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Q3 2002
Voter Registration and Participation Module - Explanatory Notes

Trends in turnout in electoral contests in Ireland over the last two decades show an increasing level of voter abstention. Over a period of four general elections (1969, 1973, 1977 and 1981), turnout was at 76 to 77 per cent steady state. Since 1981, however, all the movement that has taken place has been downwards, culminating in the most recent turnout of 65.9 per cent in the 1997 general election. With the exception of Switzerland, turnout in general elections in Ireland is now the lowest in Western Europe. (It is likely that there is some redundancy in the electoral register, and this may have a limited effect on the estimation of the absolute levels of turnout; there is no evidence, however, that this has any effect on estimates of change in turnout over time.)
The downward trend is not confined to general elections. Local election turnout has fallen from 69.0 per cent in 1969 to 49.5% in 1999. It is more difficult to speak of trends in turnout in presidential and European elections because of the relative scarcity of presidential elections and, in the case of European elections, because of the concurrence of other elections. However, the most striking development in presidential election turnout is the very substantial decline in 1997 (46.8%). In three out of the five European Parliament elections, turnout was determined (and boosted) by concurrent elections: by local elections in 1979 and 1999 and by a general election in 1989. Leaving these three aside, it is apparent that the average level of turnout in European Parliament elections as such is in the mid-forties and that the trend conforms to the general pattern of turnout decline: in the two stand-alone EP elections, turnout fell from 47.6 in 1984 to 44.0 per cent in 1994.
Because referendums differ so much from one another depending on the issue to be decided, it is difficult to identify precise trends in turnout across referendums. However, leaving aside the referendums that have taken place on the same day as an election of some sort, it is noteworthy that turnout in the 1998 Northern Ireland Agreement referendum was only 56.2 per cent – a level that is surprisingly low given the historical significance of the issues to be decided and the fact that it was accompanied by the referendum on the Amsterdam Treaty – while turnout in the 2001 Nice Treaty referendum was just 34.8 per cent.

Source of turnout figures quoted: Institute of Public Administration Yearbook 2002


Use of the QNHS
For both political and social reasons, there is a growing demand in Ireland for information which would help to understand the causes of voter abstention. For obvious reasons, statistical surveys are one of the major ways of acquiring such information. Because of the need to identify the precise social and demographic factors associated with abstention, and in particular to investigate the extent to which it may be associated with other forms of social exclusion, the larger the survey sample size, the better. In this regard, the Quarterly National Household Survey, which has a very large sample size (approx. 39,000 households), provides the best opportunity to analyse the nature and causes of electoral abstention.

PERMVOTE

Can I ask you some questions relating to voter registration, arrangements for voting and voter participation?

1. Yes
2. No

DIDUVOTE

As you may know, for one reason or another, many people did not vote in the general election last May. How about you? Did you vote?

1. Yes
2. No

WHYNOTVO

What were the main reasons why you did not vote in the recent general election?

WHYNOTV1
01. Not interested in politics
02. Disillusioned with politics
03. Did not understand the issues / could not make a choice / too little information
04. My vote would not make any difference
05. Illness/disability
06. Away from home / away working, could not go home / away on holidays
07. No time / work commitments / family commitments / leisure commitments
08. Not registered to vote / Registered at a different address
09. No polling card / lost card
10. Lack of transport.
11. Other
WHEN_NOT

Can you recall when it became clear to you that you would not vote?

1. On voting day
2. Last few days before voting day
3. A few weeks before voting day
4. A few months before voting day
5. Much earlier
6. Don't know

ELEC_REG

As far as you know, is your name on the electoral register, that is the official list of people entitled to vote, either at this address or somewhere else?

1. Yes
2. No
3. Don't know

WHER_REG

Are you registered at this address, or at some other address in this county or in another county?

1. This address
2. Some other address in this county
3. Some other address in another county

WHYNOTRE

There are many reasons why an individual may not be registered to vote. Could you please tell me which reason best fits your situation?

1. I just never got around to registering
2. I was registered but my name disappeared off the electoral register
3. I thought that voter registration was automatic
4. I do not know how to register
5. I recently moved house and have not registered at the new address
6. Other reasons
7. Don’t know

ASK NATNEWS

NATNEWS

I am now going to ask you some questions regarding politics and current affairs.
Can you tell me please how often you read about politics/current affairs in a national newspaper?

1. Everyday
2. About 3 times a week
3. Once a week or less often
4. Never or rarely read a national newspaper
5. Pay no attention to politics/current affairs in national newspapers

ASK LOCNEWS

LOCNEWS

Can you tell me how often you read about politics/current affairs in a local newspaper?

1. Everyday
2. About 3 times a week
3. Once a week or less often
4. Never or rarely read a national newspaper
5. Pay no attention to politics/current affairs in national newspapers

TELEVIS

How often do you watch politics/current affairs programmes on television?

1. Everyday
2. About 3 times a week
3. Once a week or less often
4. Never or rarely read a national newspaper
5. Pay no attention to politics/current affairs in national newspapers

NATRADIO

How often do you listen to politics/current affairs programmes on national radio?

1. Everyday
2. About 3 times a week
3. Once a week or less often
4. Never or rarely read a national newspaper
5. Pay no attention to politics/current affairs in national newspapers

LOCRADIO

And how often do you listen to politics/current affairs programmes on local radio?

1. Everyday
2. About 3 times a week
3. Once a week or less often
4. Never or rarely read a national newspaper
5. Pay no attention to politics/current affairs in national newspapers

DEMOCRAC

On the whole, are you very satisfied, fairly satisfied, not very satisfied or not at all satisfied with the way democracy* works in the Republic of Ireland?

1. Very satisfied
2. Fairly satisfied
3. Not very satisfied
4. Not at all satisfied
5. Don’t know

VOTEHIST

Thinking about all types of elections - local, Dáil, presidential and European – that have been held since you became eligible to vote, would you say that you:

1. Voted in all or most of them
2. Voted in some of them
3. Did not vote in any of them
4. May general election was the first in which I was eligible to vote

MATTER_P

Now thinking about general elections, how much do you think it matters which particular parties win more seats and which win fewer seats in a general election?

1. Matters a great deal
2. Matters somewhat
3. It matters very little
4. Does not matter at all
5. Don’t know

MATTER_C

Now thinking about candidates rather than parties. How much do you think it matters which particular candidates win seats in a general election?

1. Matters a great deal
2. Matters somewhat
3. It matters very little
4. Does not matter at all
5. Don’t know

ENJOY

I am now going to ask you to respond to seven statements relating to general Voting issues. In responding to these please say whether you strongly disagree, disagree, neither agree nor disagree, agree, or strongly agree with each of the following statements.

I enjoy watching / listening to the results of the election on TV / Radio

1. Strongly Disagree
2. Disagree
3. Neither agree/disagree
4. Agree
5. Strongly Agree
6. Don’t know

VIEWS

I think of myself as having definite views on political issues

1. Strongly Disagree
2. Disagree
3. Neither agree/disagree
4. Agree
5. Strongly Agree
6. Don’t know

PUB_REPS

Public representatives do not care about the opinions of ordinary people

1. Strongly Disagree
2. Disagree
3. Neither agree/disagree
4. Agree
5. Strongly Agree
6. Don’t know

DUTY

Everyone has a duty to vote

1. Strongly Disagree
2. Disagree
3. Neither agree/disagree
4. Agree
5. Strongly Agree
6. Don’t know

ISSUES

I feel that I have a pretty good understanding of the important political issues facing the country

1. Strongly Disagree
2. Disagree
3. Neither agree/disagree
4. Agree
5. Strongly Agree
6. Don’t know

HONESTY

In general, I think politicians are honest

1. Strongly Disagree
2. Disagree
3. Neither agree/disagree
4. Agree
5. Strongly Agree
6. Don’t know

FAMILY

Most of my family and friends vote

1. Strongly Disagree
2. Disagree
3. Neither agree/disagree
4. Agree
5. Strongly Agree
6. Don’t know

ACTIVE

Over the past few years, have you been active in any way in a voluntary group or organization like a charity or a sports club, or a local community group, or a political or religious group or organization? To what extent is that?

1. Very active
2. Somewhat active
3. Member but not active
4. Do not belong to any such group or organisation
5. Don’t know

TIME_DID

When you went to vote in the election in May, could you please tell me approximately how much time it took you to get to the polling station?

1. Time in minutes

TRAVEL_1

In going to the polling station did you walk, travel by bicycle, use your own car, get a lift in someone else’s car or take a bus / train?

1. Walk
2. Bicycle
3. Use own car
4. Someone else’s car
5. Bus or train
6. Other

TIMEWOUL

If you had voted in the recent general election, approximately how much time do you think it would have taken you to get to the polling station?

1. Record time in minutes. Accept a broad estimate if necessary.

TIMEWOU1

IF TIMEWOUL IS BLANK, THEN CODE THE TIMEWOUL RESPONSE TO ONE OF THE FOLLOWING OPTIONS

1. Don’t know how much time it would have taken
2. Don’t know where the polling station is

TRAVEL_2

If you were going to the polling station would you normally walk, travel by bicycle, use your own car, get a lift in someone else’s car, or take a bus / train?

1. Walk
2. Bicycle
3. Use own car
4. Someone else’s car
5. Bus or train
6. Other
7. Don’t know location of polling station

DAY_VOTE

There has been some discussion regarding the day on which elections should be held. Given your circumstances, which day would be more convenient for you?

1. Weekdays
2. Saturday
3. Sunday
4. Doesn’t matter

CAMPAIGN

In an election, the parties and candidates campaign for votes. Thinking about the election last May, did their campaigns come to your attention in any of the following ways?

1. A candidate/party canvasser called to my home
2. I received a phone call from a party canvasser
3. I read election leaflets put into my letterbox or given to me on the street or in shops
4. I read coverage of the campaign in newspapers
5. I listened to / watched coverage of the campaign on national TV and radio
6. I listened to coverage of the campaign on local radio
7. I discussed the election with family or friends
8. I attended a public meeting related to the election
9. I used the World Wide Web
10. I was contacted by a political party on election day

PER_PART

In closing, may I ask you some questions regarding the extent to which you may or may not feel close to any particular political party? I won’t be asking you about which party that might be.

1. Yes
2. No

CLOSE

Do you consider yourself to be close to any particular party?

1. Yes
2. No
3. Don't know

HOWCLOSE

Do you consider yourself to be very close to this party, somewhat close, or not very close?

1. Very close
2. Somewhat close
3. Not very close

BITCLOSE

Do you consider yourself to be a little closer to one of the political parties than to the others?

1. Yes
2. No
3. Don’t know

LASTQNVO

Press any key to end module...

Note: The purpose of this “question” is to allow the time of the end of the module to be recorded.