A poll commissioned by the Ambrose Centre for Religious Liberty, an Austrlian body which opposes same-sex marriage, has found that more people support gay marriage rights than not, but that it is not a top priority in the country.

The survey found 49% in favour of changing the law to encompass equal marriage rights, compared with 40% opposed.

27% of respondents thought it was a “very important” issue, whereas many more thought hospital access (86%), immigration (48%), cost of living (73%), carbon taxes (53%) and euthanasia (43%) were that pressing.

The majority of respondents, 61%, thought a prolonged debate was “a waste of resources”.

Ambrose Centre’s chairperson Rocky Mimmo said earlier this year: “The union of same-sex genders is not in conformity with nature, biological design nor anatomical construction.”

Australian Marriage Equality national convener, Alex Greenwich, said: “When even dyed-in-the-wool opponents of equality find the majority of Australians are for marriage equality, we can be absolutely sure it’s true.

“As for the Ambrose Centre’s argument that voters feel marriage equality is less important than other issues and dislike the divisiveness associated with the debate; these are arguments for allowing marriage equality as soon as possible so the nation can move on.”

The survey also found that the Australian Labor Party would lose 2.2% of its voters if it supported marriage equality. The Coalition would also lose 2.2% and the Greens 0.3%. The survey says this could “put marginal seats at risk”.

Alex Greenwich added: “I find it inconsistent that on the one hand the Ambrose Centre says marriage equality is not an important issues for voters, but on the other hand it says the issue will change so many votes that it has the potential to bring down governments.”

“These kinds of contrived results are the hallmark of a survey designed to find what the commissioning body wants it to find.”

A Galaxy Poll this year suggested Labor would receive a swing of between 5% and 7% if it backed same-sex marriage.

1204 Australian adults were polled by telephone in September 2011.