Voting on Europe
IN the recent referendum on the fiscal treaty it’s hardly surprising that economic concerns dominated the thinking of Yes voters. On the other hand, No voters, a European Parliament poll finds, seem predominantly to have been driven by hostility to the Government and alienation from politics. Economic reasons would feature well down their list.
Polling evidence, it seems, reaffirms the truism that many referendum voters exercise their democratic right by choosing not to answer the question they have been asked, but another. Constitutional amendments are very much a hostage of “real” politics; if anything, another poll suggests, more so this time round than ever. This poll makes interesting historical comparisons of the correlation between referendum voting and “satisfaction with government” (Marsh/Garry – Red C) .
The EP survey of 2,000 by Eurobarometer found that age, class, a voter’s economic situation and political knowledge were all key predictors of vote. Those most likely to vote Yes were aged 55 and older, while there was a narrow No majority among 25- to 39-year-olds (the negative equity generation?). And the poll confirmed the emergence of a pronounced working class vote.
Fears over the State’s economic situation were the main driver of Yes voters, with three main concerns cited: “economic necessity/stability” (by 24 per cent), “uncertainty/instability attached to No vote” (23 per cent), and “access to funding/future bailouts/No side fails to source finance” (22 per cent). (Answers were unprompted and more than one was possible).
No voters predominantly associated their vote with hostility to the government or alienation from politics: “opposition to government” (28 per cent), “distrust of politicians/misleading the people” (24 per cent). “Loss of political/economic sovereignty” was mentioned by 18 per cent of respondents; the treaty was “bad for Ireland” by 13 per cent, “austerity” and “economic reasons” by one in 10.
Two-thirds of voters continue to feel EU membership is a good thing, and the Marsh survey found more than four in five endorse the statement that “Ireland should do all it can to unite fully with the EU”, but there are also hints that future EU treaty referendums may face difficulties. The Yes vote appears to include a significant “suppressed No” vote – a third of those hostile to EU membership voted Yes out of fear that access to bailout cash might be cut off. That vote, albeit small, is likely to drift back to the No camp in future polls.