Canada

Poll shows Canadians split over same-sex marriage

A new poll says there is a generational split among Canadians over same-sex marriage.

A new public opinion poll suggests the debate over same-sex marriage continues to divide Canadians, especially along generational lines.

The poll, conducted by the firm NFOCF Group, found Canadians younger than 35 are far more supportive of legalizing gay and lesbian marriages than people of retirement age.

But the results also suggest that Canadians on both sides of the issue have little appetite for marriage to be left exclusively to churches.

There's also a feeling that the courts in Canada have too much power.

QUICK FACTS

52% say there is nothing morally wrong with homosexuality 57% say that homosexual marriage does not threaten the institution of marriage 65% say homosexual couples should be treated the same as heterosexual couples

The poll surveyed 1,015 Canadian adults who were contacted by telephone between Aug. 25 and Aug. 30. It is considered accurate with 3.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Pollster Richard Jenkins says few public policy issues have so clearly divided Canadians along generational lines as same-sex marriage.

He says that underscores the political challenge facing the Liberals and the opposition parties as they debate the issue in the weeks ahead.

"Younger Canadians really are on side with gay marriage, and there's a real danger that this will alienate youth even further," he said.

The poll found more than 60 per cent of the respondents younger than 35 support same-sex marriages. An equal percentage of seniors oppose it.

While Canadians as a whole remain almost evenly divided on the issue the poll found little support for alternatives proposed by a number of Liberal and Conservative MPs.

Fifty-eight per cent of those polled rejected the idea that marriage should be left exclusively to the churches. Jenkins said there is also a strong feeling among those surveyed that the courts wield too much power.

"Canadians certainly feel uncomfortable about the degree to which the courts are imposing a view of society upon them."

Canadian Alliance Leader Stephen Harper says his party has heard that same point from Canadians. He says polls consistently show strong support for retaining the definition of marriage as the exclusive union of a man and a woman.

That support, he suggests, extends beyond social conservatives.

"I think there's a lot of issues at play here and that's why opposition to what the government is doing is a lot wider spread that the government thought," Harper said.

The Alliance leader also claims the federal government orchestrated court losses as a way to legalize same-sex marriage.

Harper says Ottawa feigned the legal battle against same-sex marriage for years while stacking the courts with liberal-minded judges and plotting to redefine marriage.

Harper says the Liberals also misled Canadians in the last election by proclaiming support for traditional marriage.

Harper says the Canadian Alliance will force a vote on same-sex marriage similar to one that was held in the House of Commons four years ago.

At that time, Parliament voted 216-55 in favour of a symbolic motion to keep the traditional definition of marriage.

Meanwhile, Justice Minister Martin Cauchon is stepping up his efforts to win over detractors. He travels to Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia next week to outline the government's legislative plans.