The Influence of Mass Media on Divorce Referenda in Ireland

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This work utilizes quantitative research methods to analyze twenty seven opinion polls dealing with the issue of constitutional change in Ireland. It provides a framework for anyone interested in understanding the intricate relationships between media, public opinion and
constitutional ballot issues in an Irish/European context.


“The ultimate strength of this study lies in its integrated approach to multifaceted statistical data, while at the same time paying close attention to the heteroglossic nature of Irish media. Highlighting the clamorous yet nuanced dialogues between opinion polls, newspapers and constitutional reform during a time of radical change in Irish society, this work adds exponentially to our understanding of the divorce referenda in the context of their own time, while simultaneously setting new and compelling coordinates for the future of Irish Media Studies.” – Prof. Gearóid OhAllmhuráin, University of Missouri-St Louis

"Breen’s study reveals a complex relationship between the mass media and public opinion. Clearly, he debunks the idea of strong media effects on public opinion, at least on this issue. A study of media content and public opinion on topics that are less culturally sensitive may turn out differently. His fmdings suggest a stronger impact of the Catholic Church in Irish society, not the waning effects that the overall extent of social change globally would predict. An additional or alternative explanation is that the Irish people have become jaded when it comes to mass media content -- content may be less credible than previously or on other issues. This study sets a new standard for analyzing trends in public opinion over time, especially as relates to the effects of the news media."-Prof. Pamela J. Shoemaker, Syracuse University

". . . makes a major contribution to understanding the role of the print media in Ireland." -Prof. Evelyn Mahon, Trinity College Dublin

Table of Contents

List of Illustrative Materials
Foreword by Gearóid Ó hAllmhuráin
Chapter 1: The Context for Divorce Referenda in Ireland
Chapter 2: The Press, The Polls and The Public
Chapter 3: Researching Divorce Referenda and Press Content
H1 The media supported change in the constitutional position on divorce more in the second campaign than in the first
H2 The closer the referendum date, the more the media supported change in the constitutional position on divorce; while the effect is seen in both campaigns it should be more marked in the second campaign
H3 The more the media support change in the constitutional position on divorce, the more public opinion will support the same position
H4 The more the opinion polls tend to oppose change in the constitutional position on divorce, the more support will be seen subsequently in the media content
H5 The greater the number of stories about the constitutional issue in the media, the greater the support for change
Chapter 4: Connecting Press Coverage to Poll Outcomes
Chapter 5: The Influence of Newspapers on Polls
Appendix A: Chronology of Divorce Legislation in Ireland
Appendix B: Coding Instructions
Appendix C: List of Dates for Story Aggregation

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