by Frank Schnittger
Thu Sep 3rd, 2009 at 05:20:46 PM EST
In a development eerily similar to the first Lisbon referendum, support for the Treaty has declined as voting day approaches...Support for Lisbon Treaty falls eight points to 46% - The Irish Times - Thu, Sep 03, 2009
Support for the Lisbon Treaty has declined over the summer but the Yes side is still in the lead with four weeks to go to the referendum, according to the latest Irish Times /TNS mrbi poll.
The poll shows that 46 per cent would now vote Yes, a drop of eight points since the last Irish Times poll in May, while 29 per cent say they would vote No, an increase of one point.
The number of people in the Don't Know category has increased by seven points to 25 per cent.
When undecided voters are excluded, the Yes side has 61 per cent, with 39 per cent in the No camp. That compares to the referendum result in June, 2008, of 53.4 per cent No and 46.6 per cent Yes.
The decline in the numbers saying they will vote Yes comes after three Irish Times polls in the first half of 2009 which had shown consistently solid support for Lisbon. Most of those who have left the Yes camp have moved into the Don't Know category rather than shifting into the No camp.
In the Irish Times poll at a similar stage in the first Lisbon Treaty referendum campaign, 35 per cent said they would vote Yes, 18 per cent said No and 47 per cent said Don't Know.
Voters were also asked if, in the light of the current economic crisis, they thought it was better to be part of the EU. A substantial 80 per cent thought it better to be part of the EU, (down 1 point since the last poll) 9 per cent thought it was not (down 1 point) and 11 per cent had no opinion (up 2 points).
Asked if they were likely to vote 74 per cent said very likely, 13 per cent fairly likely, 2 per cent fairly unlikely, 6 per cent very unlikely and 5 per cent had no opinion. 91 per cent of Yes voters said they were very likely to vote but among No voters the figure was 70 per cent.
This last figure, the 91 to 71% enthusiasm gap between yes and no voters is perhaps the most hopeful figure from a yes perspective. The first time around, it seemed that it was the anti-Lisbon side who were much more motivated to vote.
It appears from the above that no "likely voter" screen has been applied to the data released tonight. Thus if one applies the 91% "likely to vote" figure to the 46% who say they will vote yes, and the 70% "likely to vote" figure to the 29% who say they vote no, the predicted outcome based on this poll is still a 2:1 vote in favour.
However the experience of previous polls is that they underestimated the no vote and did not fully capture the swing to no late in the campaign. Thus the vote could be still be around the 60:40 in favour I have been predicting for the past year.
The poll is the same one which showed support for the Taoiseach, Government and Fianna Fail down to record lows, and so the the yes vote has more than likely been degraded by the virulent anti-government sentiment which has been growing steadily over the past year.
However all the parties (except Sinn Fein) have been more united in advocating a yes vote this time around, as have numerous business, trade union, sectoral and ad hoc civic groups.
The EU is a lot more popular than the Government right now, and so anything which can be marketed as improving EU efficiency, effectiveness and cohesion is likely to fall on relatively fertile ground. There is almost no public criticism of the EU by either side and so the argument is rightly about whether Lisbon improves or dis-improves the EU from an Irish perspective.
There is no Libertas to fund the No campaign this time around and so it is increasingly being run by marginal groups like Coir (a front for extreme catholic group Youth Defense) with their fixation on abortion. The Electoral Commission have nailed the lie that Lisbon will imperil Ireland's relatively high minimum wage and the political parties seem generally more robust in challenging false assertions.
Overall, I would still be confident that the electorate will distinguish their anger at the Government and political/financial establishment from the Lisbon Treaty. However it could yet be close with a few wobbles on the way...