Words: Ellen Desmond
Over the past few weeks we’ve worked on an important Same Sex Marriage Survey with UCCSU and the results are in this month’s copy of Motley.
They show some very interesting statistics and trends, which are very important to see. With more than 700 students wishing to have their say in our survey, it’s apparent students aren’t as clueless and disengaged from bigger issues as they are often stereotyped to be.
However, the results of our Same Sex Marriage Survey are not to be taken lightly. The results found indicate for the millionth time that students are heavily in favour of legalising Same Sex Marriage, meaning that a yes voter will see the results as good news. Yet, these participants are only in support of the idea of Marriage Equality. It can’t be assumed that each and every one of them will cast a physical vote in May.
Indeed, students have an atrocious reputation when it comes to voting, even when it’s voting in SU referendums or elections; and comparisons to votes within UCC don’t factor in that many students will need to travel home in an actual referendum.
What about those on placement or Erasmus or worrying about exams? They may have voted in our survey while sitting on Facebook or staring at their email; with little or no effort. Neither side of the debate can know for sure from opinion polls what the real outcome of the vote will be. The interesting findings of our survey also highlight worrying voting trends, and a lack of voter registration.
In the social circles I move in, it’s pretty much in vogue to support Marriage Equality; the same doesn’t go for in the rest of Ireland, or even UCC. One third of participants in our survey think the referendum is going to be extremely close. These are the clever ones.
If yes voters want to win, the threat posed to them by their opposition needs to be taken seriously. I’ve seen people be very quick to publicly mock no campaigns, and while laughing away a boggart is a healthy attitude, will these same people all be as quick to go out and vote yes?
To paint a context, as I write this journalist Fionnan Sheahan and others are discussing the Marriage Equality Referendum on the radio behind me. They are all in unanimous agreement that Ireland’s Same Sex Marriage Referendum is going to be answered with a resounding no from voters. The main element of their discussion is focusing on yes campaigners being far too optimistic. The words “landslide no” were used more than once, from these people trying to take an unbiased look at the situation.
In the case of the Irish Marriage Equality Referendum, as in many cases we’ve seen in recent weeks, it’s going to be up to the pen to be mightier than the sword again. To harness a vote from students, and young people, it boils down to a need for a widespread distribution of simple information about how and where to vote – and why to take a side.
Students and young people cast votes for fun, or because they think they absolutely must vote for anything at all in order to be a decent human, and they cast these votes from a totally uninformed place.
Many voters won’t think about Marriage Equality until the day, or the moment in which they make a vote; many again don’t even really know what they are voting for or against. I’m pretty sure I voted for Dana to be the next president in my more blissfully ignorant days, because it seemed witty. For you the referendum might mean everything in the world, but for many it’s the last thing on their minds.
Unfortunately for those who it matters to, the end result is about every single citizen putting a mark in a box.
It’s all well and good to believe in Marriage Equality but actions are what will pass (or fail) a referendum, not sitting at home believing.