing vocal opposition to the law. France saw mass demonstrations against the law when it was being debated, and the organization born of that opposition — called La Manif Pour Tous — has transformed itself into a permanent organization and has become an engine for opposing marriage equality throughout Europe with links to campaigns in Eastern Europe and Ireland.
Don’t make too much out of the apparent drop in support for marriage equality in Sweden, where same-sex marriage has been allowed since 2009. “This shift is within the range of error we’d expect based on the smaller sample size for the Swedish data,” said Ipsos researcher Nicolas Boyon, “so this data point is unlikely to be an indicator of change in public opinion in Sweden.”
Young people were more likely to support marriage equality than their elders in virtually every country we surveyed — in some places almost three times as fast.
To get a sense of how attitudes on marriage equality and abortion rights correspond, we lined up the percentages of people who said they supported full marriage rights for same-sex couples and people who said they believed abortion should be legal "whenever a woman decides she wants one."
Generally, the countries that are supportive of marriage equality tend to be the most supportive of abortion rights and vice versa (the top right and bottom left quadrants of this chart), but there are plenty of interesting exceptions.
Hungary is an especially interesting outlier. After being one of the leaders in Eastern Europe in creating civil unions with a 2009 court ruling, it then led a regional shift to the right, becoming the first of four Eastern European countries to enact new barriers to marriage equality since 2012. In our survey, just 31% of Hungarians said they supported marriage equality, but Hungarians are among the most permissive in the world when it comes to abortion, with 64.6% believing it should be available without restriction.
There’s an interesting cluster of Latin American countries at the other end of the spectrum — Argentina, Brazil,* and Mexico* — suggesting that the marriage equality revolution that has swept the region over the past five years will not be followed by a wave of liberalizing abortion laws.
Since Argentina passed the region’s first marriage equality law in 2010, full marriage equality has become the reality in Brazil and Uruguay, while court rulings in Mexico and Colombia mean they could soon follow their lead. But abortion remains heavily restricted or entirely illegal throughout Latin America except in Cuba, Uruguay, and Mexico City.
All three of the Latin American countries in our survey have strong majorities in favor of some kind of partnership rights, and both Argentina and Mexico* have a majority supporting full marriage equality. Argentina has the strongest support for unrestricted abortion, but even there that is less than 25%, while in Mexico and Brazil it is just around 15%.
We’ll have a closer look at global abortion attitudes in a follow-up post on the BuzzFeed News/Ipsos Global Survey.
*The seven countries asterisked throughout this post have too many people without internet access for us to be sure that our online survey was truly representative of the country as a whole. We only included ones where we believe our findings appear likely to still reflect broader public opinion based on data from other sources, but we can’t be 100% sure that the data for these countries are truly representative.