An Australian opinion poll shows increased support for gay marriage and for prime minister Julia Gillard to allow a conscience vote on the issue.

The Galaxy poll was carried out on behalf of lobby groups Australian Marriage Equality and Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.

It showed that 62 per cent of the 1,005 people surveyed supported allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry, up from 60 per cent last year.

Meanwhile, 79 per cent said that Ms Gillard should allow a conscience vote.

The Labor party does not currently support marriage equality and Ms Gillard has said that policy on the issue will remain the same while she is prime minister. She has also confirmed that this is her personal view.

Australian Marriage Equality spokesman Alex Greenwich said that both major parties to listen to the Australian people and allow a conscience vote on the issue.

“Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott cannot ignore the majority of Australians who believe same-sex couples should be able to marry and the even greater majority who want a conscience vote on the issue”, Mr Greenwich said.

Australian federal law prohibits same-sex marriage. Civil partnerships are legal in the Australian Capital Territory, while domestic registers are in place in some states.