The findings, contained in the second Irish Examiner/ICMSA survey on farming attitudes, found if a referendum on gay marriage was held today, 46% of farmers would be in favour of the provision with 41% opposed. Just 13% said they did not know which way they would vote.
Director of the Gay and Lesbian Network of Ireland Brian Sheehan said the results were a clear demonstration of the “transformation in attitudes to lesbian and gay people in rural Ireland” and the willingness to extend equal status and dignity in the Constitution to lesbian and gay couples.
Mr Sheehan said this year was GLEN’s second year having a stand at the Ploughing Championships and that the group had been “terrifically well received”.
The survey found support for gay marriage was strongest among farmers under the age of 35 with 64% expressing support for gay marriage.
However, even among the 35 to 44 and 45 to 54 age group, most (48% and 53% respectively) were in favour of the proposal. Almost 60% of women were in favour.
Farmers aged 65 and over were most against gay marriage with 73% saying that would vote against giving any marriage rights to gay couples.
A recent survey from Macra na Feirme, the young farmers’ organisation, found 52% in favour of civil marriage for same-sex couples.
Mr Sheehan said the fact that older farmers were still strongly against the proposal meant that there was some work to do to persuade them otherwise
“The poll finding for older farmers shows that we have work do to persuade people of our case. Irish people’s thoughts on this issue are constantly evolving.
“We look forward to talking with many people over the coming months to understand and hopefully answer their concerns.”
After the Government announced plans for a referendum on the constitutional change in 2015, a Paddy Power survey carried out last year found 76% of voters back the change, with 18% against and 6% undecided.
Of the eight agricultural shows surveyed, just two were against gay marriage — 50% of farmers in Cappamore, Limerick, were against the proposal with just 27% in favour, while opposition was even higher in Carbery, Cork, where 63% of farmers surveyed were against gay marriage.
Support for the proposal was highest among farmers who vote Labour at 67%, followed by independents (60%), Sinn Féin (59%), Fine Gael (46%) and Fianna Fáil (42%).
Commenting on the results, president of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers’ Association John Comer said the results augured well for next year’s referendum.
“It might reasonably be expected that a rural and (perhaps) socially conservative group like farmers would be declaring against a move that would not so long ago be deemed quite radical. Instead we see that, in general, it splits fairly evenly though definitely on the ‘pro’ side. Even more significantly is the fact that amongst the farm women surveyed there’s a very significant majority in favour of same sex marriage.”
Mr Comer said the survey results again highlighted that farmers can no longer be pigeon holed as Catholic and socially conservative. “These findings are very interesting set against the idea of farmers as a largely Catholic and socially conservative and seem to demonstrate — yet again — that the idea of a homogenous ‘farm’ bloc vote is outdated and no longer applicable, on certain social issues, at least.”