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Average TD is more pro-EU than average voter: study

Has EU integration gone too far? ‘Yes’ say 45 per cent of voters – but only 18 per cent of TDs.

The average TD in Fine Gael and Labour is more pro-EU than the average person who voted for them.
The average TD in Fine Gael and Labour is more pro-EU than the average person who voted for them.
Image: Peter Morrison/AP

THE AVERAGE TD is significantly more in favour of further integration between European Union states than the average voter, a new study has found.

Research carried out by Michael Courtney of Trinity College’s Department of Political Science has found that the average member of the public is significantly more likely to believe that European integration has gone too far.

Expressed on a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 represents too much integration and 10 represents too little, about 45 per cent of the general population would give an answer of 4 or lower.

This compares to only about 18 per cent of the Dáil, the study said, using 2011 surveys of successful general election candidates and of general public sentiment.

Courtney’s study, published by the London School of Economics, argues that the difference in opinions is largely accounted for by the fact that the demographics of the Dáil are significantly different to that of the general public.

“Irish MPs are more likely to be male, middle-class, middle aged and more highly educated than voters,” Courtney notes, later adding:

The general hypothesis is that MPs drawn from over-represented social groups will be in favour of more EU integration. Conversely we should see that female, young, lower class and less educated MPs should be less in favour of EU integration.

He goes on to argue that those in the high-earning social classes, which are better represented in the Dáil than in general society, are more likely to favour European integration than the lower-earning classes which provide proportionally fewer TDs.

Much of the gap between public and political opinion appears to come from Fine Gael and Labour voters: taking the same 0-to-10 poll, the average Fine Gael TD answered 6.16, while the average Labour TD gave 5.58. Those TDs made up 113 of the 165 elected last year.

This compares to answers of 4.4 and 4.2 for Fine Gael and Labour voters respectively.

Sinn Féin TDs and voters showed the highest gap, with the average Sinn Féin TD giving an answer of 0.67 – believing that EU integration had gone way too far – while the average Sinn Féin voter gave an answer of 4.3.

The study argues, however, that the divergent opinions between the Dáil and the general population does not represent a democratic deficit – as the terms of the Irish constitution require a referendum every time it is proposed to give more power to the EU.

This is in contrast to the UK, where the referendums on public policy are relatively rare – meaning that an individual MP’s opinions, which could turn the outcome of a vote in parliament, are subject to higher scrutiny.

Germany: Support grows for referendum on further EU integration

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Gavan Reilly

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