Repeal vote still too close to call when likely Don't Know to No taken into account


The referendum to remove the clause in the constitution that limits what medical care, including abortion, women in Ireland can access approaches at the end of this month. With another poll appearing this morning we have updated our graph of how that May 25th vote would look IF the polling companies had a similar margin as they had for the Marriage Equality referendum a couple of years back. As you can see they suggest if nothing changes the result of the May 25th, Repeal vote will be too close to call until the count on the 26th.

We are going to post what the polls actually say in the first comment to this story, all the actual polls show Repeal passing. This graphic isn't a scientific prediction, simply a warning that in reality the result may be too closed to call and so every effort made in the remaining 3 weeks will matter. In 1995 Divorce passed by a tiny margin of votes, about one per ballot box - something similar is possible this time too.

This latest poll is from the Sunday Independent and carried out by KMB. It shows an increase in the No vote. Their raw numbers were:
Yes 45%
No 34%
Don't Know 18%
No response 4%

In the 2015 Marriage Equality referendum there was a sharp drop in the last week with many Don't Knows switching to No. There were 4 polls published the weekend before the vote by same range of companies polling this time around and we calculated the error made in each companies poll then and applied to the poll data for the same company this time around. KMB were pretty close, so their adjustment is small. This is explained in more detail in our first piece on this topic, below

This poll would appear to indicate that the No method of spending an enormous amount on online advertising, billboards and posters to spread misleading fear-based messaging is having an impact. We estimate that while Yes have 5 or more times as many volunteers No has 10 or more times the cash. Whereas the source of Yes funds is pretty transparent very little is known as to where 95% of the No spend is coming from, speculation is a lot is coming from outside the country in contravention of the rather toothless SIPO rules which are powerless to prevent online ads being placed from elsewhere.

The question is what will turn out to be more persuasive over the next 3 weeks, the Yes strength of personal contact through canvassing or the No strength of a deluge of online and offline paid advertising. One thing that can be said is Facebook's failure to introduce meaningful ad transparency is in danger of deciding another vote.

We can also see the problem with referendum campaigns coming through - by their nature they are short term attempts to convince people to come over to a side rather than to change fundamental attitudes. The huge age discrepancy between Yes & No illustrates how central the tactic of playing on deep-seated prejudices against women are for the No campaign. Such prejudices have shifted substantially for most younger voters - there is almost an opposed pre & post 1960s feminism vote at that level, something that can also be observed in the Trump and Brexit votes.

BTW we've seen anti-choice spokespeople claim this result reflects how people felt about 'who won' the Late Late Repeal show. This isn't possible as that broadcast was 27th and this polling was carried out from April 18 to 30th, i.e. 3/4 before that broadcast.

Repeal the 8th isn't in the bag yet - a warning from Marriage equality poll comparisons  - April 30th story

Today we are warning that Repeal the eighth vote can't be assumed to be already won even through No have failed to increase their vote.  If the same last week shift comes into play as for Marriage Equality & Divorce we are looking at a result to close to call. We are going to explain why we are saying this in detail using polling figures from Marriage Equality and this campaign.  Its going to get a little scary as we go through these but there is hope at the end.

The 1995 Divorce referendum looked to be in the bag from advance polls with a 2:1 lead but on the day was only narrowly carried 50.3% Yes to 49.7% No.  A result so close that its said the difference was only one vote per polling box in the country.  It appears with Divorce that either the polling companies had got it wrong or more likely a major drop in the Yes vote happened in the last 10 days.  This was too long ago to draw detailed parallels between polling but we can do just this with the Marriage Equality polls.

Marriage Equality also saw a sharp drop in last week. There were 4 polls published a weekend before by the same range of companies polling this time around - the top left table shows each poll and then actual result first for raw data, then with Don't Knows excluded, as you can see all 4 polls overestimated the share of Yes by 7 to 9%.

This table below compares each companies poll with the actual result & then calculates how much of Don't Know became No and in the two cases where that was over 100% how much of the Yes vote became No.

Marriage equality as of May 16/17 SBP/RedC 11-13 SI/MB 2-15 ST/B&A 1-11
IT/MRBI 13-14
Yes 67 53 63 58   62
No 27 24 26 25   38
Don't Know 6 23 11 17    
Excluded removed
Yes 71 69 71 70   62
No 29 31 29 30   38


Shift N+6 Y-5 N+14 Y+9 N+12 Y-1
Y+13 Y+4
Ratio of transfer 100% +8% 61% 100% +2% 76%


Using these percentages in the bottom table we recalculate all the polls by applying the error ratios for each company from the Marriage Equality referendum to each of their polls on the Repeal the 8th vote.  IF (ands its a big IF) it was same error this time around the referendum would only narrowly be carried in the B&A poll and narrowly defeated according to both MRBI and Red C polls.

  MRBI Jan Red C Jan B&A Feb B&A March Red C March MRBI April ST/B&A April  Red C April
Yes 60 55 48 48 52 54 46 51
No 40 45 52 52 48 46 54 49

Adjusted figures if the polls are as far out on Repeal as they were for Marriage Equality

To be very clear this is not a prediction, simply a warning that we can't be complacent (who is!).  The campaigns are very different in intensity & length and there is some evidence in B&A polling that the Don't Knows are splitting to Yes. 

One major difference is that the No campaign have ran a very intense campaign over months with a huge spend on misleading ads since February.  Despite this  the polls show a failure to increase the No vote at all.  All the variation in the polls of the last 3 months have between polling companies. For each company their polls across the months show no change when you account for the 3% margin of error.

But the No campaign is not focused on convincing additional voters to No but in trying to make the referendum so nasty and confusing that undecided & Soft Yes voters will stay at home or, our of fear, opt for the status quo.    This would explain the often bizarre nature of the No campaign, their failure to discourage aggression, lying and indeed the active encouragement and even participation of their spokes people in such tactics. Disengagement and fear helps them, in 1983 only 54% of the population voted in the 8th amendment referendum which saw similar tactic and worse.

But this may not work this time around.  Much has changed in Ireland, in particular rural areas, and polls indicate that the Yes voters are quite determined and sure of their understanding of issue.  80% of Repeal voters say they would never change their mind in the last MRBI poll 

Together for Yes is already canvassing areas that never had organised canvass teams during the Marriage equality referendum. Its expected that as May 25th approaches the Yes canvass will substantially grow in size & scope, as happened with Marriage Equality.  Canvassing is something you can do that will make a difference , you can sign up for.  Together for Yes have already distributed three times as many Yes posters as were distributed during entire Marriage equality campaign - in general you can say Together for Yes learned from and then built on the Marriage Equality ref experience.  Something that is of course also true of the No side, in that case its the same organisations and individuals running this campaign as who campaigned against Marriage equality (and indeed sex education, contraception and divorce, if they have been around long enough).

All the polls so far were from the period before Marriage Equality had even really launched but the No campaign has been in full swing since February.  So it may be we will see the Yes vote increase and No vote decrease in the next set of polls.

So again this scary comparison with the Marriage Equality polls in NOT a prediction but simply a warning that the strong and consistent Yes lead does not mean Repeal is already in the bag, its very much up to YOU to be part of a Together for Yes win by talking to friends, fellow workers and families and by getting formally involved in canvassing and other work.   As the referendum vote approaches people will pay more and more attention to whats said and written, particularly in final days.  So its not too late to get involved, indeed we expect that the early starters will really appreciate new faces and new energy in helping Yes win on the 25th.