On 28th January 2018, IrishCentral claimed that “Seventy percent of people in Northern Ireland and the majority of its Assembly Members support marriage equality for LGBT couples.”
This remark was made as part of an opinion piece which urged that “Northern Ireland has changed so the DUP will have to”.
What do the opinion polls in Northern Ireland tell us?
In May 2015, Ipsos MORI carried out a survey on attitudes towards same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland. In this poll, participants were asked to what extent they agreed with the statement, ‘Homosexual couples should be allowed to marry each other.’ The poll found that 68% of adults in Northern Ireland agree that homosexual couples should be allowed to marry.
A year later, in May 2016 Ipsos MORI conducted the survey again, posing the same question. This time, it found that 70% of adults in Northern Ireland believe that homosexual couples should be allowed to marry each other.
More recently in September 2017, LucidTalk carried out a survey in which a demographically representative sample of 2,080 responses were used. This survey asked specifically: ‘Same-sex marriage is now legal in Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland, but not in Northern Ireland. If a referendum on same-sex marriage was to be held tomorrow, which way would you vote?’ The results found that 61.04% voted ‘yes’, 32.47% indicated that they would vote ‘no’, and 6.49% indicated they did not know or had no opinion.
The results from these opinion polls show variable support from 61-70%. While IrishCentral used the highest figure in its favour, all three polls indicate a majority of public support for same-sex marriage. In this regard, IrishCentral’s claim is accurate.
What about Northern Ireland’s Assembly Members support for marriage equality?
On 27 April 2015, the Northern Ireland Assembly held a plenary debate on marriage equality. The result showed that 96 Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) voted, of which 47 voted ‘aye’ (48.96%). This motion to legalise same-sex marriage did not gain majority support, with 49 MLAs voting ‘no’.
However, on 2 November 2015, the Northern Ireland Assembly again held a plenary debate on marriage equality. On this occasion, 105 Members voted, of which 53 voted ‘aye’ (50.48%). This motion saw a small majority of MLAs voting in favour of same-sex marriage.
Again, IrishCentral used a result (November 2015) in favour of its argument, while there is another result (April 2015) that could be used against it. Also, there has been no meeting of the new Assembly to test the current level of support among MLAs. Nevertheless, in this regard IrishCentral’s claim is accurate.
We found these recent opinion polls that suggest a majority support among the public for marriage equality rights for LGBT couples. As of the November 2015 motion, a narrow majority of MLAs agrees that same-sex marriage should be legalised in Northern Ireland. Thus, IrishCentral’s claim that “Seventy percent of people in Northern Ireland and the majority of its Assembly Members support marriage equality for LGBT couples” is factually accurate.