A new poll commissioned by a New Zealand group opposed to equal marriage has found that more people support the idea than oppose it.

The poll, commissioned by Family First, and run by Curia Market Research in February, found that, out of 1000 respondents, 47% were in support of equal marriage, and 43% thought that civil partnerships were sufficient for gay couples.

Respondents were asked the question: “Do you think Parliament should change the definition of marriage to allow same-sex couples to marry, or do you think civil unions are sufficient for same sex couples?”

49% of respondents were in favour of a referendum on the equal marriage bill, with 41% opposed.

Bob McCoskrie, director of Family First, said that, despite more people supporting than opposing equal marriage, the number of those in support had dropped.

He said: “It is significant that as the debate on redefining marriage has continued, the support for Labour MP Louisa Wall’s bill has steadily dropped. We have got past the slogans of ‘marriage equality’ and ‘discrimination’ and the debate is now centered around the real purpose and role of marriage and the fact that there is actually no discrimination in the law currently.”

The poll also found that 80% of people thought marriage celebrants should not be forced to perform same-sex weddings if it goes against their “personal convictions”, and 73% said they didn’t think churches or religious organisations should be required to allow equal marriages on their premises.

When asked: “Should families where there is both a mum and a dad have priority for the adoption of babies and children?”, 52% of respondents said that opposite-sex parent should get priority with 38% opposed to that idea.

The New Zealand Marriage Amendment Bill, which would legalise equal marriage, passed its first reading on 22 August, with a majority of 80 votes to 40 in parliament in support of the change.

A select committee is now reviewing the bill, which would normally be over a period of around six months, and the committee had received over 20,000 submissions. After that process, it will make a decision on whether or not to recommend it be passed.

Back in January, the head of an evangelical church in Auckland was discovered attempting to rig a cabinet minister’s poll on a pending equal marriage bill.