April 20, 2018 / 8:36 AM / in a year

Strong lead for Irish abortion reform despite slip in support

Demonstrators hold posters as they march for more liberal Irish abortion laws, in Dublin, Ireland September 30, 2017. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne/Files

DUBLIN (Reuters) - Irish voters who favour liberalising the country’s abortion laws maintain a strong lead with five weeks to go until a referendum despite a slip in support over the last three months, an opinion poll showed on Friday.

Irish voters will be asked on May 25 whether to liberalise the abortion laws, the first opportunity in 35 years to overhaul one of the world’s strictest regimes that has long divided the once deeply Catholic nation.

The Irish Times/MRBI poll found that 47 percent would vote to repeal an amendment to the constitution that enshrines the equal right to life of the mother and her unborn child, with 28 percent opposed and a further 20 percent undecided.

When the same poll asked in January whether voters would support a change allowing the government to legislate for abortion on request up to 12 weeks - the regime it hopes to introduce after the vote - 56 percent were in favour and 29 percent against.

However Friday’s poll showed a strong conviction among those who have already declared their support for reform, with four in five voters saying they would “absolutely never” change their mind.

Furthermore, 30 percent of undecided voters said they were “leaning towards” repealing, twice as many as were leaning towards keeping the amendment.

Support for change was strongest among younger voters, women and those living in urban voters.

Ipsos MRBI managing director Damian Loscher said that while it was early in the campaign, with a number of groups launching campaigns on both sides this week, it was reasonable to expect voting intentions would translate accurately.

“Abortion is a hot-topic issue and the vast majority will have made up their minds by the time interviewers knock on their doors,” he said.

Reporting by Padraic Halpin; Editing by Alison Williams

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