As you’ll no doubt have heard, Ireland voted by a huge margin to repeal the 8th amendment to its constitution, paving the way for the liberalisation of abortion. The margin of victory (66-34) was unexpected – conventional polls had been mixed, with some of them pointing to that sort of result, but others having suggested a much closer outcome. But the historical trend in this type of referendum has been a late surge for No, and that wasn’t in evidence this time.
So where does this leave Northern Ireland? Well, I’ll leave the debates about the process to others (it’s a devolved matter, but devolved government is suspended, so it’s arguably a constitutional grey area) and stick to public opinion. In Great Britain, where we have a fair amount of data, the BSA has consistently found similar (and most recently slightly higher) support for abortion than the 2-to-1 referendum margin in the Republic of Ireland.
The best quality data we have for Northern Ireland is from the NILT survey (a Northern Irish equivalent of the BSA), which in 2016 asked some questions about abortion in different scenarios. The proportion saying abortion should “probably” or “definitely” be legal was 70 to 80 per cent in all of the “special” scenarios (foetal abnormality, incest, rape or safety of the mother). But that fell to 34 per cent, with 60 per cent saying it should be illegal, when the scenario was “…because [the mother] has become pregnant and does not want to have children”. Ann Marie Gray has a writeup here.
There is also a conventional poll by LucidTalk, also from 2016, which found 56 per cent choosing “NI’s abortion laws should be totally compatible with abortion laws in the rest of the UK” over three other options. The difference could be methodological, but it seems more likely that the reference to the “rest of the UK” might have been favourable to that option among unionists, so I think that finding should at least have an asterisk beside it.
Back in Great Britain, Ipsos MORI had voting intention polling, putting Labour and the Conservatives neck-and-neck, but Theresa May still leading Jeremy Corbyn on satisfaction ratings.
Anthony Wells, in a not-so-subtle followup to the ComRes polling published earlier in the week, has asked some questions on Lords reform, and finds the public more indifferent than outraged when it comes to the upper house.
Peter Kellner thinks Labour Remainers could swing a second referendum.
And the British Election Study team have been busy – Jane Green gave the Sir Roger Jowell memorial lecture on electoral shocks, and Jon Mellon and Prosser have a paper out looking at polling accuracy.