Kevin O’Rourke on the No vote in Ireland

by Henry Farrell on June 20, 2008

“This”: seems to me to be the most interesting analysis I’ve read so far.

A glance at the electoral map suffices to confirm what earlier opinion polls had indicated: the Irish vote divided along class lines in a stark and disturbing fashion. In the most affluent constituencies of Dublin, such as Dun Laoghaire, where even a modest home can cost upwards of €1 million (although that is changing), 60% or more voted for the treaty. In working class areas of the city, it was the no vote which scored in excess of 60%. Brouard and Tiberj (2006) show that precisely the same division between rich and poor, or the skilled and unskilled, can be discerned in the French 2005 vote. …

The argument would be that globalisation generally, and European integration more narrowly, has overwhelmingly favoured skilled workers, at least in affluent countries such as France, Ireland and the Netherlands. Unskilled workers, by contrast, feel under threat from Romanian (or Asian) competition, or immigration from Eastern Europe and further afield. And while those of us who are more fortunate might regret it, it is hardly surprising that — in accordance with Heckscher-Ohlin logic — they vote accordingly. … Unbelievably, given the importance of the vote, there were no exit polls taken which might give us an indication of why those who voted no did so. But I have to say that my bet is that the gap between middle-class and working-class voting patterns has a lot more to do with different interests, real or perceived, than with supposed differences in political sophistication. …

If this interpretation is correct, then the Irish referendum result, in one of the most pro-European members of the Union, should serve as a wake-up call to politicians that if they want to maintain the benefits of open international markets, as I do, they will simply have to take more notice of the concerns of those who are being left behind.

Update: The Eurobarometer report on a flash survey they did immediately post-referendum is available at “”: Thanks to Simon in comments for the pointer.