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Keywords:

  • direct democracy;
  • regional integration;
  • European Union treaties;
  • voting;
  • Lisbon;
  • Ireland

Abstract

Analyses of voting in European Union referendums typically distinguish between ‘second-order’ effects and the impact of substantive ‘issues’. In order to explain change in referendum outcome, two types of substantive issues are distinguished in this article. Focusing on Irish voting in the Lisbon Treaty referendums and using data from post-referendum surveys, it is found that perceptions of treaty implications outperform underlying attitudes to EU integration in predicting vote choice at both referendums, and perceptions of treaty implications are strong predictors of vote change between the referendums. The findings have broadly positive implications for normative assessments of the usefulness of direct democracy as a tool for legitimising regional integration advance.