Low level of engagement in Seanad referendum is becoming an issue
Analysis: Campaign on vote to abolish Upper House has failed to catch fire with public
Conventional wisdom is that the danger from a Government perspective is a low turnout will translate into a higher No vote in the Seanad referendum. Photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times
There is less than a fortnight to go to the referendum on the abolition of the Seanad.
Yesterday saw quite a lot of activity from both sides of the argument, with broadcast debates, announcements on the plinth of Leinster House, and volleys of press releases being fired across the political divide.
Still, it’s hard to escape the sense that the campaign has not really caught fire. At first glance this seems extraordinary. What is being proposed will remove one of the pillars of the 1937 Constitution and effect arguably the biggest change in the Irish parliamentary system since the foundation of the State.
There is strong anecdotal evidence that people are not engaged, notwithstanding a strong Fine Gael campaign and an emerging No campaign spearheaded by Fianna Fáil and Democracy Now. In the first Lisbon Treaty a significant number of the electorate voted No on the basis that they didn’t know what would happen if the Treaty was passed (scare stories that did the rounds like forced conscription into a European army were not effectively encountered). Now, it is not so much that voters don’t know as they don’t really care.
It is hard to gauge why the level of engagement has been so low. Sure, the campaign has not been as visible as some others, but it is certainly not anonymous. Perhaps it’s still a little too early: increased coverage and campaigning in the last 10 days before polling might dramatically increase the purchase with the public.
Conventional wisdom is that the danger from a Government perspective is a low turnout will translate into a higher No vote. The only measurement that seems to contradict that at present is the fact that unlike the last five referendums, the gap between the Yes and No camps has stayed consistent at between 18 per cent and 21 per cent in recent polling.
That said, no politicians around Leinster House from either side are making any confident predictions at present.