|Do you support the Agreement reached at the multi-party talks on Northern Ireland and set out in Command Paper 3883?|
Yes 676,966 (71.1%)
No 274,879 (28.9%)
Do you approve of the proposal to amend the Constitution contained in the undermentioned Bill?
Nineteenth Amendment of the Constitution Bill, 1998
Yes 1,442,583 (94.4%)
No 85,748 (5.6%)
The votes in the referendum were tallied at a central location, so the result for each constituency is not known (though an exit poll found that only North Antrim had voted against). The turnout by constituency is however available, and contrasts interestingly with the other elections held around the same time:
|Turnouts||Ref'm May '98||Assbly June '98||difference||Forum May '96||W'ster May '97|
|Newry and Armagh||82%||77%||6%||70%||75%|
|Fermanagh S Tyrone||85%||78%||7%||76%||75%|
Who are these people? Well, the data is rather meagre but I can make a few deductions. There is a noticeable anti-correlation with the size of the Nationalist vote. The more votes for SDLP and SF combined in June 1998, the closer the two turnout figures are to each other. So I think it's a fairly sure bet that most people who voted for the SDLP and Sinn Fein also voted in the referendum. If anything I suspect that some urban Sinn Fein voters boycotted the referendum but then turned out to vote for the Assembly - this is what the comparatively lower turnouts in Foyle and West Belfast indicate.
If all Nationalist voters in June also voted "yes" in May, that accounts for about a third of the total turnout in May, or just under half of those who voted yes. What about the rest? The drop in turnout between May and June is not particularly correlated with unemployment levels, which is the best economic indicator I could find broken down by constituency. It is not particularly linked with any one party, and when I tried splitting Unionists from center parties such as Alliance and the Women's Coalition, or dividing between pro and anti-Agreement parties, the correlation disappears into statistical noise. The single party whose performance best correlates with this vote gap is the Alliance Party, though not all that strongly.
This vote gap is important. The legitimacy of the Agreement is underpinned by the referendum results. These are rapidly receding into the past. The position of the "yes" camp within Unionism has been undermined by elections since then, ie the elections to the Assembly itself, which resulted in a fifty-fifty split in Unionism, the European election, which while not very different from previous occasions did appear to show a massive vote for Paisley as compared to the UUP candidate, Nicholson, the 2000 South Antrim by-election, won by the DUP in a miserable turnout, and ultimately the 2001 Westminster and local government elections. In Belgium, where I now live, voting is compulsory, but I am not necessarily recommending that as a solution.
The referendum was held on the same day as the referendum to ratify the Amsterdam Treaty, which upgraded the institutions of the European Union (though not very much). The turnout was about average for a constitutional referendum in the Republic. Only one proposed constitutional amendment has ever secured a higher vote in favour (a rather technical proposal on adoption in 1979). The breakdown of the vote by constituency was as follows:
See also: Jim Riley's analysis of votes and seats in the 1998 Assembly election | The NI Executive
Other sites based at ARK: ORB (Online Research Bank) | CAIN (Conflict Archive on the INternet) | Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey
Your comments, please! Send an email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nicholas Whyte, 14 January 2001; modified 17 February 2002
Disclaimer:© Nicholas Whyte 1998-2004 Last Updated on Wednesday, 12-Jan-2005 12:12