The Neverendum


From top; Dublin city centre; Dan Boyle

I have never really had a lot of time for opinion polls. This hasn’t been because I have often found myself on the wrong side of their prognostications. Rather I have come to form the belief that opinion polls can be used to lead, rather than reflect public opinion.

A requirement exists in some European countries that opinion polls cannot be publicly published within a set time of an election date. An attempt several years ago to introduce such a provision into Irish law, was defeated in Seanad Éireann, which then was displaying a rare display of independence.

As former member of the Seanad I would like to see the independence of the Upper House being asserted more frequently. However, in this instance I believe the view of the Seanad was wrong.

The influence of opinion polls is not in persuading voters favouring one candidate or proposition over another. They don’t telegraph an assumption that voters should get in line with a trending ‘winning’ candidate or proposition.

What they can do, and do do, is create an impact on likely turnout. Polls which show large margins, induce complacency and make it less likely that supporters of a candidate/proposition deemed to be ‘winning’ will come out to vote.

Polls on the upcoming referendum seeking to rescind the Eight Amendment to the Constitution, should be looked at in this light.

It is highly unlikely that the final results of the May 25 vote will be anything like what is currently being portrayed. The suggested Yes vote should be looked at as being particularly suspect. In no respect should a successful Yes vote be taken for granted.

Part of this would be because of the established trends over the past 35 years of constitutional debates in this country, debates that have taken place between liberal and conservative viewpoints. Experience shows that invariably conservative opinion strengthens and solidifies during the course of a referendum campaign.

The different criteria used by polling companies to weight the don’t know/don’t care responses received, often fail to catch the nuances of these responses. Follow through questions on whether those polled are very likely, less likely or not likely to vote do little to catch these nuances.

Allocating don’t know opinions in the proportion of those who have expressed an opinion, even with weightings on who is and who isn’t likely to vote, distorts rather than confirms the prevailing opinion.

These misgivings aside the declared intentions seem, at this remove, to favour the Yes side. Support, while receding, seems closer to the 50%+ level needed. The receding Yes vote does not seem to be translating into new No support. Indeed No support also seems to be receding, albeit at a slower rate than that of Yes.

What is being recorded is a growing number of don’t know voters. This doesn’t represent good news for the Yes campaign. That campaign has to produce the reasons for positive change. The more uncertainty that is created the less likely voters will be to vote Yes.

Turnout will be key. The higher the turnout the more likely a Yes vote will prevail. It can be done. I’m hopeful it still will be done. None of us can or should assume that it will happen.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle


36 thoughts on “The Neverendum

  1. mildred st. meadowlark

    Dan I’d like to think that no one is taking a Yes vote as given, or for granted. This is our chance to undo the mistake written into our constitution 25 years ago.

  2. newsjustin

    The success of the SSM referendum (forgetting about the arguments for/against for now) was one of the best and/or worst things for the Yes side of the abortion referendum. Discuss.
    (10 marks)

    1. ReproBertie (SCU)

      Yeah Dan, how do you feel about stuff happening in another country that has no relevance to this referendum?

      1. Sentient Won

        Dead baby body parts for sale: Nothing in the so-called “General Scheme of a Bill…” that attempts to prevent it.

        Now, what rate of VAT should we charge for these sales? Is there a case for Excise duty?

        Dan, we need your input on this.

        1. Sheik Yahbouti

          Instead of selling whole babies like we used to do? Tut tut. (BTW your canard is a load of bunkum).

        2. Listrade

          What stops them selling body parts from stillborn babies? Oh yeah legislation like the European Union (Quality and Safety of Human Organs intended for Transplantation) Regulations 2012.

          Who’da thunk it, you can’t just set up a stall at the farmer’s market selling baby brains and spinal chords. You need parental consent.

          1. Sentient Won

            Ok I get it.

            No selling of body parts from babies who die due to natural causes.

            But what about babies who die by ‘procedure’? What legislation prevents the sale of those body parts? Food flavouring, vaccines, etc; There seems to be a market for this ‘product’.

            I mean, nobody waned these babies anyway, right? Surely it must be possible to turn a buck on them?

          2. david

            Ah now if the unborn have no constitutional right to life that changes the laws
            It will be utilisations of waste

          3. Listrade

            Obviously you don’t get it otherwise you wouldn’t keep posting crap and lying.

            The legislation doesn’t distinguish on cause of death, it simply states that for any organ donation there must be consent. It isn’t hard to see that this one story from the US you’ve been pushing all effing day has zero relevance.

    2. Listrade

      Yeah Dan, comment on a video that led to 3 congressional investigations and 15 individual state investigations whereby even Mike Pence (notorious champion of abortion and Planned Parenthood) stated that there was no evidence of wrongdoing on behalf of PP.

      But don’t comment on the decades of organ retention carried out by hospitals in Ireland for stillborn children. That would make Sentient look like they’re cherrypicking issues and being disingenuous in this discussion and we don’t want that because all we want is a respectful and adult debate about the key issues.

    3. Daisy Chainsaw

      What body parts do you expect to harvest from a grape sized foetus? The brain, at that stage, might be bigger than yours though.

      1. Sentient Won

        Big Business Daisy, (done on the QT).

        Here’s how it works.

        In the first model, the Planned Parenthood affiliate uses a Tissue Procurement Organization (TPO), like StemExpress, to manage fetal organ harvesting at their surgical abortion clinics. The TPO model virtually guarantees that the Planned Parenthood clinic will profit from supplying fetal tissue, because the TPO handles all of the costs of procurement while still paying the abortion clinic a fee per usable body part harvested.

  3. qwerty123

    Turnout will be key for the yes side, we all know the No voters will be out come hail rain or snow. agreed Dan. If its a 50% turnout or less it will be very close.

    1. david

      And they will
      You see I do believe in the mother comes first and look at Israelis abortion laws which are clear concise but sadly I will vote no because I cannot trust this government to actually do something correctly ,
      Once that eight is removed any chance of the unborn like handicapped is under threat
      If it was printed on the ballot paper what exactly is to replace the eight I would know exactly what termination would be legal
      I do not want abortion on demand which is my view like many others
      Who would vote yes provided a law ensured it could not be abused
      Constantly I express this point and constantly get abused
      A one for every one in the audience type of proposed legislation is not something to vote for
      Abortion is divisive but we cannot be railroaded by lies half truths
      By stating women cannot get health care because no abortion is ridiculous and look at the headlines
      Women given false results by HSE over smear tests
      That’s an example of failure of delivery of health not abortion
      No matter what the result people will die as a result of negligence and our incompetent HSE

      1. ReproBertie (SCU)

        Every time you post something like “any chance of the unborn like handicapped is under threat” you get corrected, not abused, because it is both incorrect and offensive.

        Every time you ask for the law to be included in the constitution you get reminded that the constitution is not the place for specifics and the 8th amendment is a perfect example of specifics in the constitution causing harm.

        You ignore these simple facts because it’s easier to play the victim and then toss around insults at anyone who disagrees with you.

        1. david

          Bertie once abortion on demand is a reality. the laws that are proposed are not necessarily the laws we will get,and even you cannot tell me the actual law that will be brought in
          This is the fact
          Now lets examine the costings for the HSE and the expense the state will have to bear with a handicapped child
          Who knows what pressure will be brought to bear on the mother scanned regarding the future by experts and consultants,and at a time that a massive nightmare presents its self and the choices they have to make.
          The rights to protection to anyone in the constitution protects people
          Look at the travellers and the resistance to recognise their culture under the constitution.
          It took only last year finally under the constitution their culture is recognised and as such the onus of the state to ensure their culture is respected and rights are there for them

          Look at the sheer murder up north because of an Irish language act
          When something is removed I want to see exactly what is to replace it as in laws that will be un amended and copper fastened into our land not might be this could be that and oh I did not think of the implications herej
          As for corrected or whatever you throw at me
          If so where is the law on our statute books?
          And where is the laws passed through our different houses waiting for compliance with our constitution?
          They are nowhere to be found so unless you actually have it to show me you are in the land of speculation.
          Not one of you that constantly attack me can provide the proof
          So like an old record I go on and on and on

          1. Nigel

            YOU’RE in the Land Of Speculation on the Continent Of Slippery Slopes on the Planet of Howling Histrionics.

          2. ReproBertie (SCU)

            david you have no interest in proof. Now you’re suggesting that parents will be bullied into abortions by the HSE because their children will be expensive. Should I ask you for proof to back this nonsense up? It’s obviously a complete fiction but you don’t care. Throw enough muck has been your tactic from day one. You just want to play the victim while you spout the same nonsense over and over and over with occasional mentions of Israel, Sinn Féin and now the Irish language act and the travelling community for some reason. You throw irrelevances in all the time to try and distract from the emperor’s new clothes of your arguments.

          3. david

            Nigel Bertie, might be’s are what you are voting for.
            I am just highlighting once the protection is removed then its open season.
            And like before with the single mothers, and church pressurising mothers to give away their babies its possible.
            Even you cannot argue with that
            Its the land of speculation for both sides as we do not know what exactly will be the new laws
            And I would not trust this government one inch as the past has proven
            Look at only today the smear tests
            The giving of medicines that could cause Alzheimer.
            The waiting lists the trolley crises the homelessness the rapid broadband brexit the abuse revealed yet again to children in foster homes
            The list is endless
            And all these things are fact
            Now you expect that the unborn being at the mercy of this shower

          4. Nigel

            We’very seen how women fare at the mercy of the 8th. We know what legislarion is proposed. We know what you’re stating as facts and certainties are pure scaremongering.

  4. Gabby

    The most accurate opinion poll is the final count after an election or referendum. I agree that Ireland should have a law forbidding the publication of any opinion poll 3 days after an election or referendum has been called.
    On the subject of opinion polling in general I have reservations. Political parties pay out heavy sums of money regularly to opinion survey companies. Findings are never published, but secretive strategy committees continually advise top politicians how to behave, speak or even how to dress. The electorate is treated as a market and marketing strategists use all kinds of psychological, linguistic and branding gimmickry to achive enhanced sales results.

  5. Frill the 8th

    Give them nathin’ lads
    Keep pushing the canvas and get the vote out

    Early and often
    And then straight to Dublin Castle for the count

  6. Rep

    Those ROSA posters in the pic really annoy me. I can’t imagine them changing anyones mind. They don’t even look like that is their intention. Am angry, shouty statement.

    1. rotide

      Agreed, but then again everything ROSA does is annoying. Their basically the Youth Defence of the yes side

  7. ReproBertie (SCU)

    Yeah, you’re not highlighting. You’re scaremongering.

    The church used to bully women into giving up babies so the HSE might. Not even you can believe that nonsense.

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