Australia's same-sex marriage vote: How did religious groups vote?

Australia has spoken, and most emphatically. The plebiscite on same sex marriage found that the electorate was unequivocally in favour of changing the law to allow same-sex couples to marry.

Or were they?

ReutersAustralia voted by 61 per cent in favour of same-sex marriage in a non-binding poll this week.

Certainly, every state returned a clear majority in favour of legalising same-sex marriage, even in this - unusual for Australia - non-compulsory vote.

But some communities were not convinced. Western Sydney, for example, which is reported to be 'more Asian than European' returned high numbers of No votes.

There has been much debate in Australia over the last few days about why many 'Westies' voted no. The Guardian's analysis of the data finds correlations between religion and voting No, particularly among people who identify as Muslim or as Christian.

There's no doubt that some of the most vocal advocates of the No vote were Christians. Former pastor Senator Abetz expressed 'regret but respect' for the vote but couldn't help pointing out that the number of No votes was higher than many other recent electoral victories.

The No camp are not likely to take this lying down, and will be looking for political leadership that represents their values. Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott is said to be considering a way back to the forefront of politics. 'His performance on this campaign positions himself once again as a potential leader, which is a complete turnaround', says the Sydney Morning Herald's Latika Bourke, who calls Abbott 'the standout campaigner for the No vote'.

Tensions between religion, culture and sexuality are clear and the next steps in this process will prove crucial. Abetz and others are likely to push hard on the implications of legislation. Campaigners are already citing conflicts between religious belief and provision of services to same-sex couples.

They're calling it an issue of religious freedom, but not all people who identify with a religion will have voted no. The 2015 Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey notes that 47% of people who identify as religious say they support equal rights for same-sex couples. The forthcoming debate about religious freedom will throw up some interesting questions about how many people of faith are represented by socially conservative views. We don't yet know whether this concern reflects widespread consensus among people of faith, or a vocal minority.

Katie Harrison is Director of ComRes Faith Research Centre www.comresglobal.com 

You can follow her on Twitter @harrisonkt_

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