The EU referendum Vote in Northern Ireland: Implications for our understanding of citizens’ political views and behaviour

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Published on 12th October 2016

Prof John Garry (QUB) – The EU referendum Vote in Northern Ireland: Implications for our understanding of citizens’ political views and behaviour

Politics in Northern Ireland is typically dominated by the ethno-national divide between Catholic nationalists and Protestant unionists. The EU referendum presents an opportunity for a major political issue to cross-cut this division, with variation in both communities on the issue of EU membership. In this presentation I use data from a large scale representative survey conducted at the time of the referendum (number of respondents = 4,000) to investigate the following questions: What kind of citizens participated in the referendum and what kind of citizens abstained? What is the demographic profile of ‘Remain’ voters and ‘Leave’ voters?: I investigate the relationship between vote behaviour and age, gender, social class, and education. What is the attitudinal profile of ‘Remain’ voters and ‘Leave’ voters?: I investigate the relationship between vote behaviour and positions on the nationalist-unionist issue area, on economic left-right matters and on socio-moral (conservative versus liberal) issues. The data used is from a project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council on which I am the Principal Investigator.
Overall, the presentation provides a strong evidence-based discussion of who voted in the referendum, how they voted and how their voting relates to demographic and attitudinal characteristics. The presentation discusses the implications of the findings for our understanding of contemporary Northern Ireland politics and the use of referendums to address political issues.

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