The Irish Times view on the referendum poll: the gap narrows with a week to go

The Yes side has a clear route map to victory, but the outcome remains uncertain

As things stand, the referendum to remove the Eighth Amendment from the Constitution is on course to pass. But with a week to go before polling day and the No side closing the gap, the outcome remains uncertain. That's the conclusion to be drawn from the final Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI opinion poll of the campaign.

Asked how they would vote in the referendum, 44 per cent of respondents said Yes (down 3 points in three weeks), 32 per cent said No (up 4 points) and 24 per cent said they were either not sure or not voting.

Those who have decided are unlikely to change their minds, the poll suggests. That means the result hinges on two questions. First, will the campaigns succeed in bringing their “soft” supporters to the polling stations? Second, how will that large group of people in the “not sure” category break next Friday?

Both campaigns will take encouragement from different findings. The Yes side has a clear route map to victory in that the poll underlines strong public support for wider access to abortion. A big majority – 62 per cent – believe Irish law needs to change to recognise a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion.

The younger, more affluent and urban the voter, the more likely he or she is to vote Yes. Dublin in particular will be critical to the outcome. Support for Yes is far higher in the capital (52 per cent) than anywhere else in the country. The higher its vote there next Friday, the better the Yes side can offset a larger No vote in other parts of the country.

For its part, the No side will see signs for hope in the closing of the gap. In the 10 days leading up to the marriage referendum in 2015, the Yes vote dropped by eight points. If that were to happen again, the No side would be within touching distance of victory. It can count on solid support in rural areas, and among older people, who generally turn out to vote. The findings show that while a win for No is a long-shot, it’s far from impossible.

On the legislation the Government has said it will table in the event that the referendum is carried, which would provide for abortion on request up to 12 weeks, the findings are telling. Some 47 per cent of respondents agreed that Irish law needed to be changed but thought the 12-week proposal “goes too far”. The No side will take some encouragement from that.

However, a larger share (54 per cent) said that while they had reservations about 12 weeks, they felt it was a “reasonable compromise” and would be an improvement on the current situation.

That suggests that, for many, reservations about the legislation are being over-ridden, to a large extent, by a strong determination to ease one of the most restrictive abortion regimes in the world.