Close result in Nice referendum predicted by new poll


Next week's Nice Treaty referendum will have a close result, according to an Irish Times/ MRBI opinion poll showing significant movement from the Yes to the No camp during the campaign.

The poll shows 45 per cent intend to vote for the treaty, seven points down on the last poll. Some 28 per cent will vote No, a figure seven points higher than in the last Irish Times/MRBI poll. The number with no opinion is unchanged at 27 per cent.

The gap between Yes and No voters has therefore fallen by 14 points over a fortnight. The poll was conducted among a national quota sample of 1,000 electors at 100 sampling points throughout all constituencies in the State on Tuesday and Wednesday this week.

Excluding the don't knows, 62 per cent of those who expressed a preference said they would vote Yes, with 38 per cent saying they would vote No. However, the evidence of movement from the Yes to the No camp, the high number of undecided voters and the expected low turnout of 40 per cent are likely to make the final margin considerably tighter.

The most strongly supported of the three referendum propositions is that enabling Ireland to endorse the International Criminal Court. Some 64 per cent are in favour, down one on the poll of fortnight ago; 13 per cent are against, up two; and 24 per cent have no opinion, unchanged.

The removal from the Constitution of any provision for the death penalty is supported by 51 per cent, down four; 31 per cent are against, up three; and 19 per cent have no opinion, up two.

Support for the Nice Treaty is highest among supporters of the Progressive Democrats (65 per cent), Fianna Fail (51 per cent) and Labour (50 per cent). Surprisingly, the next most enthusiastic Nice supporters are Green Party supporters, with 49 per cent in favour and 30 per cent against. This runs contrary to the party's strong No campaign. Some 45 per cent of Fine Gael supporters are in favour, 40 per cent of supporters of independent candidates and 38 per cent of Sinn Fein voters.

Treaty support among the higher paid ABC1 group has fallen 12 points, to 47 per cent, during the campaign. Among farmers it has fallen two points to 46 per cent, while among lower paid voters it has fallen four points, to 43 per cent.

The level of public understanding of the issues involved in the Nice Treaty has risen in the past two weeks. Some 15 per cent say they have a good understanding of the issues, up four points. Those saying they understand some of the issues but not all are at 32 per cent, down six points. Some 31 per cent are only vaguely aware of the issues, down one. Those not knowing what the treaty is about at all have fallen 11 points, to 19 per cent.

The shift to the No camp has been accompanied by greater scepticism about European integration. Some 43 per cent said their view was closest to the statement that Ireland should do all it can to protect its independence from the EU.

Irish participation in the Rapid Reaction Force is also endorsed by the public. Participation is favoured by 49 per cent, opposed by 32 per cent with 20 per cent having no opinion. Support among Sinn Fein supporters is higher than average at 54 per cent, with 32 per cent of Sinn Fein supporters against. This is despite that party's strong opposition to it.