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Unequal Participation and Spaces of Neglect in Recent Irish Elections

Authors: William Durkan*, Irish Research Council Postgraduate Scholar, Geography Department, Maynooth University
Topics: Political Geography, Quantitative Methods
Keywords: Electoral Geography, Voter Turnout, Irish Elections, Unequal Participation, Spaces of Neglect
Session Type: Paper
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The importance of electoral participation to the health of a given democracy cannot be overstated. Existing literature identifies many social and demographic factors which influence electoral participation, both internationally and in the Irish context. This includes examining the influences of; Age, Education, Marital Status, Housing Tenure, Social Class and Locality on voter turnout trends. With this in mind, it is important to ask: What social groups are less likely to participate in Elections and how does this impact their equality of political representation? With a strong spatial component to trends of low and declining voter turnout, many communities find themselves void of political representation, and as a result, find their community’s needs neglected on the political stage.

This paper utilises spatial regression analyses to identify and investigate areas of low and declining voter turnout in General Elections from 2007-2016 and Local Elections from 2009-2019 in the Dublin and Mid-Leinster region. By examining trends at Electoral Division and Small Area scales, complimented by semi-structured interviews with political and community leaders, this paper identifies social, demographic and local drivers of the observed trends, outlining the potential impact on local communities with a low or declining voter turnout.

This paper identifies notable vulnerable groups in society that are less likely to participate in the electoral process, such as ethnic Irish Traveller communities and New Irish citizens. Emerging trends are also outlined, with a growth in successful New-Irish political candidates potentially mobilising New-Irish communities, and declining participation among rural communities creating potentially neglected spaces.

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