The Vote No campaign: not prepared to be turned

THE potential for a significant late swing to the No side in the upcoming Lisbon referendum has been found in private focus group research which shows that the passing of the EU treaty is far from guaranteed.

The research, carried out by elements of the Yes campaign, confirms recent opinion polls that show a comfortable majority of voters backing the treaty.

But it also shows that a "significant percentage" of the Yes vote is soft and could be persuaded to switch sides in the final weeks of the campaign.

"There is a very substantial Yes vote and there is a less substantial No vote but when you drill into those figures, the No vote is much more solid and less prepared to be turned. The research shows a significant number of voters on the Yes side that could be termed soft Yes voters," said one campaigner for the treaty.

There is concern among some elements of the Yes campaign that complacency has started to creep in as to the outcome of the referendum on 2 October.

"The idea that this is going to be a routine victory for the Yes side is a dangerous delusion. There is a presumption in parts of government that we are going to coast this," one senior figure on the Yes side told the Sunday Tribune.

And while there is an acceptance that the campaign will not begin in earnest until September, some on the Yes side are worried by what they see as a "lack of engagement" and fear they could be "sleep walking" to another defeat.

"It would be wrong to say it's currently a tight race. It's not. The referendum is definitely winnable – the research shows that. But it's not a certainty. It's not a done deal. It will require more positive campaigning, not slagging off the No side. The fear factor alone won't work and we need a lot more energy in the Yes campaign. People who voted No last time [but are looking to vote Yes in October] will be angry if they think their vote is being taken for granted," the senior Yes figure said.

Yes campaigners say there has been "an inexorable increase" in distrust of Europe in Ireland. There is a rock solid 35% who will vote No on any EU referendum, made up of a mix of left-wing voters who believe the EU has fostered a neo-liberal agenda and conservatives who believe Brussels has had a negative impact on Irish society.

The research shows that the percentage of people who will definitely vote Yes is slightly higher than the 35% core No vote, but there is a further 25% of the electorate who, the research shows, could be persuaded to change their minds on the issue.

While a majority of that 25% are currently planning to vote Yes, "the potential is there for people to shift from the Yes camp," a source who has studied the research warned.