The polls, conducted last weekend, showed 24% of people opposing the Marriage Equality Referendum.
In the past number of weeks two opinion polls from the country’s leading newspapers have shown a drop in support for May’s marriage equality referendum.
Last weekend’s Sunday Independent/Millward Brown opinion poll revealed that when ‘don’t knows’ are excluded, 76% of those polled plan to vote ‘yes’ in the referendum, while 24% intend to vote against same-sex marriage.
The previous Millward Brown poll showed 80% in favour, with 20% against the referendum.
An Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll a week earlier, at the end of March, indicates support for the Government’s proposal is now at 74%, a drop of 6% since its previous December poll. The ‘no’ vote has also increased from 20% to 26%.
President of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), Laura Harmon explained: “This is not unusual for a referendum campaign. Polls always tighten every week closer to the time. People often don't make their minds up on how they are voting until the final weeks of a referendum campaign. It's nothing to do with apathy.”
She added: “I think the referendum will still pass if the 'yes' campaign continues to mobilise and canvass. I think the margin will be a lot closer than people think though.”
Speaking to Campus.ie one University of Limerick student said: “The results we have found are not alarming, but it does make interesting reading for comments section and analysis. It's a great way, on the business front, to sell more newspapers, as we are led to believe that there will be a nearly unanimous 'yes' vote.
“We all know someone who is voting 'no' though, and if we add all those numbers together, it's clear that there will be some sort of competition.”
He explained: “I remember watching statistics jump from 10% to 60% for the 'yes' vote in the Scottish referendum. And look how that turned out?”
Another student said he believed the ‘no’ side are appealing to the emotions of many undecided voters. He explained that the ‘no’ side are using words like “family” and bringing the idea of “innocent children” into the debate.
He said: “The 'yes' side are focusing on the critical facts and figures and therefore appealing to the head rather than the heart. Unfortunately, in referendums, the undecided demographic with no ties to the LGBTQ community, don’t really bother themselves to go away and look at the facts and vote purely on how they were moved emotionally.”
Reflecting this view of a focus on family, a third student said the campaign against same-sex marriage targets the idea of “family".
She added: “The word ‘family’ is in every one of the 'no' campaign videos, etc. I don't think I've seen many 'yes' campaigns use the ‘family’ word. It's relatable to almost everyone, you see.
“The 'yes' campaigns use ‘same love’, ‘equality’, etc. and that's only relatable to some people really. Could we fire up a campaign in which we use ‘Equal Families’ as a heading slogan? Of course we could. It's the ‘F’ word that's working for the 'no' campaigners. Definitely. Family.”
One person told Campus.ie: “I think it's part the ‘no’ campaign's influence and part people's cynical stubbornness - I've seen people react to LGBTQ-issue stories with ‘There are starving children and people are dying and you're giving air time to this?’ as if by actually highlighting issues faced in the LGBTQ community is silencing other completely unrelated issues.”
A young political activist explained: “There's a certain layer of people, I'd say, who would've been sitting on the fence, more than anything, who instinctively would be in favour of a move to gay rights, but who might be in a religious community or come from that background and are exposed to propaganda.
“The other thing to keep in mind is that the Government are in favour of this passing and a small minority of people are so angry at the current situation that they'll vote against anything the Government wants. By and large, most people will vote on the issue itself, but there does seem to be a small amount of protest vote.”
A local election candidate from last May’s elections explained: “There is also the factor of people not wishing to express an opinion that they fear may label them in some way or another e.g. expressing ‘no’ to a pollster they may be afraid of being labelled homophobic.”
“This referendum is far from won. It's ordinary people at grass roots level that will decide it,” he added.
The referendum on marriage equality is due to be held on May 22nd, alongside a vote on the age of presidential candidates.
In past number of years Students’ Unions around the country have come out in support of a ‘yes’ vote, including National University of Ireland Galway (NUIG) SU, University College Dublin (UCD) SU, and University of Limerick SU.
The national union for Irish students, USI, has also put its backing behind the referendum and is actively campaigning for the electorate to pass marriage equality late next month.
Campus.ie contacted campaign group Mothers and Fathers Matter for comment, however no response was received at the time of publication.