Almost 60 per cent have voted in same-sex marriage survey: ABS

The Turnbull government has declared the postal survey will be an authoritative verdict on same-sex marriage, after the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed nearly 60 per cent of eligible Australians have already voted.

The bureau said it had received 9.2 million survey forms - or 57.5 per cent of the 16 million total - as of Friday, with five weeks to go before the deadline for responses to be received.

Although lower than the estimate in two recent polls, the turnout is widely viewed as substantial and in line with expectations. It already eclipses the 47 per cent turnout in a 1998 postal ballot on delegates to a constitutional convention, and is close to exceeding the 60.5 per cent turnout at the 2015 Irish referendum on same-sex marriage.

Michelle (left) and Theresa (right) rally in support of same-sex marriage in Melbourne. Photo: Scott McNaughton

Michelle (left) and Theresa (right) rally in support of same-sex marriage in Melbourne. Photo: Scott McNaughton

Acting Special Minister of State Mathias Cormann, who has responsibility for the survey, said the preliminary figures showed Australians were "enthusiastically embracing the opportunity to have their say" on same-sex marriage.

"By any measure, 57.5 per cent five weeks out from the deadline for survey forms to be returned is very credible," he said.

"I am very confident that the ultimate outcome of the survey will have great authority. It will come with the great authority of the Australian people and will be acted upon by the Australian Parliament."

Cabinet minister Christopher Pyne told Sky News welcomed the figure as "terrific news".

"It means that whatever the result of the plebiscite, everyone will have to accept it," he said. "It means the cabinet made the might call."

The voluntary postal survey is an anomaly in Australian democracy, wherein compulsory voting is the norm, and a high turnout is crucial to lending the poll legitimacy.

The ABS stressed the estimate was only indicative and based on the bulk containers of returned forms; not an individual count of survey forms. Neither did the figure include forms that have already been posted but not yet delivered to the ABS by Australia Post.

The official "yes" and "no" campaigns welcomed the preliminary turnout figures, but noted there were still many votes up for grabs.

"We find it really heartening that Australians are taking this seriously and understand the important role they are playing in shaping Australia as a fairer and more equal place," said Alex Greenwich, co-chair of the Equality Campaign.

He also noted research commissioned by his organisation showed a sizeable chunk of younger voters had ticked the box but were yet to post their survey forms.

Lyle Shelton, a prominent opponent of same-sex marriage, said he was encouraged by the "high numbers of Australians choosing to have their say".

But he promised the Coalition for Marriage campaign would "continue tirelessly" until the very end. "Half of the country is yet to make up its mind; this conversation is still wide open," he said.

Polls indicate the majority of Australians support same-sex marriage and it is generally thought a higher turnout favours the "yes" side.

A Sky News Reachtel poll released Monday found 79 per cent of respondents said they had already voted, with 64 per cent having voted "yes" and 15 per cent having voted "no".

And a Newgate Research survey, also released Monday, put the participation rate at 77 per cent. The discrepancy between those estimates and the ABS figure could in part be explained by the delay between forms being mailed and being received by the ABS.

Furthermore, voting has only recently opened for the approximately 1 million Australians living overseas.

The ABS did not release any data about how many "yes" or "no" responses had been received. It will continue to release weekly tallies of forms received until the survey closes on November 7. The final results will be announced on November 15.

"We hope that this update will serve as a reminder to those who have not submitted their form to do so promptly if they wish to have their say," said deputy statistician Jonathan Palmer.

This story Almost 60 per cent have voted in same-sex marriage survey: ABS first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.