Lack of understanding main reason for Lisbon No vote

 

The main reason people voted No to the Lisbon Treaty was a lack of knowledge or understanding of what they were voting on, according to the results of an opinion poll carried out for the Government.

A total of 42 per cent of those who voted No cited this as the main reason, according to the poll carried out by Millward Brown IMS in the last week of July.

The poll also demonstrated a poor level of knowledge among the voters about the EU and the provisions of the Lisbon Treaty. 

A total of 33 per cent of the electorate thought that the introduction of conscription into a European army was included in the Lisbon Treaty while 34 per cent believed that it would end Ireland’s control over the country’s abortion policy. 

“An EU knowledge deficit is clearly present which has undoubtedly contributed to the No vote,” according to the pollsters. 

“This was evidenced in both the opinion poll and the focus group research. Knowledge of EU institutions and how they work appears to be particularly low. The difficulty of advocating a referendum that is based on the premise of institutional reform in this environment is apparent.” 

The poll did have some good news for the Government in that it found 60 per cent of voters felt that Ireland’s interests were best pursued by remaining fully involved in the EU with just 18 per cent saying the country’s best interests were best served by opting to be less involved and 22 per cent having no opinion. 

When asked if they felt Ireland’s influence in the European Union had been strengthened or weakened by the No vote a total of 14 per cent felt it had been strengthened, 42 per cent felt it had been unchanged, 30 per cent felt it had been weakened and 14 per cent had no opinion. 

Launching the poll findings the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Micheál Martin, stressed that the Government fully respected the vote of the Irish people. 

“I believe the public will be very interested in what the report shows about attitudes to the Lisbon Treaty, the European Union and the referendum campaign itself."
 
“People clearly had worries about issues that came up during the campaign. These included worries about the possible loss of influence for Ireland, corporation tax and neutrality. The report also shows that the Irish Commissioner, abortion, corporation tax, neutrality, conscription and workers rights were among the main issues that gave rise to concern among voters,” he said. 

The Minister added that the survey showed that people felt they did not have enough clear information in the run-up to voting day. This lack of information was the single biggest reason given for the decision to vote No or to abstain on June 12th.
 
Mr Martin said the results also show that people want Ireland to continue to be fully involved in the Union. 70 per cent agree that membership is a good thing, while a mere eight per cent disagree. The divisive referendum campaign has not shaken Ireland’s belief in the Union. 

The Minister said he was very encouraged by the fact that people want Ireland to be fully involved in the EU despite the difficult and often confusing campaign. 

“I recognise that there are lessons here for the political system. People clearly expect to be provided with clear information when we ask them to vote in referendums. 

“We need to address people’s concerns as we move forward. I am hopeful that informed debate about Ireland’s future role in the European Union can go a long way toward reassuring people about the important issues that are now at stake for us. We all need to work together to address the challenges facing Ireland in Europe in the wake of the referendum result,” he said.

Labour Party spokesman on Europe Joe Costelloe said given the scarcity of legible, intelligible material and the total absence of any text it was understandable that a lot of people decided to vote no.

"This poll confirms that the lack of information was a key factor in people deciding to vote no. This clearly
demonstrates that no referendum should be put before the people ever again without properly informing them in the most comprehensive way possible," he said.

He said the Government must now use the poll findings to inform its assessment, not just of the Lisbon treaty itself, but also of Ireland’s role in the European Union and it should ensure that that debate starts at the
earliest possible moment in the Dáil and Seanad.

Sinn Fein MEP Mary Lou McDonald called on the Government to “knuckle down” and prepare the groundwork for the EU summit in October, adding that there could be no "re-run" of the Lisbon Treaty.

“The loss of a commissioner, the erosion of Ireland’s neutrality, the undermining of workers rights and declining democracy between the EU and its member states have all been cited as key reasons why the people said no to Lisbon,” she said

"Minister Martin has today claimed that the government fully respects the vote of the Irish people. If this be the case then the government must publicly acknowledge once and for all that there can be no re-run of the Lisbon Treaty.”