#IrelandVotesYes: the media coverage of same sex marriage referendum in Ireland

irelandMay 22nd 2015, Ireland made a big step towards equality: the Irish Constitution was changed to extend civil marriage rights to same-sex couples.
The controversial event has been long debated, hundreds of emigrants came home to vote and the turnout was impressive. Referendum results came out on May 23rd, showing that 62% of voters were enthusiastic about the constitutionalamendment.

Our content analysis, conducted between May 21st and May 26th, aims at showing how the event was depicted in four online newspapers of different countries: The Irish Times, The New York Times, Corriere della Sera and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Starting from keywords such as “same sex marriage” and “Ireland referendum”, we identified differences and similarities among the selected newspapers.
The event had great resonance not only on traditional media but especially on social networks. That is the reason why this study was extended in order to take into consideration contents shared on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.

With respect to “traditional” media, we analyzed the newspapers mentioned above, focusing on different articles having as main theme Ireland and same sex marriage.
On The Irish Times there were many articles about the topic, with both soft and hard news, with very detailed information about the elections and gay couples’ personal experiences. The other newspapers focused in particular on the differences between gay rights in Ireland and in other countries, as it was pointed out in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and in The New York Times. Corriere della Sera focused mainly on the reaction of the Church.

For what regards Twitter, a number of different hashtags became very popular when referring to the referendum, such as #HomeToVote, #MarRef, #YesEquality #VoteYes – especially before May 22nd – while #HungoverForEquality has been increasingly popular after the results. The two most internationally widespread hashtags were #HomeToVote and #MarRef.

#MarRef gathered enormous traffic in May. On May 22nd, between 9.30 am and 10.30 am, the #MarRef peaked garnering 10,600 tweets on the topic.

Since October 2014, the “YesEquality” Facebook page has been active in order to promote same sex marriage in Ireland. In the analyzed period there was a countdown and a daily updating of the page, with videos and multimedia contents until May 22nd. The latest update was on May 23rd, celebrating with a picture the positive referendum results, shared by almost 13,000 Facebook users.
YesEquality has also been active on Instagram and Youtube. Before May 23, the “YesEquality” Instagram page posted pictures of celebrities promoting to vote yes, using again popular hashtags such as #marriageequality, #marref, #yesequality, #voteyes, #makegrathelaw, doing a true countdown together with Facebook until the referendum day.
On YouTube many videos promoted to vote yes through the citizens voices. After the referendum, a video showed Former President Mary McAleese speaking at the Yes Equality Campaign party in Ballsbridge Hotel, thanking those voting yes and celebrating a great day for Ireland.

To download the slides with more data, click here

Article by Martina Papetti, Claudia Pattacini (@ClaudiaPatta) e Ambra Pizzagalli

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