Poll shows Kenny faces tough fight to win same-sex marriage vote
POLLSTERS predicted a landslide majority and Taoiseach Enda Kenny has launched a personal appeal for a 'Yes' vote.
But now that a date of May 22 has been fixed for the referendum to permit same-sex marriage, and the campaign lines are being drawn, the extent of voters' doubt is becoming more apparent.
A Red C opinion poll yesterday revealed that the vast majority of voters say they support changing the Constitution to allow couples of the same gender to marry. In all, 77pc of voters say they are in favour.
But when a series of more detailed questions are put into the mix, this number falls eventually to 44pc. This and other factors raise serious doubt about whether the proposition can succeed.
Red C's managing director, Richard Colwell, wrote an analysis of this latest opinion poll. "There is still much to be done to secure those who claim they will vote 'Yes'," the Red C boss wrote in 'The Sunday Business Post'.
Only 59pc of those who said they will vote 'Yes' said they strongly held that opinion. The other 18pc were more tentative about their voting intention. The pollsters also asked further questions about matters related to the issue of gay marriage. One-third of those prepared to vote 'Yes' said they had reservations about gay couples adopting children.
Those who said they would vote Yes were further asked if they had reservations about the concept of the same-sex marriage referendum. In this case, 42pc said they had reservations about the idea of the referendum.
Both findings do not mean those saying they will vote 'Yes' will reverse that intention. But the findings clearly reveal considerable doubt about the outcome on May 22.
The Taoiseach used his leader's address to the Fine Gael national conference in Castlebar on Saturday night to urge a 'Yes' vote in the referendum. Mr Kenny said this would send out a powerful signal internationally that Ireland was a fair, compassionate and tolerant nation and he urged Fine Gael activists to canvass.
The Red C opinion poll indications confirm misgivings already publicly expressed by Junior Equality Minister Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, who told the Irish Independent at the start of the year that a huge campaign would be required to ensure the referendum is carried.
The Labour Party, more closely associated with the project than Fine Gael, will certainly give a firm commitment to the referendum at its national conference in Killarney next weekend.
But it is unclear how many members actually canvass and there are doubts about how many Fine Gael activists, or those from other larger parties, will campaign.
Fine Gael strategists have already acknowledged that opinion polls, by now very helpful in predicting a general election outcome, are far less helpful when it comes to referendums. This is partly because the majority of referendum voters only make up their minds in the final days and their response to pollsters is an instinctive, top-of-the-head answer.
There is also precedent for referendums with support from all the main parties being defeated in recent years. This means that the less well-known groups opposing this marriage referendum have a good chance of causing an upset.