'The slow puncture in Yes support was inevitable'
Communications expert Terry Prone gives her view of developments so far
Veteran communications expert Terry Prone has been intrigued by the way both campaigns have unfolded.
"The slow puncture in Yes support was inevitable," she says, "and I'm sure built into the campaign planning, just as 'Healthcare' was chosen as a key pillar rather than 'Rights'.
"One of the reasons for the slow puncture was that the campaign was founded on abstract concepts: Compassion. Trust. That's most easily demonstrated in posters, where the Yes side is represented by words that reassure the already converted, but convert nobody because they stop nobody in their tracks.
"They evoke nods from people who already believe, whereas the No posters that say 'Compassion doesn't kill' have the capacity to make the unsure do a finger-snap and decide that was what they were thinking all along."
Prone says a key plus for the Yes side is their use of facts and experts. "So when the No side talks of foetal hearts beating at X number of weeks, Yes experts rightly point out it's not really a heart at that point but a neural tube.
"But facts and expert descriptions don't rattle a voter's fillings the way talk of a heartbeat does."
But she believes some of the Yes appeals evoke a false positive. "Everybody says out loud that they trust women, for example. Or at least most people have the grace to shut up if they don't. That silence doesn't mean everybody has been convinced."
Despite much of the commentary since Claire Byrne Live, she believes some of the No side activities, "like jeering and being vocally obstructive in radio/TV debates, are not as dangerous as they look" because "those likely to vote No tend to see media as part of the Establishment on this issue, therefore see media outrage as predictable".
Prone argues that some of the most compelling media appearances have been made by people with no agenda. "Joe Duffy [on Thursday] had two women who plan to cancel out each other's vote, who got talking and continued their conversation on the air. It was courteous and civilised.
"But it also hammered home how unpersuadable people are on this one when they've made up their minds. Which is why we need to look with an eyebrow raised at that high, high number of 'undecideds'. Nonsense. They're decided. Just not telling. I believe hearts and minds are already won at this point and that while the campaigns may get fraught and frantic because of the impending deadline, that may achieve little other than people turning their radios to all-music stations."