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A new Ireland? A look at the numbers behind the marriage equality and abortion votes

Just how similar were the two votes?

LAST WEEK THE Irish public voted overwhelmingly to repeal the Eighth Amendment. Just over three years before that there was another large win, this time for same-sex marriage.

Both social issues were passed with huge majorities, nearly two-to-one in the case of marriage equality and just over two-to one in the case of abortion.

The margin of win and the similarity of the vote in either case have led some to suggest that Ireland has become decidedly progressively liberal on social issues.

Ireland abortion lawsYes campaigners celebrate the Yes vote in Dublin Castle.Source: PA Images

So how close were the two votes?

Well, in terms of the overall percentage vote they could certainly be described as similar.

The yes vote for marriage equality was 62.07% and for the repeal of the Eighth Amendment it was 66.4%. 

Referendums that offer a binary choice can often produce results that are very close so anything above 60% to one side is usually approaching landslide terrority.

To give some context, the UK Brexit vote was 52%-48% in favour of Leave and can clearly be classed as a tight vote. The Scottish Independence referendum in 2014 was 55%-45% and so is considered a clear win but short of a landslide.

Both Irish votes can therefore be considered big wins. And if we are to take 60% as being a kind of baseline figure for a 'landslide', more constituencies got that title this year than was the case three years ago.

20180530_Yes_Vote Source: Statista

What about turnout?

Turnout in both referendums was well above average as well. Turnout for the marriage equality referendum was 60.5%, the highest turnout for 16 previous referendum days stretching back to 1995 when Ireland voted on divorce.

Last week's referendum was even larger with a turnout of 64.13%. All three bumper turnouts suggest that Irish people will come out to vote on social issues.

In last week's vote, 36 constituencies out of 40 had a higher turnout than 2015. The four constituencies with a lower turnout were Carlow-Kilkenny, Dublin Central, Dublin Bay South* and Limerick city.

By constituency

In each referendum, only one constituency dissented from the rest of the country in how they voted. In 2015, Roscommon-South Leitrim voted no while this year Donegal voted no.

It means that only two counties voted differently than they did last time and again points to similarities between the two votes.

In fact, of the top five constancies that went no last week, three of them were also nos in 2015.

20180530_No_Votes Source: Statista

*Dublin Bay South did not exist in 2015, but it was made up of Dublin South East with parts of Dublin South Central, both of which had a higher turnout in 2015 than Dublin Bay South did this year.

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About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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