By Matthew Barrett
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There's a poll in the Sunday Telegraph today showing attitudes towards gay marriage. The population at large favours gay marriage "in principle" by 45% to 36%. More relevant to the Government is the question of whether people think the Coalition should prioritise it over issues like the economy. The Telegraph reports that 78% of voters think it wrong to prioritise gay marriage legislation, and only 14% say it would be right to do so.
Opinion is a little more pronounced amongst Conservative voters: 50% oppose gay marriage – with 35% in favour, and 88% of Tories think it would be wrong to prioritise gay marriage. So Tories are not supportive, and are divided. Voters in general are supportive, but divided. One thing that does unite people: not thinking it should be a priority.
There are some wider problems with the Government's focus on gay marriage. Firstly, there is a danger that David Cameron looks distracted from the big issues – the economy, public service reform, etc. Not only is he seen to be spending time on gay marriage, but Lords reform is another topic that seems remote from most voters' ordinary lives. Secondly, even if the Tories want to be on the side of gay marriage in the long term, there are few political benefits in the short term. There are fewer liberals willing to vote Conservative because of the prospect of gay marriage than there are social conservatives ready to desert the Party because of this policy. Even the LGBT community seems relaxed about the whole issue. There is no grassroots urgency for gay marriage.
Whatever individual readers might think about gay marriage itself, clearly it is a politically tricky policy for the Tories to focus on. Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised if it's another policy that doesn't come to a vote in the Commons.