Another weekend, another poll, this time a telephone survey of 1000 voters by Millward Brown on behalf of the Sunday Independent newspaper. I’m always wary of examining polls in newspapers that fail to provide a link to the hard data of the survey and this one is no different. We are relying on the journalists and editors to provide us with the substance of the poll free of any predefined spin. In the case of the “Sindo”, an agenda-driven right-wing newspaper which has traditionally curried favour with the two big political power blocks of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, that is something of a challenge.
However, for what its worth, here are the results of the telephone questionnaire:
“Fianna Fáil 27%
Fine Gael 25%
Sinn Féin 20%
The most obvious thing to note is the slow drift back to Fianna Fáil, which has now been played out across a number of different opinion polls and can no longer be simply dismissed as “snap-shots” of voter dissatisfaction or statistical blips (or as Jason Walsh so memorably puts it: “As a dog returneth to his vomit, so an Irish voter returneth to his Fianna folly“). Though we continue to have a very volatile electorate with high levels of “don’t knows” or “undecideds” it is clear that FF has managed to stabilise its core vote (albeit at a historical low level) and is successfully building upon that.
On the other hand Fine Gael is rapidly shrinking back to its electoral inner heartlands. There is no good news in the survey for the party and quite a few TDs elected on narrow margins must be beginning to worry about their future prospects. Eventually such worries will be made known and sooner rather than later.
For Sinn Féin it is a case of no news is good news. While the party seems to be having trouble making or sustaining a 20%+ breakthrough in the polls it can be fairly confident that any drop in voter satisfaction is not going to be too significant for its percentages. For a political party that in the electoral lifetime of many its sitting TDs was normally in fifth or sixth place in the opinion polls to find itself a regular number three must be satisfying indeed. However the party’s position, though laudable, is still lower than it should be. The SF ceiling is arguably in and around 25%. While it is very hard to see how it could progress beyond that in the near to medium term it certainly should be questioning why it is failing to approach anywhere near that figure.
The core membership of the Labour Party (or those left after the WP/DL putsch) must be ruing the day they followed their executive-hungry leader into power. In effect all that Labour managed to achieve was to clear out an electoral space for Sinn Féin to grow (and for a while the ULA with it). It is debatable whether the party will get back that traditional or Labour-tending floating vote not to mention the many first-time voters who bypassed the Labour Party altogether and went straight to SF (both now and in the future).
The ULA will be similarly depressed with these results, as must be most activists on the non-Sinn Féin or non-Labour Left across Ireland. This is their time, if any time is, and they have simply failed to exploit it both in political and electoral terms. The ULA debacle, and all the animosity and bad blood surrounding it, will make for a hard sell with voters come the next general election. Increasingly parties of the further-left seem likely to be character-driven, one or two politicians popular with local constituents around whom a political party operates. It is all-but certain that the Socialist Party or the People Before Profit/Socialist Workers Party will never become major national parties in Ireland. They will remain local, parochial even, but with unfulfilled higher aspirations.
As for the Greens… I can’t even bear to bring myself to comment.
- Another Poll – Fianna Fáil Voters Abandon The Fine Gael Fold (ansionnachfionn.com)
- Polls, Politics And Conspiracy Theories (ansionnachfionn.com)
- Millward Brown Poll: Scary buns for Fine Gael? (sluggerotoole.com)
- Labour at the next election ……10 seats? (cedarlounge.wordpress.com)