Nearly 70% of voters in the Queensland electorate of senior minister Peter Dutton would like the parliament to resolve the marriage equality issue, according to new polling obtained by BuzzFeed News.
The result is in contrast to Dutton's shifting positions on how to resolve marriage equality — which last week had the conservative MP joining with former prime minister Tony Abbott to call for a non-binding postal vote on the issue.
The new polling was conducted by Reachtel and commissioned by progressive campaign organisation Getup which surveyed more than 700 residents of Dutton's electorate of Dickson last week.
When asked "Do you believe the government should allow a free vote for marriage equality in Parliament and resolve the issue?", 69% of respondents said "Yes"; 23% "No"; and with 8% was unsure.
Last week Dutton said a postal plebiscite, which would function as a non-binding, compulsory opinion poll of the country, would be the "next best option" to resolve the marriage equality debate, after the government's plebiscite legislation failed to pass the parliament.
"From that point, what's the next best option?" Dutton said. "In my mind it is a postal plebiscite, which allows the public to have their say. There's no doubt in my mind that a postal plebiscite delivers the same policy intent as a plebiscite proper."
The polling results come amidst a PR blitz from some of the Liberal party's gay federal MPs on Monday morning, which hint at the idea that some are ready cross the floor to pass marriage equality in parliament.
“There is a still a number of ways to achieve reform," Brisbane MP Trevor Evans told The Australian. "But I think the quickest and most likely course now is to allow politicians to have a free vote … and I support that."
On Sky News, Victorian MP Tim Wilson said the plebiscite, “torments (me) frankly, and challenges me on a daily basis, and I’d like to see this issue resolved”.
There has been speculation Wilson and Evans, with other pro-marriage equality MPs Trent Zimmerman and Warren Entsch, crossing the floor could give a marriage equality bill the numbers it needs to trigger a vote and pass the House of Representatives.
On the current numbers, the Senate would likely then pass the bill from the Lower House, making marriage equality law in Australia.
The Reachtel polling also asked if Dickson voters preferred the current Liberal leadership team to a hypothetical one featuring Tony Abbott and Peter Dutton.
More than 57% of those surveyed went with Malcolm Turnbull as prime minister and Julie Bishop as deputy leader, compared with the more conservative pairing of Abbott as prime minister and Dutton as his deputy.
That number increased among self-identifying Liberal National voters in the survey, with more than 70% preferring the Turnbull-Bishop pairing to Abbott-Dutton.
Getup has made unseating Dutton one of its aims at the next election.
Dutton currently holds the seat by just 2,911 votes, winning at the 2016 election by 51% to 49%.
The Reachtel poll had some good news for Dutton's re-election hopes though, with 53% saying they'd vote for him if the election was held today.
Mark Di Stefano is a media and politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Mark Di Stefano at email@example.com.
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