A new survey by the Irish Times has shown high levels of support among recent Irish emigrants for emigrant voting rights. The survey, which interviewed Irish nationals who emigrated after 2008, found:
62 per cent of respondents think they should be able to vote for the President, 63 per cent in general elections, 61 per cent in referendums and 53 per cent in Seanad elections. The remainder of those polled were fairly evenly split between those who had no opinion on the issue, or who didn’t think they should have a right to vote.
Young people were more likely to have strong views on the issue, with 76 per cent of people under 25 saying they were in favour of a vote for the President, in general elections and in referendums, compared with just 58 per cent of over-35s who wanted a vote in general elections, or 60 per cent in referendums.
Of those who were in favour of voting rights, approximately six in 10 believed they should have a say indefinitely after leaving Ireland, while about one in three said it should be limited to a certain number of years.
Levels of opposition to voting were low, with 19% saying they did not think they should have a vote in Presidential elections, 20% for Dail elections, and 19% for referendums, with approximately equal number saying they were not sure. Only 53% of those polled said they should have the vote in Seanad elections, with 23% saying no and 24% uncertain.
The study covered a number of areas relating to emigrants. Among its other findings was that 7 out of 10 believed the Irish government was not doing enough to encourage them to come home, and 55% believed the economy had not improved enough to allow them to come home. 22% of emigrants reported that they did not plan to return to Ireland, while 21% envisioned coming back within three years, and 42% said they would come back “at some stage”.
The survey showed that emigrants keep in close contact with Ireland. 94% of emigrants reported using social media, with more than 80% using Facebook, Twitter or WhatsApp to keep in touch with Ireland. 74% kept in touch with Irish current affairs, and 76% follow Irish media.
Only 11% of respondents living in countries outside the EU hold citizenship of their current country of residence (which means 89% of them are likely to be without voting rights). 43% of them have permanent residency and 31% are on long-term work visas. 5% of them were living without documentation.
The survey found that emigrants were better educated than the general population, with 72% of women and 60% of men holding a degree, Master’s or PhD.