Lisbon Treaty faces rejection as No vote doubles in latest poll


THE LISBON Treaty could face a shock rejection with the No side now in the lead, according to the findings of the latest Irish Times/TNS mrbi poll.

It will take an unprecedented swing in the last week of the campaign for the treaty to be carried.

The poll shows the number of people intending to vote No has almost doubled to 35 per cent (up 17 points) since the last poll three weeks ago, while the number of the Yes side has declined to 30 per cent (down 5 points).

The number of undecided voters is still a significant 28 per cent (down 12 points) while 7 per cent won't vote.

The massive increase by the No vote since the last poll has mainly come through gains among undecided voters but, even more ominously for the Yes side, it has lost some support to the No camp.

While the final outcome is still in the hands of undecided voters, the clear momentum is now with the No campaign and it will take a dramatic shift in public attitudes over the next few days for the Yes side to win.

The swing to the No camp has not been prompted by domestic considerations, with just 5 per cent of those opposed to the treaty saying they are influenced by a desire to protest against the Government.

The reason most often cited by No voters is that they don't know what they are voting for or they don't understand the treaty - with 30 per cent of No voters listing this as the main reason for their decision.

The poll was conducted last Tuesday and Wednesday among a representative sample of 1,000 voters in face-to-face interviews at 100 sampling points in all 43 constituencies.

It was taken in the middle of the controversy over the World Trade Organisation talks.

That issue came to a head on Tuesday afternoon with the announcement by the Irish Farmers Association that it would support a Yes vote following the declaration by the Taoiseach, Brian Cowen, that he would use the veto to block any deal unacceptable to Ireland if the issue was put to a vote.

The poll showed that farmers are opposed to the treaty by 34 per cent to 31 per cent. The No majority among working-class C2DE voters is much bigger, with Labour voters shifting in large numbers from the Yes side.

It indicates that opposition to the treaty expressed by some trade unionists is having an impact.

In class terms, the Yes campaign is only ahead among better-off ABC1 voters.

Fianna Fáil voters continue to back the treaty but even in that category the No campaign has made massive strides in the past three weeks with a gain of 15 points to 25 per cent, while the proportion of Yes voters has fallen by five points to 42 per cent.

A clear majority of Fine Gael voters are now against the treaty - by 40 per cent to 30 per cent.

Among Labour voters there has been a massive turnaround with the No side almost doubling its support to 47 per cent with 30 per cent of party supporters in favour.

Ironically, given the party's previous stance on the EU, strong support for the treaty comes from Green Party supporters.

Sinn Féin voters are overwhelming in the No side, in line with their party's position.

The poll reveals the persistence of a significant difference in the attitudes of men and women to the treaty with women less likely to be in favour, although the biggest proportion of women are still in the undecided camp.

Across the age groups, older people are more positively disposed towards voting Yes but only among the over-50s was there a majority for the treaty. The highest proportion of No voters came from the 35 to 49 age group.

In regional terms the No lead is biggest in Munster, it was narrow in Dublin and the two sides are evenly matched in the rest of Leinster and Connacht-Ulster.

When asked for the main reasons why they had decided to vote No, not knowing what the treaty was about came first, followed by a wish to keep Ireland's power and identity.

The preservation of neutrality came next.

Those voting Yes cited keeping Ireland closely involved in the EU as their top reason followed by enabling the EU to work more effectively. Concerns about the country's economic future came next.