I support Marriage Equality and I’d vote yes in the Referendum this week if I weren’t a disenfranchised Irish citizen simply because I live in the north of the island. That’s a column for another day though…
It’s a safe bet that both the “Yes” and “No” sides in this Friday’s Marriage Referendum will agree that voter turnout will be key to whether the proposal to amend the Constitution passes or fails.
Having had a quick look on the Elections Ireland website, just how critical that turnout is and, indeed, where that turnout is becomes an even bigger issue.
Look at the results of the Dissolution of Marriage (Divorce) Referendum in 1995 for example. One might reasonably argue that religious attitudes regarding the sanctity of marriage have changed only marginally in the intervening 20 years. Whilst social attitudes may have moved forward somewhat more, they might be considered as less relevant in a society where a larger percentage of couples cohabit outside marriage than ever before.
The Divorce referendum was carried by 50.28% to 49.72% – the thinnest of margins. Scroll down the results by constituency though and what’s obvious is that the Capital carried the vote. Only 16 of 41 constituencies voted in favour of the divorce amendment – all the Dublin constituencies and commuter belt in Louth, Kildare and Wicklow, plus Limerick City and Cork City (up the Rebels!).
Driving across country last week (I was in 14 counties), it’s clear that the “No” campaign has more posters in rural areas and the “yes” campaign in urban areas. That’s not a scientific poll but it is a reasonable indication of the shade of opinion in a given area. So if we accept that premise, it will fall to Dublin once again to carry the vote.
But looking at those numbers again, the areas where the vote supported the amendment were at around 66-69% turnout for the most part against a national average of just over 62%. A 39% turnout like there was for the Seanad referendum of 2013 will not carry the Marriage Referendum and for a safe margin, a 70% turnout in the strong “Yes” constituencies of Dublin will be required.
This level of turnout is a big ask in a week when the Irish Independent Opinion Poll has the percentage of undecided voters at 23% and where the “Yes” side is on 53%. It will have to be a very busy last few days of campaigning.
As I said before regarding the Referendum on Scottish Independence, social media presence does not carry an election. The majority of my twitter timeline are “yes” supporters but unless every man jack of them goes out to vote, takes their Auntie Mary, their Granny and auld Mr. Murphy down the street with them to the polling station it’s going to be a very tight race.