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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 20, 2015 - Volume 43 Issue 08
Polling looks good for Irish marriage referendum
Section One
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Polling looks good for Irish marriage referendum

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Almost two-thirds of Irish voters want to change the country's constitution to allow same-sex marriage, according to a new Sunday Independent/Millward Brown poll.

The constitutional amendment is supported by the Irish government, although the ruling Fine Gael party is generally conservative, and a referendum on the issue will be held in spring.

The poll is not entirely good news, however. While 62% of respondents favor equality, one-third of them say their support is 'soft,' meaning they could be persuaded to change their minds. Another 22% of respondents say they 'don't know' how they will vote.

Only 16% say they will vote against the amendment to recognize Gay and Lesbian marriages.

The highest levels of support for equality was recorded among those under 35 (73% support), and Sinn Fein members (72%). Sinn Fein is a republican party, which in the context of Irish politics means it favors reunification of Ireland free of British influence.

Sinn Fein's overwhelming support for same-sex marriage is surprising because republicanism is usually associated with Ireland's Catholics.

Women support the idea by 68%, and Fine Gael members by 66%.

On the other side, the greatest opposition comes from voters over 65 (36% say they will vote No), and farmers (32% No). Members of the center-left Fianna Fail party also show unusually high opposition to equality (29% No) - probably because their Fine Gael rivals proposed the referendum.

Poll respondents also showed overwhelming support for Health Minister Leo Varadkar, who recently announced he is Gay. Almost three-quarters of those surveyed said Varadkar's decision to come out made no difference to their opinion that he should become the next Taoiseach (Prime Minister).

Three-quarters of those who do not want him to become the next Taoiseach also said his sexuality does not influence their opinion.

Current Taoiseach and Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny is trailing behind Varadkar with a little more than one in five saying he should continue to lead the party when the country goes to the polls.

The Marriage Equality referendum is considered a major test of Kenney's leadership and anything but a resounding win for the Yes camp would be seen as a failure for Kenny and could lead to his replacement by the openly Gay Varadkar.

The Labor Party, now the junior partner in a coalition government led by Fine Gael, is 'throwing every resource into campaigning for a Yes vote but their Coalition colleagues are not treating the referendum with the same enthusiasm,' according to the Independent newspaper.

Fine Gael politicos who represent conservative rural districts are reportedly soft-pedaling the referendum, fearing a backlash from voters in their constituencies.

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