Give Me a Crash Course In . . . Opinion polls
What did we learn from this week’s opinion polls?
The Irish Times reported yesterday that its Ipsos MRBI opinion poll suggested a clear majority of likely voters who expressed a view is in favour of removing the constitutional ban on abortion. Although support for repeal has slipped somewhat since the last poll in January, there is no growth in the support for retaining the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution.
Asked if they would vote in favour or against removing the Eighth Amendment, 47 per cent of voters said they would vote Yes, while 28 per cent said they would vote No. A fifth of voters say they are undecided, while 4 per cent refused to answer or say they will not vote. Once the undecided and the likely nonvoters are excluded, the extent of the repealers’ lead is clear: 63 per cent to 37 per cent.
So is it a fait accompli?
The abortion referendum will not take place for another five weeks, and there is a lot of campaigning to come: voters won’t decide on the future of the Eighth Amendment until May 25th. But unless something substantial changes in the campaign over the coming weeks, the proposal to repeal the amendment, and liberalise Ireland’s abortion laws, will be passed.
It’s true that the repeal vote has de- clined since January. Today 47 per cent of voters say they will vote for repeal; in January, that figure was 56 per cent. However, this looks more like a natural tightening of the campaign than a swing in momentum towards retain, whose vote is not growing. The growth is in the number of voters who say they don’t know how they will vote yet.
Wasn’t there something about politics too?
Yes. Another element of the same poll showed that support for Fine Gael, and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s personal approval ratings, have both slipped in recent months. A three-point fall in Fine Gael support and a five-point drop in Varadkar’s rating mark the end of an encouraging run in the polls for the Taoiseach and his party.
Is this bad news for Leo?
It’s not good, but the Taoiseach remains comfortably the most popular political leader and Fine Gael the strongest party, holding a five-point lead over its nearest rivals in Fianna Fáil. While Varadkar’s personal rating falls from 60 per cent in January to 55 per cent, his rating is not only by far the highest of any political leader today, it is higher than any political leader in the post-crash period.
If Fine Gael is down, who’s up?
The best news is for Sinn Féin, which gains three points in an encouraging showing under its new leader, Mary Lou McDonald. The state of the parties, when undecided voters are excluded, is: Fine Gael 31 per cent (down 3 points compared with the last poll in January); Fianna Fáil 26 per cent (up 1); Sinn Féin 22 per cent (up 3); Labour 5 per cent (up 1); and Independents/Others 16 per cent (down 2).
Fine Gael support remains highest among the wealthiest voters and farmers, while Fianna Fáil’s strongest backers are older and rural voters. The party is stronger in Dublin, however, than it has been in recent polls.
Sinn Féin remains most popular among younger voters and those in the worst-off sections of society.
Who exactly thinks all this?
The poll was conducted on Monday and Tuesday of this week among a representative sample of 1,200 voters aged 18 and over in face-to-face interviews. The interviews were conducted at 120 sampling points in all constituencies. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.8 per cent.
Fine Gael and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s personal approval ratings have both slipped in recent months