Seanad referendum set to pass on cost argument

Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll finds 44% would vote to abolish Upper House while 27% want it retained

The Government is on course to win the referendum to scrap the Seanad on grounds that abolition will save money, according to a new opinion poll by The Irish Times and Ipsos MRBI.

When undecided voters are excluded, the poll indicates the abolition proposal is backed by 62 per cent, with 38 per cent in favour of retaining the Upper House.

The poll indicates the separate referendum to establish a new Court of Appeal is also on course to be passed on Friday, but there were a few more undecided voters than those saying they would vote for the new court.

Support for the Coalition's campaign to scrap the Seanad has narrowed. Excluding undecided voters, the level of support for abolition was 72 per cent in June in the last comparable poll by The Irish Times and Ipsos MRBI. There was 74 per cent support for abolition in February.


The latest poll was carried out last Friday and Saturday among 1,000 adults at 100 sampling points throughout all constituencies.

Some 44 per cent of respondents said they would vote to abolish the Seanad, 27 per cent said they would vote to retain it, 21 per cent did not know how they would vote and 8 per cent said they would not vote.

While the Coalition has come under fire from Seanad supporters for claiming abolition would save €20 million a year, the potential for savings is by far the biggest motivating factor for people who will vote to scrap the chamber.

No power

Among those respondents, 43 per cent said the “main reason” to favour abolition was to save money.

A further 16 per cent said the Seanad didn’t do much or had no power and 14 per cent said two parliamentary chambers were not needed and that other countries had only one.

Only 8 per cent said they were motivated first by a wish to reduce the number of politicians and 5 per cent said their motivation was that senators were not democratically elected. Another 4 per cent said they did not know any senators or what the Seanad does.

Among respondents who will vote to retain the Seanad, 54 per cent said they did not want to give the Government more power or believed there should a check on the Government.

Another 20 per cent said their prime motivation in voting to keep the House was because they did not trust or like the Government.

Only 4 per cent of those who will vote to keep the Seanad said they would do so because they didn't believe the alleged savings. A further 2 per cent said their motivation was that the savings were not significant.

Court of Appeal

There is 46 per cent support for abolition in rural areas and 43 per cent support in urban areas. Seanad retention is backed by 29 per cent in urban areas and 24 per cent in rural areas.

Support for abolition is strongest among older voters: 35 per cent of respondents aged 25-34 said they would vote to scrap the House and 52 per cent aged 65 and older favour abolition.

Excluding the large number of undecided respondents, the poll suggests the plan to set up a Court of Appeal is backed by 76 per cent, with 24 per cent in favour of maintaining the existing system . The proportion of undecided voters was 44 per cent, 43 per cent will vote to establish the new court and 14 per cent will vote against change.

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley is Current Affairs Editor of The Irish Times