Poll reveals class a key element in Lisbon vote


The Irish Times reports that a striking feature of the recent referendum on the Lisbon Treaty was a massive difference in the class composition of those who voted 'No' and 'Yes', according to an analysis of the results of an opinion poll carried out for the European Commission.

Among manual workers, 74 per cent voted 'No' to the treaty, while among the self-employed, 60 per cent voted 'Yes'. There was a corresponding difference between the more educated who voted 'Yes' and the least educated, who voted 'No'.

Prof Richard Sinnott of UCD, who specialises in analysing voter behaviour, said that, in a society where there has been little evidence of class voting in elections or referendums, the class factor in the treaty vote was substantial.

He was speaking at the European Commission offices in Dublin where he presented an analysis of the survey carried out among a sample of 2,000 people who were polled in the days after the referendum. Prof Sinnott also presented an analysis of the regular twice-yearly Eurobarometer poll - the last one of which was conducted in April during the referendum campaign.

The highlights of the survey, which have already been published, showed that a majority of women and young people voted 'No', while a majority of men and older people voted 'Yes'.

The main reason given for voting 'No' was a lack of knowledge about the treaty - with 22 per cent of 'No' voters holding that view. The main reason given by 'Yes' voters for their decision at 32 per cent was that it was in Ireland's best interests.

When it came to party affiliations, a majority of Fianna Fáil supporters - 60 per cent - voted 'Yes'. However, the 40 per cent of Fianna Fáil supporters who voted 'No' comprised the biggest element of the 'No' vote as broken down by party support. Fine Gael voters were evenly divided, with 51 per cent voting 'Yes' and 49 per cent voting 'No', while 55 per cent of Labour supporters and 57 per cent of Green Party supporters voted 'No'. Sinn Féin was the only party whose supporters were completely in tune with the party's position, with 95 per cent voting 'No'.

One of the remarkable features of the poll was that 67 per cent of voters thought the 'No' campaign was most convincing, with just 15 per cent giving that accolade to the 'Yes' campaign. Even among 'Yes' voters, a majority of two to one thought the 'No' campaign more convincing.

More than half of the voters only made up their minds on how they would vote during the final weeks of the campaign - indicating that the poor quality of the 'Yes' campaign played a significant part in the outcome.

While lack of knowledge of the treaty was cited as the most common reason for voting 'No', the second reason given was to protect Irish identity, followed by safeguarding Irish neutrality. When taken with the Eurobarometer poll - which showed a jump in the number of people who believe national identity is more important than European identity - it appears that this was also an important factor in the result.

However, there are apparent contradictions between the two polls. The Eurobarometer poll showed that a substantial majority of people still believe that membership of the EU was good for Ireland and that the country had benefited from membership.

It also showed that institutions like the European Parliament and the European Commission generated a much greater level of trust than national institutions like the Dáil, while a substantial majority of Irish people supported a European common foreign policy and even a defence and security policy.

Yet, a comparison of the Eurobarometer polls in Ireland and Denmark, carried out by Prof Sinnott, found striking differences. Danish voters know far more about the EU, but Irish voters had a much stronger attachment to their national identity. The attachment to national identity in Ireland is the second highest in the EU, with only Britain feeling stronger on the issue.

Source - The Irish Times