Sunday 22 September 2019

Yes in free fall but Kenny fights back

POLL SHOCK: Dramatic 13-point drop in support for same-sex marriage

Sunday Independent/Millward Brown opinion poll
Sunday Independent/Millward Brown opinion poll
Taoiseach Enda Kenny hailed the "fantastic news" for Ireland's digital sector
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

Jody Corcoran, Brendan O'Connor and Philip Ryan

Support for same-sex marriage is in free fall - down 13 points in a month, a Sunday Independent/Millward Brown opinion poll has found.

Only a slim majority (53pc) now say they intend to vote Yes in the marriage referendum on Friday.

The sharp fall in Yes support is evident across the urban/rural divide, among men and women and in all age groups.

However, the No campaign has failed to capitalise on the decline in Yes support.

The poll finds the Yes side is still on course for victory, but the number of undecided voters is on the increase as polling day approaches.

The findings will, nevertheless, cause alarm in Government and among Yes campaigners.

Last night, in reaction to our poll, Taoiseach Enda Kenny told the Sunday Independent that voter turnout was now "crucially important" for the Yes side to win.

He said: "I would say to people: don't leave it to others to make this change."

The poll finds that, for the first time, only a minority of rural voters (46pc) intend to vote Yes - down 14 points since March/April.

And for the first time a minority of male voters (45pc) say they will vote Yes - down 18 points. But there has also been a significant fall in support among urban voters (57pc) - down 13 points.

A majority of women (60pc) still intend to vote Yes - but that is a nine point drop in a month. And Yes support has softened in all age groups, even among the youngest voters aged 18 to 24 - down 16 points to 60pc.

Read more: 'I am perfectly clear in my mind and in my conscience'

The dramatic fall in support for same-sex marriage comes despite cross-party support, backing by non-governmental organisations and endorsements from celebrities, show business and sporting figures.

The Coalition partners are this weekend fighting over which party should be represented in a final RTE debate this week. Fine Gael wants Health Minister, Leo Varadkar - the 'poster boy' of the Yes campaign - to shore up support on Prime Time this Tuesday. But Labour is insisting that Communication Minister Alex White debate with the No side, which will be buoyed by this poll result.

However, our poll also finds that campaigners against same-sex marriage have had only limited success in converting Yes voters to the No side.

The poll has found that a quarter (24pc) of voters, up three points, intend to vote No. But there has been a massive rise in those who now say they do not know how to vote (23pc) - up 10 points.

Excluding the one-in-four who are undecided, the poll shows the referendum will still be passed, with a clear majority (69pc to 31pc) in favour of the proposed constitutional amendment.

But the Taoiseach has told the Sunday Independent the referendum outcome is still uncertain.

The face-to-face poll was taken at 64 sampling points nationwide from May 2 to 15. The margin of error is 3.1pc.

The poll clearly shows the Yes campaign has lost momentum as the campaign enters its final week.

However, it also suggests that the Yes side should still have enough momentum to win on Friday.

In an interview with the Sunday Independent, Mr Kenny said: "No, I don't reckon it's home and dry."

Yesterday in response to the poll he said: "I would say to people: don't leave it to others to make this change. If you want marriage equality, it's crucially important to turn out on Friday to vote for it. I hope that when people reflect on the question they're being asked they will say 'Yes' to their fellow citizens, our families and friends, having an equal right to the happiness and security of marriage in this state."

Read more: Forget silent No, meet shy Yes

Fine Gael campaign manager Simon Coveney yesterday also said the referendum was "certainly not won" and said the Yes side needed to increase its efforts in the final days of the campaign.

"There's no such thing as a referendum that's easily won. This is something we will have to fight for and focus on a big campaign in the last week," Mr Coveney told the Sunday Independent.

Both sides in the campaign are this weekend convinced that voter turnout will be crucial to the outcome.

There will be concern among Yes campaigners that a low turnout will further dilute its support.

According to the poll, those most opposed to same-sex marriage are older: a majority (57pc) of those aged 65 and over are now against the proposed amendment.

Those most in favour are middle class, ABC1s, who also tend to vote in greater numbers.

Turnouts in referendums, compared to general elections, also tend to be lower in western and rural constituencies.

And turnout in the more middle class and urban areas, where the Yes campaign is strongest, tend to be higher.

The Yes side this week will be anxious to ensure that the younger voters in particular turn out to vote.

Paul Moran, associate director of Millward Brown, said today the poll suggested the Yes side has had a "wobble".

He says some Yes supporters have "taken stock of the arguments, and have paused for reflection".

However, the No side had not "capitalised" hugely on it so far, he said.

In today's Sunday Independent Mr Moran writes: "Even still, the yes side's lead seems unassailable."

Sunday Independent

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