The right to an opinion

Sir, – While I share approximately none of Paul O'Beirne's political or social views (Letters, June 1st), it may be of some consolation to him to know that he is far from alone as a conservative who is reluctant to air his opinions. Indeed his perspective is arguably the underlying cause of many major political upheavals in the modern world.

The phenomenon of a “shy Tory”, that is a voter who recognizing how unfashionable their conservative views are, and won’t even divulge them to pollsters, was identified the 1990s. However, when David Cameron was elected prime minister in 2015 the concept assumed major importance. Of over 90 polls conducted in the previous six weeks, none predicted the outcome. And to Mr Cameron’s surprise, having won an overall majority, he had to follow through on his election promises, including the Brexit referendum. That drama continues to unfold.

The issue of reticent Trump voters (which, in hindsight, perhaps seems an oxymoron) also confounded pollsters in the run-up to his election, with most predictions favouring his opponent. Admitting to support him was seen as socially unacceptable, however.

Another dramatic example was seen recently in Australia where the incumbent prime minister, Scott Morrison, won a general election despite not having topped a poll in two years. He is well known for his religious faith, and membership of the Pentecostal church. Writing in the Australian newspaper, journalist Kevin Donnelly has suggested this result was due to mobilisation of a Christian vote, perhaps motivated by the Israel Folau scandal.


In any case, it’s hard to see how two years of polls can be so wrong in a country where voting is compulsory.

Ultimately, in any democracy, respect for the views of our opponents is important.

I believe that pillorying the likes of Mr O’Beirne is unhelpful, and so give him credit for publicising his experiences. – Yours, etc,



Co Cork.

Sir, – Paul O’Beirne seems to believe that the right to freedom of speech carries with it a right to uncritical agreement with one’s opinion. No such right has ever existed, nor should it. Free speech applies not only to your letter writer but also to those who would disagree with him. – Yours, etc,



Co Leitrim.