Irish voters overwhelmingly repealed a constitutional ban on abortion, according to an exit poll by the state broadcaster, a sweeping change that caps an emotion-filled debate and marks another significant step away from the country’s historic Catholic influence.
If confirmed by the official vote count, Ireland is expected to join the U.S. and much of the rest of Europe in allowing abortion, a milestone in the undoing of the close relationship to the church that developed after Ireland gained independence from the U.K. in 1922.
The RTE survey of 3,000 voters across the country on Friday found that 69.4% had backed repeal of the ban, while 30.6% had supported its retention. A separate survey of 4,000 voters carried out for the Irish Times newspaper found 68% backed repeal, against 32% who were opposed. Opinion polls long pointed to a victory for repeal, but none had suggested the margin would be so large. If confirmed, the vote in favor of repeal would be larger than that recorded in a 2015 referendum that backed gay marriage.
The referendum campaign, which dominated the country’s airwaves and streets for weeks, largely pitted younger, urban Irish voters against older and rural voters. In a sign of the quickly changing times, Prime Minister Leo Varadkar had committed his government to supporting the move to repeal the ban.
“Thank you to everyone who voted today,” Mr. Varadkar wrote on his Twitter account. “It’s looking like we will make history…