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The Political Pulse

Latest opinion research and analysis

Tories cold on gay kissing

Suggestions back in May that a review of watershed rules, led by the Chief Executive of the Mothers Union, would push a gay or lesbian kiss, among other antics, into the 9pm watershed caused a number of raised eyebrows. Coronation Street’s Brooke Vincent, depicted on the show above, tweeted her anger at David Cameron’s alleged support for the move.

The YouGov poll on the topic, conducted in June and released today, made clear the political and demographic split over the propriety of same-sex kissing.

The poll asked respondents how they felt towards three near identical situations on a TV soap opera: each featuring a couple with no tops on and, as appropriate, the bedsheets pulled up to the man’s chest and above the woman’s breast. The only differences were the couples’ gender or marital status.

As the chart below shows, around 1 in 5 voters who are happy with married or unmarried straight kissing before the watershed don’t think gay or lesbian kissing before 9pm is appropriate. Sixteen per cent even say that any gay male kissing on TV at all is inappropriate, with 12% saying the same of lesbians.

This breaks down by party affiliation in a fairly predictable way. While Conservatives are very slightly less willing to condone married or unmarried straight kissing before the watershed, they are far less likely than Labour or, in particular, Liberal Democrat voters to view pre-9pm gay or lesbian kissing as appropriate. Labour voters follow a similar pattern, but to a less extreme degree, while Liberal Democrats take a, perhaps unsurprising, universally pro-kissing stance. Due to small base sizes, the specific figures should be treated with some caution, but the trend is clear.

As well as ideology, however, age has a huge role to play in this. The Liberal Democrats perform famously poorly amongst older voters and some of the egalitarian attitudes of their voters may be a consequence of the fact more of them as a proportion grew up in an era of comparative gay equality. The converse, of course, is true of Conservatives, who continually lead in the over-60s.

The chart below shows how far age cohorts differ in their attitudes towards same-sex kissing. Again, small differences (such as the 18-24s fondness for a lesbian kiss) should be taken with a pinch of salt, but the over-40s clearly raise an eyebrow.

David Cameron has unquestionably modernised official Conservative party attitudes towards gay and lesbian Britain – in many ways one of the most important parts of the detoxification of the party brand, as it represents a social and cultural message beyond politics itself. The attitudes of his own voters in the country at large, however, will take longer to win round.