Monday 26 September 2016

Yes side holds sway in run up to referendum

With Undecideds aside, Yes voters still have a 2:1 advantage over the No side

Paul Moran

Published 17/05/2015 | 02:30

Yes Equality: The Campaign for Civil Marriage Equality ha launched a new series of campaign posters featuring real lesbian and gay citizens of Ireland, from all walks of life, asking the Irish people to vote Yes on 22 May. Pictured L-R Sarah Gilligan, Sandra Irwin-Gowran, David Caron, John Curren and Celeste Roche
Yes Equality: The Campaign for Civil Marriage Equality ha launched a new series of campaign posters featuring real lesbian and gay citizens of Ireland, from all walks of life, asking the Irish people to vote Yes on 22 May. Pictured L-R Sarah Gilligan, Sandra Irwin-Gowran, David Caron, John Curren and Celeste Roche
Sunday Independent/Millward Brown opinion poll

This final Sunday Independent/Millward Brown measure of opinion before the Same Sex Marriage Referendum on Friday will invigorate both the Yes and No sides in this protracted debate for different reasons.

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First off, the headline result is that the Yes side still holds sway - when Undecideds are excluded, they hold over a two-to-one advantage heading into the last week of campaigning (69pc v 31pc).

But as always, there is more to this than meets the eye.

Let's look at the figures, including potential floating voters who account for nearly one in four. On this basis, support for the plebiscite is over half (53pc - down significantly by 13 points), whilst the No side has shifted marginally upwards by three to 24pc.

This campaign has really revved up through the gears in the past fortnight. It suggests that the Yes side have had a wobble, but understanding what this means is intriguing; especially from the point of view of demographics, and what effect this will have on turnout.

It seems that some from within the Yes side have taken stock of the arguments, and have paused for reflection. Of course, we have seen this time and time again in referenda - one side makes all the running, but as a campaign evolves, things tighten. The No side, however, has not capitalised hugely on it so far.

Much has been said about the "silent No" vote. In light of the UK election, and the "Shy Tory" theory, this may be the case for some. Even still, the Yes side's lead seems unassailable. The fear for them will not be the silent No vote, but rather the danger of complacency, and the effect this will have on turnout.

Earlier polls suggested a 3:1 majority for the Yes side. Let's look at a recent precedent - the Children's Referendum in 2012. That too had a broad-based support, and was coasting in the polls. The final result was a lot closer than anticipated, based on a turnout of just 34pc.

There is fear among Yes campaigners that a lower turnout could dilute its support disproportionately.

Looking at demographics, this is not an unreasonable assumption, in part. Those most consistently opposed to same-sex marriage are older (a majority of 65+ are now against the motion).

Counteracting that, however, is that those who are most in favour of change are middle class (ABC1s), who also vote in greater numbers.

Turnouts in referenda (when compared to general elections)in the past have tended to be lower in the more western and rural constituencies, whereas higher turnout levels have been seen in the more middle class and urban constituencies, where a Yes campaign is strongest.

The goal for the Yes side will also be to ensure that younger voters in particular actually vote. Interestingly, it is not the youngest cohort who are most liberal, but rather those who came of age at the turn of the millennium. Also, males are consistently less enamoured with change.

The high levels of Undecideds also adds spice to the mix. There is a school of thought that in referenda, those who are less sure-footed in their opinion will either not vote at all, or opt for the status quo.

For both sides, these Undecided voters will be key - based on these numbers, they could help close out the deal for a Yes victory even more comfortably, or could potentially make counting on Saturday a much closer thing.

All indications suggest, however, that the momentum of the Yes campaign is not going to be derailed on Friday.

Paul Moran is an associate director with Millward Brown

Sunday Independent

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