WE DO NOT USUALLY play at political fiction with respect to minority groups. When commissioning surveys, we check to see what attitudes inhabitants of Poland have with regard to their rights.

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This time, however, we asked about the expectations that voters have of politicians: Would you like the Sejm of 2023 to give homosexual people the right to enter into civil partnerships or marriages?

This is how we measured how politically charged the demands of non-heteronormative people are. Can the Law and Justice [PiS] party count on the consolidation of its voters if Jarosław Kaczyński keeps repeating at pre-election rallies that he supports the traditional, ‘normal’ family?

Does marital equality still have a chance in this election campaign of going down the same route as the demand for the liberalization of the abortion law (there is no longer any return to the so-called compromise of 1993, the discussion is about full availability up to the 12th week)?

Would its introduction make Donald Tusk a ‘rainbow revolutionary’? If it wins the elections, would the opposition coalition be able to agree on a joint LGBT equality package? And finally, who has regained and who has lost the ears of the public in this area?

Record support for marital equality

The results of the latest Ipsos poll for OKO.press differ (slightly) from those obtained in traditional questions on attitudes to LGBT rights.

58% of voters would like homosexual people to be granted the right to enter into civil partnerships. 37% are against.

48% of respondents would expect marital equality to be introduced. 47% of respondents are against.

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In June 2022, as many as 64% of respondents were in favour of at least the introduction of civil partnerships. And this was the highest result in the history of Ipsos polls for OKO.press.

Meanwhile, marital equality, as a political postulate, is coping best of all our surveys to date (so far, the highest result in September 2019 was 42%). This time, marital equality also has greater support than in the 2019 Eurobarometer survey – then, a record 45% of respondents supported it.

Such a result shows that increasingly fewer people are afraid of recognizing marriages of same-sex couples.

But how should the slightly lower support than before for the minimum, namely civil partnerships, be explained?

Perhaps some respondents believe that, although LGBT people should have the right to make their relationship official in Poland, it is not the most urgent of matters to be addressed by the Sejm in the new term of office.

The answers may also have been influenced by the way the question was asked. Language plays a big role in opinion polls. We cannot rule out the possibility that, when we asked about the neutral-sounding ‘same-sex couples’, the results were more favourable than with the emotionally charged phrase ‘homosexual people’?

Voters say yes, leaders say ‘all in good time’

This does not change the fact that support for LGBT rights is at such a high level that we have reached the social consensus needed introducing political change a long time ago. But who is to implement them?

We should recall that, had the elections been held at the beginning of September 2022, PiS would have had no chance of ruling, even in coalition with the Confederation Party [Konfederacja]. It arises from our poll that a broad coalition would take the reins, namely KO, Left [Lewica], the Polish Peasants’ Party [PSL], and Szymon Holownia’s Poland 2050 [Polska 2050]. If their leaders were only guided by the expectations of the voters and not by their own views, they could certainly agree to the enactment of a law on civil partnerships. Even a majority of PSL voters (62%) would like such a move (although here, we should be cautious, because the sample was too small to draw firm conclusions).

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Marital equality would require a little more courage, but, here too, the opposition coalition’s voters would give their politicians the green light. The Civic Coalition voters are the most enthusiastic, with as many as 82% of respondents calling for ability of same-sex couples to enter into marriage. 15% are against. Also, three out of four Left voters (75%) support full family rights for LGBT people. 67% of voters of Szymon Holownia’s Poland 2050 would like to see the introduction of same-sex marriages.

The electorate of the Polish Peasants’ Party is the most divided, although positive responses prevail: 52% against 43%.

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The opposition leaders therefore come out paler than their voters.

Donald Tusk stated in May 2022 that nobody needs to teach him tolerance; he is not a rainbow revolutionary, but a man of ‘moderate views’. With regard to the issue of LGBT rights, in contrast with the topic of allowing abortion, the Civic Coalition is not announcing a progressive turnaround for the time being. It is sticking to the minimum declaration, namely the Act on civil partnerships.

Rafał Trzaskowski, the progressive face of KO, also dodged the subject in his debate with Szymon Holownia during Campus Poland when asked about marital equality: ‘With regard to marriages, I will tell you this: first of all, and this is where I am coming from, as I did a year ago, civil partnerships immediately. However, you will decide on how the partnerships will look’.

He went on to say that, although his declaration may not sound very ambitious, the first step must be taken to take the next ones and for Poland to have the equality standards known from Western, mature democracies. This would mean that essentially, there is no chance of marital equality being on the banners of the largest force in the opposition.

So has anything changed in the KO narrative? We are certainly no longer hearing that ‘we will talk about these matters after we win the elections’. Rather, we are getting the message of adopting an evolutionary strategy.

Bad news? Even after the introduction of civil partnerships, many people in Poland will remain in a legal vacuum. There are no official statistics showing how many Polish same-sex couples have married abroad, but we know from press reports that this is an increasingly common practice. The Act on civil partnerships will not mean that their marriages, which are recognized in most EU countries, will also be recognized in Poland. The language used by activists is also an indicator of social change in Poland. None of the LGBT organizations fighting for equal rights is postulating the introduction of a law on civil partnerships anymore, unless they are bundled with marital equality. Increasingly, marital equality is even spoken of as a ‘conservative’ postulate, because it is being introduced globally by, for example, the Christian Democrats.

Even Szymon Hołownia, despite his progressive voters, is a supporter of small steps. He already said during the 2020 presidential election campaign that he would have supported an Act on civil partnerships, but – as president – would have vetoed a law allowing same-sex marriages. In August 2022, during Campus Poland, Hołownia said that there is no doubt about civil partnerships, ‘and then we can talk about what the citizens expect’. And he added that it is possible to agree or have a different opinion here.

The only formation openly supporting same-sex marriages is therefore still the Left. In June 2020, the MPs submitted the first bill on marital equality in the history of Polish parliamentarianism. They then argued that Poland is the open-air museum of Europe in terms of the recognition of minority rights. However, we have so far not lived to see a parliamentary debate on LGBT family life, because the bill is stuck in Marshal Elżbieta Witek’s freezer.

PiS is playing to its electorate

Apart from personal convictions, what is pulling opposition politicians away from the postulate for marital equality? Probably the fear of what mobilizing capacity the so-called ‘culture wars’ have on PiS’s voters. Even if our survey shows that reality is more nuanced and there are not two feuding camps in Poland that speak ‘for’ or ‘against’ with an equally strong voice, the ruling party knows its voters.

Its core is mainly elderly people from outside the major cities, brought up in a completely different culture, for whom the issue of sexual orientation is at best a deadly taboo or a sin, at worst a reason for shame and exclusion. Scaremongering with ‘LGBT ideology’ or cackling about transgender people is not so much an attempt to turn round the irreversible social changes that are best seen in the youngest generation. It is rather an ad hoc electoral calculation to scare what is alien to ‘our’ voters.

It is not without reason that, at meetings with voters, PiS Chairman Jarosław Kaczyński repeats like a mantra that his party will defend the traditional family, which consists of none other than a woman, a man and children (insulting single parents in the process).

Support for civil partnerships among PiS voters is low at 16%. Three out of four respondents are against it. Instead, marital equality is a demand that is out of this world for the ruling party’s voters.

85% of respondents are against

Konfederacja voters, who are a highly socially diverse group, are divided on matters of civil partnerships: 50% are ‘for’ and 49% are ‘against’. In contrast, one in three Konfederacja voters would support marriages for homosexual people.

Youths, women and major cities in favour of marital equality

Decidedly more women than men – 55% and 41% respectively – would expect politicians to introduce marital equality.

The attractiveness of such a political postulate declines with age. The youngest voters are most in favour. Three out of four people aged 18–29 would like the Sejm of 2023 to allow same-sex marriages. Interestingly, slightly more people in this group support civil partnerships, i.e. 80% of respondents. This best shows that there is no need for half-measures for the younger generation. Also, in the groups of 30- and 40-year-olds, there are more supporters than opponents of marriages for non-heteronormative people.

Trends reverse after the age of 50. Among the 50-year-olds, 39% of respondents would expect the introduction of marital equality (civil partnerships 46%). However, among the oldest voters, only one in four would like to see a law regulating same-sex partnerships.

Marital equality is most important to residents of the major cities. Here, 68% of respondents would expect political change (while 71% support civil partnerships). In rural areas and towns of up to 20,000 inhabitants, less than half, 40%, would like the Sejm to guarantee equal rights to LGBT people.

* Ipsos poll for OKO.press, 6–8 September 2022, telephone survey (CATI) on a representative sample of adult Poles, sample size 1009 people.

Wyłączną odpowiedzialność za wszelkie treści wspierane przez Europejski Fundusz Mediów i Informacji (European Media and Information Fund, EMIF) ponoszą autorzy/autorki i nie muszą one odzwierciedlać stanowiska EMIF i partnerów funduszu, Fundacji Calouste Gulbenkian i Europejskiego Instytutu Uniwersyteckiego (European University Institute).
Anton Ambroziak

Dziennikarz i reporter. Uhonorowany nagrodami: Amnesty International „Pióro Nadziei” (2018), Kampanii Przeciw Homofobii “Korony Równości” (2019). W OKO.press pisze o prawach człowieka, społeczeństwie obywatelskim i usługach publicznych.