Is there a ‘gender gap’ in Irish voting behaviour? Looking at GE 2011

Does gender impact on voting behaviour in the Republic of Ireland? Although historically Fianna Fáil was the most popular party with women voters (the female vote may have been crucial to their success in 1977 in particular), research on more recent elections suggests that gender differences in party support are small and usually not statistically significant.

Data from the 2007 and 2011 RTE/Lansdowne exit poll allows us to look for differences between men and women in terms of their voting behaviour in the most recent general election. Table 1 (below) shows party choice by gender in 2011, as well the percentage of first preference vote switchers since 2007.

Party

Total

Male

Female

Gap

Male switch since 2007

Female switch since 2007

FG

36

36

36

0

9

11

Lab

21

18

24

6

8

14

Ind/Oth

16

15

16

1

9

8

FF

15

17

13

-4

-25

-29

SF

10

12

9

-3

4

3

Greens

3

3

3

0

-1

-2

Table 1: First preference votes and vote switchers by gender in the 2011 GE (Source: 2007 and 2011 RTE/Lansdowne exit poll).

Fine Gael received a majority of support across the gender divide, with both men and women displaying an equal propensity to vote for the party. With a two point gap, women voters were slightly more likely to switch their vote to Fine Gael.

Interestingly, a discernible six point gap emerged between men and women in Labour support. This is particularly interesting given that both voted for the party on equal terms in the 2007 general election. Although further research is required to tease out the factors behind this gap, the higher proportion of female candidates running for Labour compared to the other parties, some of whom had very high profile, may have played a role in courting more of the female vote.

A smaller gender gap also transpired in support for Fianna Fáil, with the party receiving a higher percentage of the male vote. Women were also more likely to move their first preference vote away from the party.

Men have traditionally been more likely to vote for Sinn Féin and this pattern continued in 2011. The difference in support for candidates in the independents and others category was miniscule, while both men and women were just as likely to vote for the Greens.

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About Claire McGing

PhD student with interests in gender politics, electoral geography, candidate selection and political reform.
This entry was posted in Election data, Gender and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Is there a ‘gender gap’ in Irish voting behaviour? Looking at GE 2011

  1. Izzy says:

    Interesting stats. I suspect that you are right about Labour.

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