Ireland abortion referendum: May 25

On Friday, Ireland will vote on whether to repeal its restrictive abortion law. Yes leads in the polls, but there are likely to be shy No voters. Guest post by Adrian Beaumont.

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian’s work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here.

In 1983, Ireland voted by an emphatic 67% to 33% in favour of a constitutional amendment – the eighth amendment – that allowed abortion only if the mother’s life was in danger, including by suicide. Other than this exception, abortion within Ireland is a criminal offence. Irish women who want abortions need to travel to the United Kingdom.

On Friday, May 25, Ireland will hold a referendum to repeal the eighth amendment. If the referendum is passed, parliament will be able to legislate regarding abortion. A Department of Health policy paper proposes to allow abortion within the first twelve weeks of pregnancy; where there is a foetal condition likely to lead to death before or shortly after birth; or where there is a physical or mental threat to the mother’s health. These proposals are likely to be adopted by Parliament if the Yes vote wins the referendum.

There have been three polls with field work during May. Two of these polls gave Yes a lead of 28 to 29 points, and over 50% of the vote including undecided voters. The most worrisome poll for Yes supporters was an Ipsos poll that gave Yes just a 44% to 32% lead. There are likely to be shy No voters who say they are undecided in a referendum on social reform.

In 2015, Ireland approved same-sex marriage at a referendum by a 62% to 38% margin. However, the four final polls had a Yes vote averaging 71% on a two-answer basis, so they overstated the actual Yes vote by nine points, and the difference between Yes and No by 18 points. If we subtract 18 points from the Yes lead in the current Irish polls, Yes leads by 10-11 points in the stronger May polls, but No leads by six in Ipsos. It is likely that Yes will win the referendum, but not as likely as implied by looking at the raw Yes leads in the polls.

Polls in Ireland close at 10pm May 25 local time (7am May 26 Melbourne time). However, counting will not begin until 9am May 26 Irish time (6pm Melbourne time). I would expect final results by Sunday morning Melbourne time.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

22 comments on “Ireland abortion referendum: May 25”

  1. Interesting analysis. Where oh where are the Shy Left voters?

    I assume there will be a residual impact of the loss of authority of the Church arising from pedophilia and from other forms of abuse by church organizations, nuns and priests.

    I also note that this move runs in the opposite direction from the US where restrictions on abortion are increasing in pace.

    For example, Trump has recently ordered that US funded clinics are forbidden to refer women to abortions.

  2. @Boerwar

    Trump has been a disaster for womens’ rights. I’m hopeful for American women though because there seems to be a renewed interest by women for politics and activism. A lot of female candidates are running against republicans.

  3. Oh come on. Given the polls and past progressive results; the yes has it.

    44% to 32% lead. Love to see that as the Labor/Liberal polling numbers.

  4. How can Eire consider itself as a developed country when half its population do not have control over their own bodies. I hope the Yes vote succeeds

  5. The abortion laws in Northern Ireland are also highly restrictive.
    The effects of the presumed yes vote will have an interesting effect north of the border.
    No executive has been formed and the assembly has been unable to meet since the January 2017 election resulting in defacto rule from Westminster. There is also no provision for referendums
    Theresa May would be very brave indeed to change the current arrangement, particularly when the Orange Order and some DUP MLAs have campaigned for No

    Some are predicting a flood of Northern women coming to Dublin abortion clinics (can’t see it myself)

  6. You mean the DUP but I can understand the confusion. Both border on fascism.
    Yes may is history if the DUP withdraws support but as they hate Labor with a passion it’s unlikely

  7. OC
    Thanks for clarification. Am reading JG Farrel’s ‘Trouble’ so am somewhat mired. A good read, IMO, if you have not come across it before.

  8. The Ipsos poll “that gave Yes just a 44% to 32% lead” seems, flukily, to have been about right as to the 32% for No. What a reverse of the Brexit and Trump outcomes!

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