Civil partners are less likely to divorce than straight married people, new figures suggest.

Data from the Office of National Statistics shows that after five years, 5.5 per cent of marriages had ended in divorce and 2.5 per cent of civil partnerships had been dissolved.

The ONS report says: “Early figures suggest that marriages are more likely to end in divorce than civil partnerships are to end in dissolution.”

Since they were legalised in 2005, 42,778 civil partnerships have taken place – four times the number initially expected.

The British government is now considering how marriage can be opened up to gay couples, although the idea is expected to face strong opposition from faith groups.

The data also looked at attitudes to homosexuality.

Opposition to gay relationships peaked around 1987, when approximately 75 per cent of people said it was “always or mostly wrong”.

In 2003, the number of people who believed that it was “rarely wrong or not at all wrong” overtook the number opposed.

The latest figures, from 2008, found that just under 50 per cent said homosexuality was “rarely wrong or not at all wrong”, while 38 per cent said it was “always or mostly wrong”.

There were significant differences in opinion based on age and gender. Women and younger people were substantially more likely to back gay marriage, civil partnerships and adoption by gay couples.

Twenty-five per cent of women aged 18-29 disapproved or strongly disapproved of gay adoption, compared to 46 per cent of men the same age.

The majority of men and women over the age of 70 disapproved or strongly disapproved of the idea.

The report did not provide data on general views around gay marriage, although data showed that fewer than half of respondents thought gay marriage should be legalised across Europe.

The authors said: “People living in European countries which have recently legalised same-sex partnerships are likely to have more positive attitudes to homosexual marriage than those in countries where there is no such law.”