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How did the polls change in the run up to other recent referendums?

History has shown us they’re not exactly a perfect science.

Image: MCCULLOU MARTIN MCCULLOUGH/PA Archive/Press Association Images

THE POLLS FOR the same-sex marriage referendum have been showing in favour of the Yes side.

A poll taken last month showed 67% of people in favour of a Yes vote, with 21% against and 12% undecided.

However, as previous referendums have shown us, voting patterns can shift dramatically as the Referendum date approaches.

Divorce referendum 

The Divorce Referendum of 1995 is often cited as an example when talking about the big difference between what people say to pollsters and how they vote once they are in the privacy of the polling booth.

The level of support for the the Yes side narrowed dramatically in the run up to the referendum.

In May of 1995, six month before the actual vote, more than 70% of those asked said they would be voting in favour of the amendment.

As time went on, this narrowed dramatically, with support for the amendment becoming marginal in the weeks before the vote.

On the day, the referendum passed by the narrowest of margins, with a majority of less than 10,000 votes, out of a total of 1,633,942 votes counted.

Seanad referendum 

The Seanad referendum was another example of polling information before the election failing to represent the way things actually turned out.

Almost all of the polls taken in the run up to the vote showed respondents in favour of abolishing the upper chamber outnumbering those in favour of keeping it. However, also included in the polling data were are large number of undecided voters.

seanad referendum poster Source: Sam Boal/Photocall

In November 2012, polls showed a majority in favour of the abolition, with an Ipsos MRBI poll in the Irish Times showing 55% support.

By September of 2013, things were still looking positive for the side in favour of abolition, with 44% for to 27% against and 29% undecided.

In the end, undecided voters proved decisive, with polling day seeing a swing away from what had been forecast in the polls.

The referendum was rejected on 4 October 2013 by the electorate with 51.7% voting against it and 48.3% voting in favour of it.

Children’s referendum 

The Children’s Referendum, which changed the constitutional outline of the way the State can engage with children’s rights and the ability of the State to take protective measures over children.

Leo Varadkar Leo Varadkar before casting his vote in the 2012 referendum Source: Laura Hutton/Photocall

A poll taken three weeks prior to the vote showed 74% in favour of passing the amendment, although with voters expressing concern that not all the relevant issues were clear.

This referendum passed on 10 November 2012 with 58% of voters in favour of the changes. The vote had one of the lowest turnouts of any referendum in the history of the State, with only 33.5% of the electorate voting.

Read: Someone has finally made a properly funny video about the same-sex marriage referendum

Also: These teachers worry that a Yes vote could mean teaching 4-year-olds about the word ‘gay’ 

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