Lessons from Children’s Referendum

It is still far too early to be definitive in the analysis of the result of the Children’s Referendum obviously research is needed in order to ascertain why turnout was so low and why people voted in the way that they did.

What we can say is that Saturday voting is unlikely to be the main cause of a low turnout as it serves to increase turnout in many other jurisdictions.

However in some way the 60 40 split could be seen to fit into the pattern of previous referendums as can be seen in the slides in this presentation that we delivered to the PSAI conference in Derry in October.

We also know that there is a strong and logical tendency to vote ‘no’ if you don’t know. And we know that there was a fairly low level of understanding for this referendum at least so far as it was measured by pre referendum polls.

There is a need particularly with large numbers of referendums in prospect over the coming years to seriously reexamine the framework in which we conduct these polls, If we are to properly derive real democratic benefits from referendums we need to ensure that people are as informed as possible. We should thus examine how to best resource both sides to make their arguments and have them heard. But with that right there must be an obligation to ensure that all arguments are factual and this could perhaps be policed by the Referendum Commission.


Theresa Reidy and Jane Suiter