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Topics In the News
Canadian Poll Measures "Gay Landscape"
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 07/10/12
Last updated on: 07/10/12
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A Forum Research Poll commissioned by Canada's conservative newspaper the National Post, has found that 5% of Canadians identify as LGBT, that 74% say that they know someone who is gay, and that 67% support equal marriage rights. The poll, conducted twice in June, provides what the newspaper describes as "the most comprehensive snapshot" of a community that has often eluded Canadian statisticians.

The poll found that while 5% of Canadians identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender, that number is highly variable by age, with 10% of Canadians between the ages of 18 to 34 so identifying, but only 2% of those over 65. The difference may reflect greater comfort of young people in acknowledging their sexuality as compared with older people, who may be more cautious about self-disclosure.

In something of a surprise, the poll also indicates that one-third of those who identify as LGBT are married to a same-sex partner.

The survey found that 28% of Canadians say that someone in their immediate family is LGBT and that 74% know someone who is LGBT.

Canadians living in the prairie provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta were least likely to know someone who is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender and to have someone in their family who is LGBT.

People living in those provinces were also the least supportive of same-sex marriage, with Alberta standing out as the only province in Canada where the majority of those polled say they do not support gay marriage. That is proof, University of Toronto professor Adam Isaiah Green said, of the so-called "contact hypothesis," which holds that greater visibility yields greater acceptance.

Reporter Kathryn Blaze Carlson writes that "Arguably the most complex demographic captured in the Forum poll is lower-income Canadians: They are less likely to know someone who is gay or someone who is in a same-sex marriage, they are least likely to support same-sex marriage, but they are by far the most likely to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender themselves. That could be a correlation with age because younger Canadians tend to earn less, and that group is less likely to know married people generally and are more likely to say they are gay."

University of British Columbia professor Amin Ghaziani, however, explains the difference in attitudes between lower-income and higher-income Canadians differently. "Think of it this way, 'In what types of industries are [lower-income Canadians] working?' If it's blue-collar jobs, like construction or factory work, then it seems intuitive that those would be industries where LGBT people would be more reluctant to come out," he said. "It's not really about how much money you make, but how much money you make says something about what kind of job you have, and what what kind of job you have says something about the willingness of people to be out."

The poll also revealed differences along political lines, particularly that Liberal and Conservative voters are closer to each other than to the other three parties on several fronts. Conservative and Liberal voters were tied on whether they know someone who is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transsexual, at 69%, compared to 81% of NDP voters, 83% of Green voters, and 84% of Bloc Québécois voters.

Conservative voters were by far the least supportive of same-sex marriage, with a 45.8% approval rate, while 68.1% of Liberals supported marriage equality. Approval jumped to 77.6% among Bloc voters, 79.8% among NDP voters, and 85.1% among Greens.

The video below, from TV Ontario, explains how gay marriage became legal in Canada.

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