Irish voters went to the polls on May 25 for a national referendum to remove restrictions on abortion from its constitution, allowing abortion to be made legal in Ireland. Ipsos MRBI was commissioned by The Irish Times to undertake an Exit Poll to be published immediately after polling stations closed at 22:00 that night. Publishing an Exit Poll this quickly had never been previously achieved in Ireland and doing so would be a major challenge.
Throughout the day, 4,500 voters completed mock ballot papers as they exited polling stations. To replicate the voting process, this was done using paper ballots completed in secrecy by the voter.
The results published online by The Irish Times at 22:01 found that 67.65% had voted in favour of removing the constitutional restriction on abortion. The emphatic result of the Exit Poll came as a major surprise as a much closer result had been anticipated. However, the Exit Poll was proven to be accurate when official results the following day showed that 66.40% had voted in favour.
The Ipsos MRBI Exit Poll was more accurate than the result projected by the national broadcaster from its Exit Poll (69.30%), released more than an hour after the Ipsos MRBI prediction had been released.
The online article revealing the results of the Ipsos MRBI Exit Poll was read one million times, making it the most-read story in the 150-year history of The Irish Times. Half of this traffic was from outside Ireland as the results were seized upon immediately by many international news organisations including the Washington Post, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Guardian and El Pais.
The results were available early enough to permit extensive coverage in the following morning’s printed edition of The Irish Times, including commentary by Ipsos MRBI on how the vote differed regionally and across demographic groups.
The speed of producing the Exit Poll, as well as its accuracy, meant Ipsos MRBI had once again raised the bar in polling in Ireland. In 2016, results of the Ipsos MRBI General Election Exit Poll won the Grand Prix at the Irish Research Effectiveness Awards for its accuracy and speed (48 minutes) of production.
Exit polling relies on everyone in the organisation getting involved and making themselves available from early in the morning to late at night. It is also builds a sense of team and is hugely rewarding when it all goes to plan.
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