A statistician has predicted that a religious challenge to overturn gay marriage in Maine will fail.

Nate Silver correctly predicted the winners in 49 out of 50 states in the last November 2008 election.

In April, he produced an analysis model which predicted when each state would vote against a ban on gay marriage.

Using that model, he found that approximately 56.5 per cent of Maine residents oppose a ban. They will be asked whether a ban should be in place in next month’s ballot.

Silver uses three variables to build his model: the year in which an amendment was voted upon, the percentage of religious people in the state and the percentage of white evangelicals in the state.

Using his model, Proposition 8, which banned marriage ban in California in 2008, would have passed with 52.1 per cent of the vote, almost exactly the fraction it actually did pass by.

Gay marriage opponents in Maine recently announced they had collected the necessary amount of signatures to get it on the ballot.

Maine legalised gay marriage in May and the law was due to come into effect on September 12th. However, it has now been held back as officials verify petitions submitted.

A referendum is thought to be certain after opposing group Stand For Marriage collected nearly double the 55,087 signatures needed.

If voters are persuaded to keep gay marriage, Maine will be the sixth state to legalise it after Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Iowa.