While the majority of Australians voted in support of legalising same-sex marriage, voters in Western Sydney had a different view.
Of the 17 electorates that voted No – 12 of them were in and around Western Sydney. Nine of them are represented by Labor MPs, while three are held by Liberals.
The highest No vote in the whole country came from the seat of Blaxland, where 73.9 per cent of respondents to the survey rejected legalising same-sex marriage.
Blaxland encompasses parts of the multicultural suburbs of Auburn, Bankstown, Berala, Lidcombe, among others. It is represented by Labor MP Jason Clare, who has indicated he would vote Yes in parliament to legislation.
However, almost a quarter of people in Blaxland – or 25,883 people – didn’t respond to the survey at all.
Mr Clare told SBS News the response from his electorate was not surprising.
“I’m not surprised, Blaxland is a very socially conservative electorate,” he said in a statement.
“I’ve always known the views of my electorate on this issue and I’ve always been upfront with them about mine.
“Good people with good hearts can have different views on this important issue.”
Nearby in the electorate of Watson, held by Labor MP Tony Burke, 69.6 per cent of voters rejected same-sex marriage. It includes the suburbs of Lakemba, Punchbowl, Roselands, Belmore and others.
Responding to the results, Mr Burke said his electorate understood discrimination.
“My community knows that if they are treated with prejudice, vilified, or marginalised in any way I will stand up for them regardless of polls. The same applies to this issue,” he said on Twitter.
Demographers say the results from Western Sydney are not surprising. Australian National University’s Dr Liz Allen said Blaxland is associated with conservative religious and social views.
“We know that people from non-English speaking backgrounds report higher levels of religion and the like, and lower rates of tertiary education. [They] are more likely to hold conservative social views.
“Census data areas with high proportions of parents born overseas, lower income, higher rates of religion, these sorts of factors contributed to people perhaps more likely to adopt higher conservative social views of the world or traditional views about marriage and relationship formation.
“What these results are reflecting are social norms that are BOOKr.VIP to personal characteristics.”
But Dr Allen also cautions against assumptions Western Sydney voters don’t support marriage equality, saying it could also be because responses to surveys are usually to maintain the status quo.
“Just because someone has voted no doesn’t mean they don’t support marriage equality,” she said.
“This is quite a socially significant survey; Australians don’t have an experience with surveys that have immediate impact that have a known policy effect.”
She also doubted whether a successful ‘No’ campaign was a major factor.
“I doubt that campaigning would have influence the responses in these areas. Our demographic characteristics are associated with our life experiences, and our life experiences influence our attitude and opinions.”