European Treaty referendum turnout levels in the Dublin City constituencies in the 2000s

Adrian Kavanagh, 31st May 2012

As polling in the European Fiscal Treaty referendum continues today, there is a lot of talk of low turnouts being recorded so far at different polling centres, so this would be an appropriate time to look at the extent of how turnout levels may vary between different areas. The previous post looked at how turnouts varied between different Dail constituencies, but this post will offer a more detailed study of turnout difference using turnout data for much smaller areas – electoral divisions in the Dublin City constituencies, based on ballot reconciliation turnout figures for these elections, as made available from the Dublin City Returning Officers official website.

Figure 1: Voter turnout by electoral division in the Dublin City constitiencies for the 2001 Nice Treaty referendum.

The map of turnout levels for the first Nice Treaty referendum vote in 2001 (Figure 1) points to very low turnout levels across the Dublin City constituencies area (covering Dublin City but also a number of electoral divisions in Fingal and South Dublin counties which fall within the constituencies adminstered by the Dublin City Returning Officer). Turnout averaged out at 39.0% across these six constituencies, which was actually a higher level than the turnout level nationally (34.7%). Turnout was greater than 50% in only a handful of electoral divisions in the Drumcondra/Glasnevin and Clontarf areas, while most of the electoral divisions in the Dublin Inner City, Ballyfermot/Cherry Orchard, Finglas, Ballymun and Darndale had turnout levels of lower than 30%. Indeed turnout fell below the 15% level in the Cherry Orchard A electoral division. Average turnout differences between the 25% most affluent electoral divisions (average turnout level of 43.3%) and the 25% least affluent electoral divisions (average turnout level of 27.3%) amounted to a difference of 16.0%.

Figure 2: Voter turnout by electoral division in the Dublin City constitiencies for the 2002 Nice Treaty referendum.

Higher turnout rates were recorded nationally for the 2002 Nice Treaty referendum contest and this increase in turnout levels was also registered in the Dublin City constituencies, with the average turnout level up to 50.2%, a level slightly above the national average of 49.5%. Turnout was greater than 50% in most of the more middle class and settled inner suburban areas in the North City (Clontarf, Raheny, Howth, Glasnevin, Drumcondra and Ashtown) and South City (Terenure) areas, as shown by Figure 2. Turnout levels improved in the more working class areas in the city also, although a number of electoral divisions in the Dublin Inner City, Ballyfermot/Cherry Orchard, Ballymun and Darndale areas still had turnout levels of lower than 30%. Average turnout differences between the 25% most affluent electoral divisions (average turnout level of 54.7%) and the 25% least affluent electoral divisions (average turnout level of 37.5%) amounted to a difference of 17,2%, with the improved turnout levels within the city being accompanied by a slight widening of the class-based turnout differences within the city area.

Figure 3: Voter turnout by electoral division in the Dublin City constitiencies for the 2008 Lisbon Treaty referendum.

The average turnout level across the six Dublin constituencies for the 2008 Lisbon Treaty referendum improved again on the turnout level for the previous European Union Treaty referendum, with the average turnout level in this area increasing to 53.2%, a level roughly equivalent to the national average turnout level of 53.1%. As for the previous referendum elections, Figure 3 shows that the turnout levels were associated with the more middle class and settled parts of the city, with turnout levels greater than 60% recorded in a number of these areas, including Terenure, Clontarf, Raheny, Glasnevin and Drumcondra. By contrast, a number of electoral divisions in the Dublin Inner City, Cherry Orchard, Ballymun and Darndale areas had turnout levels of lower than 40%, while turnouts fell below 30% in some parts of the Dublin Inner City area. Average turnout differences between the 25% most affluent electoral divisions (average turnout level of 53.3%) and the 25% least affluent electoral divisions (average turnout level of 44.2%) amounted to a difference of just over 9.0%, pointing towards a narrowing of class-based turnout differences in the city for this contest – a factor that may have proved instrumental in terms of the victory for the No side in this particular campaign.

Figure 4: Voter turnout by electoral division in the Dublin City constitiencies for the 2009 Lisbon Treaty referendum.

Finally, the second of the Lisbon Treaty referendum votes marked yet another improvement in turnout levels for European Union Treaty referendum contests, both nationally and within the Dublin City constituencies. The average turnout level for the Dublin City constituencies area for this contest was 58.0%, a level that was exactly one percent lower than the national turnout level of 59.0%. Most electoral divisions in the more middle class and settled parts of the city had turnout levels of more than 60% for this contest as shown by Figure 4, and some electoral divisions in the Bayside, Raheny, Clontarf, Drumcondra, Glasnevin and Terenure areas recorded percentage turnout levels in the high 60s and low-to-mid 70s. Turnouts were again lower than average in areas such as the Dublin Inner City, the Ballyfermot/Cherry Orchard, Ballymun and Darndale areas, as well as the flatland areas located to the south of the Grand Canal. A handful of electoral divisions, including the Phoenix Park electoral division and a number of inner city electoral divisions (especially in the area immediately to the north and east of O’Connell Street), however still recorded turnout levels of lower than 30%, meaning that voter turnout levels in these areas was thirty percent, or more, lower than the national average. Average turnout differences between the 25% most affluent electoral divisions (average turnout level of 58.1%) and the 25% least affluent electoral divisions (average turnout level of 47.9%) amounted to a difference of 10.3%, pointing towards a widening of the class-based turnout differences in the city for this contest relative to the first Lisbon Referendum in 2008 – a factor that may have proved instrumental in terms of the size of the victory for the Yes side in this particular campaign.

These class differences were not as pronounced for the 2011 General Election when the 25% most affluent electoral divisions in this area had an average turnout level of 66.7% and the 25% least affluent electoral divisions had an average turnout level of 57.7%, amounting to a narrowing of the turnout differences between these to an average of 9.0%. The signficant change in turnout levels for the general election relative to the 2009 Lisbon Treaty referendum vote is readily evident from a study of Figure 5. Class differences, however, were more pronounced for the 2011 Presidential Election, with the average turnout for the 25% most affluent electoral divisions (56.7%) in this area being 17.9% higher than the average turnout level for the 25% least affluent electoral divisions (38.8%) at this contest.

Figure 5: Turnout differences by electoral division between 2011 General Election and the 2009 Lisbon Referendum within the Dublin City constituencies

Building on an earlier post studying turnout levels within the Dublin City constituencies area, it can be seen that class differences in turnout levels tend to vary between elections and between different types of elections. Figure 6 shows a comparison between average turnout levels in the 25% most affluent and least affluent electoral divisions in the area being studied here for different elections held during the 2000s.

Figure 6: Differences in turnout levels between 25% most affluent and 25% least affluent electoral divisions in the Dublin City constituencies area for elections held during the 2000s

Figure 6 shows that turnout levels in the more middle class areas tends to be signficantly higher than in the more working class areas for all electoral contests, but the gap between these varies according to the election and when this gap especially narrows there can be significant impacts in terms of election results, as especially evident in the 2004 local election, 2008 Lisbon Treaty referendum and the 2011 General Election.

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About Adrian Kavanagh

Lecturer in Maynooth University Department of Geography.
This entry was posted in Electoral Geography (voting maps), Referendum elections, Voter turnout and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to European Treaty referendum turnout levels in the Dublin City constituencies in the 2000s

  1. Pingback: Voter turnout levels in referendum elections in the Republic of Ireland, 1937-2012 | Irish Elections: Geography, Facts and Analyses

  2. Pingback: Voting patterns and turnout levels in Referendum elections in the Republic of Ireland, 1937-2013 | Irish Elections: Geography, Facts and Analyses

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