Last week, the Irish foreign minister presented the details of an opinion poll analyzing the reasons behind the island's "No" vote on the EU's Lisbon Treaty on June 12. Three months ago, the latest EU attempt to streamline the 27-nation bloc's institutional structures and decision-making procedures was rejected by a 53-43 percent margin. The poll was conducted in late July and involved more than 2000 Irish eligible voters. I have summarized some of the report's key findings below:
Turnout for the Lisbon Treaty referendum was 53 percent, well in excess of the 35 percent who voted on the first Nice Treaty. The decisive issue was the increase in No voters as a proportion of the total electorate, rather than Yes voters staying at home.
The main reason cited for voting No was "lack of knowledge/information/ understanding" at 42 percent. There can be little doubt that this emerged as the primary reason for people voting No.
The main reason for abstaining in this referendum was also "lack of understanding/knowledge" (46 percent), which is far in excess of any other voluntary or circumstantial reason given for not voting.
Women recorded a stronger No vote than men (56-51 percent margin) as did the younger age groups, with 25-34 year olds being most opposed to the Treaty at 59 percent. Affluent voters were more likely to vote yes (64 percent), while blue-collar workers were strongly opposed to the Lisbon Treaty (65 percent).
Sixty percent of Irish voters believe that Ireland's interests are best pursued by remaining fully involved in the EU. Fewer than 1 in 5 of the electorate (18 percent) believe Ireland's interests are best served by opting to be less involved.
Twenty-six percent of No voters mentioned Treaty specific elements that were of concern to them, 20 percent cited general issues around the referendum, whilst 16 percent mentioned issues specifically to do with loss of power/independence (i.e., erosion of Irish neutrality, end of control over abortion and conscription to a future European army).
In the meantime, reports have surfaced indicating that the pro-EU government in Dublin will agree to hold a second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty in the Fall of 2009, most likely after having extracted concessions on keeping its only EU commissioner as well as sensitive issues such as abortion, taxation, and military neutrality.