Relief for Yes side but opponents can take heart too


OPINION POLL ANALYSIS:Supporters of Lisbon will be glad their lead has held steady while the No camp has won more undecided voters. The gap, however, looks too large to bridge

THERE IS encouragement for supporters and opponents of the Lisbon Treaty in the latest Irish Times/TNS mrbi poll, but the Yes side will be happy that its lead has held steady during the critical stage of the campaign.

The big concern for the Yes side was to ensure that a slide in support for the treaty, shown in the Irish Times poll at the beginning of the month, did not continue as the campaign went into its final weeks. That ambition has been realised but supporters of the treaty will have to work hard to keep their lead intact for the last few days of the campaign.

The No campaign will take heart from the fact that it has managed to win over more of the Don’t Knows than the Yes side did during September, but it does not appear to have closed the gap sufficiently to pull ahead by polling day.

At a similar stage coming to the end of the first Lisbon campaign, the No side had gone into the lead by 35 per cent to 30 per cent, with 35 per cent still in the Don’t Know camp. The feature of that campaign was the slump in the Yes vote in the final weeks of the campaign as the Don’t Knows drifted into the No camp. This time the number of Don’t Knows is much smaller and they are not going No to the same extent.

Excluding the Don’t Knows, the Yes side is now in the lead by 59 per cent to 41 per cent, which compares with 61 per cent to 39 per cent at the beginning of the month.

Over the past few weeks almost all of the political parties – Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, Labour and the Greens – have been campaigning for a Yes vote and there has also been a vigorous campaign by a number of civic society groups in favour of the Lisbon Treaty.

On the No side, Sinn Féin is the only Dáil party campaigning against the treaty, alongside Socialist Party MEP Joe Higgins, and a number of left-wing and ultra-conservative groups who have campaigned against every EU treaty.

The Labour Party has had a particularly challenging task in the campaign given the scepticism of a significant proportion of its supporters about the impact of the treaty on workers’ rights, which was fanned by No posters falsely claiming the minimum wage could be cut to €1.84 if the treaty was ratified.

The strong No poster campaign has clearly had some impact and that has been reflected in the fact that there is now a No majority among working class DE voters.

However, the campaign of the major parties and the civic society Yes groups is reflected in the fact that the Yes vote has increased a little over the past few weeks. The strong endorsement of Lisbon by the Irish Farmers’ Association has also had an impact on pushing up Yes support among farmers.

Support for the treaty among the farming community has risen to 68 per cent (up 10 points in three weeks), with just 24 per cent No and 8 per cent Don’t Know.

In class terms, support for Lisbon has held up well among the better-off AB voters, with 62 per cent in favour and only 18 per cent against, with 20 per cent Don’t Know. The picture is very different at the other end of the social scale, with 48 per cent of the poorest DE category against the treaty, 33 per cent in favour and 19 per cent Don’t Know. This represents a drift among working class voters to the No camp since the beginning of the month.

Younger voters are also fertile ground for the No campaign. Among the 18- to 24-year-olds there is a small No majority of 41 per cent to 39 per cent, but among the next age group, 25 to 34, the No lead is bigger at 42 per cent to 36 per cent.

Older voters are more inclined to back the treaty, with the strongest support coming from the 50 to 64 age group, where there is a Yes majority of 60 per cent to 25 per cent. The over-65s are equally as supportive, by 59 per cent to 24 per cent.

The pattern of stronger support for Lisbon among men than women continues, with 51 per cent of male voters saying they will vote Yes compared with 34 per cent No and 15 per cent Don’t Know. Among women, support for the Yes side drops to 45 per cent, with 33 per cent No and 22 per cent Don’t Know.

In regional terms, the Yes lead is strongest in Dublin, where 50 per cent say they will vote Yes and 30 per cent No. In Connacht-Ulster there is also a 50 per cent Yes and 33 per cent No. In Munster it is 48 per cent to 35 per cent and Rest of Leinster is the least enthusiastic region, with 46 per cent to 36 per cent.

In party terms, Fianna Fáil voters are the most enthusiastic supporters of the treaty by a margin of 74 per cent to 16 per cent. Fine Gael voters come next in support with 57 per cent Yes to 31 per cent No.

Labour Party supporters are less enthusiastic but there is still a majority of 46 per cent in favour and 34 per cent against, reflecting the stand taken by the party at national level.

Green Party supporters are also in tune with their party leaders, favouring the treaty by 52 per cent to 35 per cent following the decision of a party convention to back Lisbon.

Sinn Féin voters are strongly against the treaty, in line with the stance taken by the party, with 66 per cent intending to vote No and just 14 per cent Yes. There is also opposition to the treaty among Independent and smaller party voters, with 46 per cent against and 38 per cent for it.