7 significant referendums held throughout the world

Polling Station Sign

Referendums can have significant consequences. From New Zealand to Ireland to Crimea and more, here are seven that have had striking impacts.

Ireland’s same-sex marriage referendum (2015)

In an equal-rights milestone, Ireland voted on whether to allow same-sex marriage back in 2015. The Guardian reported that 62% supported the proposal.

Britain’s Brexit referendum (2016)

Nigel Farage Brexit: MEPs agree on key conditions for approving UK withdrawal agreement - Nigel Farage (EFDD)

In a move that shocked many commentators at home and abroad, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union in 2016. It is due to have exited the union by April 2019.

New Zealand’s move to proportional representation (1992 and 1993)

In 1992, New Zealand voters backed a change in voting system away from first-past-the-post. One year later, voters then backed the switch to the MMP voting system, which includes a top-up list to account for disproportionality effects in the FPTP part.

Scotland’s independence referendum (2014)

Nicola Sturgeon

After the SNP’s surprise majority victory in the 2011 election, Scotland headed to the polls in September of 2014. The country rejected the SNP’s choice of independence by a margin of 55% - 45%

Quebec, Canada (1980 and 1995)

French-speaking Quebec has held two referendums on moving towards independence. In both occasions, the people of Quebec rejected any change in status, with the second referendum being split an agonisingly tight 50.6% - 49.4%.

Switzerland’s free movement of people referendum (2014)

In 2014, the people of Switzerland backed a proposal to reduce the number of immigrants coming into the country by using a quota system. The proposal was backed narrowly: 50.3% - 49.7%. The proposal was never implemented, but the BBC has reported that non-Swiss-based workers can now be overlooked in favour of Swiss-based workers in the country.

Crimea (2014)

Following the annexation of Crimea by Russia, the people of Crimea were asked in the nation-wide vote whether they wanted to be part of Russia or part of Ukraine. The final result was that the people voted overwhelmingly in favour of joining Russia, however, there were questions over the legitimacy of the vote.

The referendum has helped redraw the political map of Europe.