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Polls… so many polls… 1 September 29, 2009

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, The Left.
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It’s been quite a weekend for polling data. As much as one could comfortably hope for, and yet, given that the Lisbon referendum is now but a few short days away that leads to a certain emptiness to the numbers offered up. We’ll know, one way or another, precisely how that shakes out. It’s hard to predict given that there still remain significant reservoirs of Don’t Knows at this point, something that surely is a remarkable achievement for both the YES and NO campaigns in the context of the onslaught of posters, leaflets and other ephemera to persuade us of their viewpoints. And if I were to be pushed to give an opinion on the overall outcome I’d think it might be narrowly shaded by the YES side. The RedC poll certainly seems to demonstrate that the DK’s are now at a relatively small percentage of 18%, as against 55% YES and 27% NO. But… who knows? I shop up Artane/Finglas way and the relative weight of NO to YES posters were at least 3:1. Now it comes down to a lot more than that, but… if the working class turns out on the day the YES side is sunk.

But of more interest to me politically is the slight upswing for Fianna Fáil.

When people were asked who they would vote for if there were a general election tomorrow, the adjusted figures for party support, compared with the last Irish Times poll on September 3rd, were: Fianna Fáil, 20 per cent (up three points); Fine Gael, 31 per cent (down three points); Labour, 25 per cent (up one point); Sinn Féin, 9 per cent (down one point); Green Party, 4 per cent (up one point); and Independents/others, 11 per cent (down one point).

Now, the idea that Labour is significantly ahead of Fianna Fáil has always seemed a little dubious (and can I repeat I’d be delighted if it were correct). But look at the movement – all within the margin of error it should be noted – Sinn Féin down 1%, Independents down 1% and Fine Gael down 1%. If accurate that means that some of the FF vote detached by Labour may, just may, be coming home. What is equally interesting is that the Labour vote remains coherent.

But look then at the core vote for the parties which seems to me to give a better read in terms of overall strengths and intriguingly no less cheery for Labour.

The core vote for the parties (before undecided voters are excluded) compared with the last Irish Times poll was: Fianna Fáil, 18 per cent (up two points); Fine Gael, 23 per cent (down three points); Labour, 18 per cent (no change); Sinn Féin, 9 per cent (no change); Green Party, 3 per cent (up one point); Independents/Others, 8 per cent (down one point); and undecided voters 21 per cent (up one point).

All those undecideds, many of them former FF voters… some of them perhaps open to persuasion to return if the situation stabilises. But note too that Labour is level pegging Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are not that far in front. And the strength of Sinn Féin in all this is equally remarkable.

The position of the Green Party is also worth note. What is driving that very minor upward swing? Is it the shapes thrown over the Programme for Government, or perhaps as likely, the fact that with the upcoming negotiations on that there has been a renewed focus on them in the media. No news being good news as it were, and so on. That though raises a further problem. It was notable during the last week that the Green Party Ministers were asked whether they were aware of the Rody Molloy issue. Unlikely given that the events occurred in different Departments, but testament to a creeping dynamic whereby as they become more important in the scheme of things, and in government continuation in particular, they also are pushed into taking ownership to a greater and greater degree even in areas which in truth they have no oversight.

It’s a useful exercise to look at an example of a poll from earlier this year in May to see how core votes have changed…

The core vote for the parties (before undecided voters are excluded) compared with the last Irish Times poll was: Fianna Fáil 20 per cent (no change); Fine Gael 29 per cent (up 5 points); Labour 15 per cent (down 2 points); Sinn Féin 8 per cent (no change); Green Party 2 per cent (down 1 point); Independents/ others, 6 per cent (no change); and undecided voters 20 per cent (down 2 points).

Again, it is the undecided voters who were in the ascendent. Still, in the context of the latest poll what a time when the good news for Fianna Fáil is that its core vote is at 18%.

Let’s rewind the clock a little further back, to May 2007 just before the last General Election. Then the situation was as follows:

The core vote for the parties is: Fianna Fáil 35 per cent (up 3 points); Fine Gael 22 per cent (down 1 point); Labour 10 per cent (up 3 points); Sinn Féin 8 per cent (no change); Greens 4 per cent (no change); PDs 1 per cent (down one point); Independents/others 5 per cent (no change); and undecided voters 15 per cent (down 4 points).

On the day Fianna Fáil achieved 41.5%, Fine Gael 27.3%, Labour 10.1%, Sinn Féin 6.9%, Green Party 4.6%, the PDs 2.7%, Independents 5.1% and all others under 2%.

What’s striking about this is that without the shadow of a doubt given current polling data the Fianna Fáil vote is now hugely lower, but there’s still a stubborn tranche of (presumably) previously Fianna Fáil support hanging out in the undecideds. If Lisbon is won for the Government then I’d imagine that another segment of that vote may go home. A successful renegotiation of the Programme for Government. A few percent more. The Government surviving until the December Budget, a few more again. And… a softer Budget than previously advertised, a few more again.

Of course it’s not pre-destined. The new found heights of the Labour support does speak of something significant happening. Without an election, though, it’s hard to know precisely what. What is clear is that at this point the three parties, Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fáil now have core votes that are remarkably close to one another. That’s a remarkable situation, it truly is. Our two and a half system, or even two and a half and two quarters system has been decisively torn apart into a new and fascinating configuration.

BTW, Conor McCabe of Dublin Opinion and I were discussing the remarkable prognostications of the Irish Times political correspondent last week, and here… let me offer you one of his gems…

With the Government facing so many difficult choices there is always the possibility it could come a cropper, not on a major policy issue, but over some event that comes out of the blue. The re-emergence of the Fás scandal in recent days is a reminder of “the little things” that can trip up a Government.

Well I never. Who’d have thought it?

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Comments»

1. EamonnCork - September 29, 2009

Like yourself I’d be doubtful if these percentages would carry through in an election though I’d love if they did. But, and I might be wrong here, isn’t it the case that in many parts of the country Labour’s general organisation and presence on the ground is paper-thin compared to the big two. For that reason it’s impossible that FF would ever fall below 50 or that Labour would ever go over 40. You could even change those figures to 60 and 30 unless that election takes place within the next year.
I think the referendum might be tighter than the polls suggest and come out around 55-45 for the yes. I also think the no side were always one opinion poll away from a chance of victory. Had one come out that showed them with a chance of winning, I think it would have made a no vote less unthinkable and swayed undecided voters. Something like that happened the last time, and helped Joe Higgins in the Euro elections the last time. FF TDs were slow to bang the drum for yes the last time because they suspected it might lose and there’s nothing they like less than being on the losing side. This time round they’ve been emboldened by the encouraging poll data. I think FF have thrown themselves into the yes camp with such fervour because it’s the one battle they think they might win. And I also think we can expect FF to greet the yes vote as a vote of confidence in the government and some kind of mandate for strong government and tough decisions. Or at least for the correspondent above, who got huge mileage out of their small rise in this poll, to do so. It might not be fair but it’s what will happen.

2. Craig - September 29, 2009

« I shop up Artane/Finglas way and the relative weight of NO to YES posters were at least 3:1. Now it comes down to a lot more than that, but… if the working class turns out on the day the YES side is sunk. »

It varies a lot by area, WBS. I have been to suburbs/areas of Cork City where the Yes posters easily outnumbered the No ones, and others where the balance was fairly even. I would think that nationwide the overall number is in favour of thr Yes posters, simply because they have more money. Ireland For Europe, Generation Yes, Women For Europe, We Belong etc. are IBEC fronts, more often than not, and therefore have plenty of dosh to make up for their lack of actual canvassing (God forbid they mix with the plebians at the doorstep).

I am still hoping for a defeat of Lisbon-2 but to be honest I think that possibility is now receding. The Yes campaign momentum is now almost overwhelming. They got the media by the neck and didn’t let go, that’s how they’ll win.

3. EamonnCork - September 29, 2009

And brace yourself for the fawning articles about how the brilliant media and marketing strategy of the yes campaign won the day, thus convincing the government that it’s not the substance of your policies which matter so much as the spin behind them.

4. Craig - September 29, 2009

« And brace yourself for the fawning articles about how the brilliant media and marketing strategy of the yes campaign won the day »

No doubt.

« thus convincing the government that it’s not the substance of your policies which matter so much as the spin behind them. »

They’ve believed that for a long time, but passing Lisbon-2 will be a nice confirmation.

5. EamonnCork - September 29, 2009

By the way, isn’t that a charming Ryanair ad in today’s Times. It appears to have been thought up by a particularly aggressive eight year old.

6. smiffy - September 29, 2009

“thus convincing the government that it’s not the substance of your policies which matter so much as the spin behind them.”

I think they were already convinced of that by Lisbon I.

7. sonofstan - September 30, 2009

I shop up Artane/Finglas way and the relative weight of NO to YES posters were at least 3:1.

This is interesting, i think: although i don’t actually see this as a left/ right issue (Mark P. will be along in a minute….), one thing that is clear: it is an issue that divides along class lines like no other i can remember. it’s a puzzle that, while, 80+% of voter vote for parties that cross class lines – FF, FG, Labour- when it comes to this, you can nearly tell how people and areas will vote according to income and occupation.

I’ve no clear idea why this is…… any suggestions?

8. WorldbyStorm - September 30, 2009

I agree with you that this isn’t a left/right issue whatever the disposition of forces, anymore than divorce was clearly a left/right issue.

I’d wonder if the claims about minimum wages etc have had an effect since Lisbon I, and that the perception of the issues that perhaps Coir has most effectively campaigned on has hit home. I also wonder if it plays to a very real sense that the supposed good times didn’t quite reach everywhere and an understandable wish to wipe away some of the smugness of those for whom it did…

By contrast EU enthusiasm (which can often pretty unthinking) has been almost a badge of honour and pride amongst some in the middle class, a sign of progressiveness etc. One thing that struck me last time around was how that had fractured somewhat… one of the most striking instances was an FG supporter/activist telling me how they were voting NO because they were Irish patriots. Hmmm.

I don’t know, perhaps that’s part of it overall. But I think it’s worth recognising that divorce/abortion also saw class cleavages as well albeit not to quite the same extent.


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