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MaltaToday survey | Majority favour ‘civil unions’ but not gay adoption
Gay adoptions mainly supported by women, the young, university-educated and also Labour voters who switched from the PN.
18 November 2013, 12:00am
Only 26% of respondents to a MaltaToday survey are opposed to a new law that grants same-sex couples who form a civil union the same rights and obligations enjoyed by married couples.
But 45% of respondents agree with full equality between the two statuses... except in granting adoption rights.
Currently single people, including gays, are allowed to adopt children as long as they are deemed to be good parents by professional social workers. The new civil unions law will now enable same-sex couples in formal unions to adopt as a couple.
But the survey shows that only 25% agree with granting same-sex couples adoption rights - even though single gay parents already adopt children. This still represents a remarkable increase from 2007, when a Eurobarometer survey showed that only 7% agreed with adoptions by same sex couples.
The survey shows that Labour Party voters, younger people and the university-educated are more likely to support adoption rights for same-sex people; while Nationalist voters, older respondents and people with a lower level of education are more likely to be opposed.
On their part, men are also more likely than females to oppose to the new law while women are more likely to be undecided on this issue. Support for legalising adoptions is the same among males and females.
Labour voters more liberal
The survey confirms the ideological divide on social issues with Labour voters emerging as decisively more liberal than PN voters. In fact while 46% of PN voters in the last general election opposed the new law granting equality, now only 14% are opposed.
But the survey shows that a majority in both political parties do not approve of gay adoptions. While 50% of Labour voters support civil unions with the exception of adoption, 38% of PN voters think likewise. Support for adoption rights is also higher among Labour voters (29%) than among Nationalist voters (12%).
The survey also shows a higher support for gay adoptions among switchers who voted PN in 2008 and Labour in 2013. Among this category 38% support the new law in its entirety.
The survey exposes the quandary facing the PN on this issue.
Not only does the PN have to reconcile a conservative majority opposed to civil unions - with the 12% who support both civil unions and adoption rights - but it has to appeal to switchers who tend to be more disposed in accepting full marriage equality for same-sex couples.
So far the PN has treaded carefully by saying that it supports the institution of civil unions, while presenting amendments to keep a distinction between this new civil status and marriage.
Labour also faces a sizeable minority of 14% who stand opposed to the new law and a large segment of its voters (50%) who have reservations on adoption.
But while facing a latent conservatism among a segment of the electorate, the parties also have to contend with changing demographics with support for full equality for same sex couples rising among educated young voters.
Significantly, among 18 to 34-year-olds only 10% are opposed to the new law on civil partnerships. Although a majority of young voters (53%) have reservations on granting gay couples adoption rights, a sizeable 35% support full equality including adoption rights. This suggests that any opposition to the new bill would alienate a large chunk of younger voters.
As expected, older voters tend to be more conservative, with unconditional support for the new law falling to 17% among the older age group. Still, even among over 55-year-olds, 58% either support the law in full or have reservations on granting adoption rights, but support equal rights in all other spheres in life.
University-educated respondents tend to be the most polarised category, being the most likely to favour adoption rights but also more likely to oppose civil unions than respondents with a post-secondary or secondary education.
In fact among this category, unconditional support for the new law rises to 37%, compared to just 20% among respondents with a secondary education.
But opposition to civil unions is also higher, with 39% of university-educated respondents opposed to the new status.
The university-educated are less likely to go half way, with only 22% supporting the new law while expressing a reservation on adoption. On the other hand, 45% of respondents with a post-secondary education and 51% of those with a secondary education take this middle-of-the-road approach.
This suggests a split in the educated middle-class which traditionally has supported the Nationalist Party but in which Labour has made some inroads in the past few years.
Unsurprisingly, the highest opposition to civil unions is among respondents with a primary level of education who also tend to be older. Among this category 41% are opposed to the new law.
A total of 554 respondents were contacted in this survey of which 450 completed the survey. Respondents were contacted between Monday 4 and Thursday 7 November. Respondents were randomly chosen from telephone directories and the results were weighed to reflect the age/gender balance of the population. The survey has a margin of error of +/-4.6 per cent.
James Debono is MaltaToday's chief reporter on environment, planning and land use issues, ...