Some more thoughts on that latest SBP/RedC poll… October 30, 2012Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics.
First thing, a ray of sunshine for all the parties concerned. All the results remain within the bands that are now long established of party support. Not one party has stepped outside those bands. Even the slight spike upwards for Fianna Fáil to 19 per cent echoes a result from May. Granted when contextualised in relation to the recent Irish Times Ipsos/MRBI poll it looks… well, a bit more feasible as a genuine increase for that party. But still. March this year saw Fine Gael on 34 per cent and here they are back there again.
But… then again. SF appears to be dipping. Not hugely, but given that last May they hit 21 per cent their current position of 17 per cent is a disappointment, and no mistake. Although they dropped four points between May and June from 21 to 16 before rising to 18 per cent so a one per cent drop may be nothing at all. And their average since the last election (granted they received just under 10 per cent then) has been 16 per cent. Not yet time to panic, but perhaps a long hard look at why they’ve done so well in recent times and why they’re not doing quite so well now is in order. It could be, and this may be reflected in the slightly declining fortunes of the Independents and Others, that there’s simply much less activism at the moment. Think back to last May and the household tax campaign and others were on a role. It’s not going to be long until there’s more opportunities for them and the Indo’s/Others to ply their wares, so to speak.
Fine Gael by contrast may be very happy indeed. 34 per cent is a solid poll rating and while far from the heady heights they hit in April and May of last year where they were tipping and exceeding 40 per cent it’s substantial enough. Curiously all this is on foot of the Reilly debacle. Could it be that standing by his man has reaped benefits for Kenny, as well as putting the boot into the Labour Party? The LP might want to think about that too.
Labour have to think about that too. Woman overboard hasn’t played well for them. One wonders if in the tug of war (well not so much, but they could have if they tried) with Fine Gael a less supine response might have been better for Gilmore et al. Granted so far they’ve not dipped below 13 per cent in a RedC poll since the election (they hit 13 per cent last May as well – interesting month that actually). But who would bet on them staying higher than 13 per cent in the wake of the next Budget. Though noises off in Europe might bring them some comfort.
Or perhaps not. Pat Leahy in the SBP argues that:
This problem is serious not just because Labour is unpopular – few in the party will be surprised about that, given the economic landscape faced by the government. It is serious because, even when the government achieves a success, as it did last weekend in persuading German chancellor Angela Merkel to issue her joint statement backing Ireland as a special case in Europe, it seems to be Fine Gael which gets the credit.
It’s also serious because it could get worse: the data suggests that support for Labour could fall much more sharply, much more quickly.
And he points out the central contradiction of the LP’s position in government:
In this case, there’s a constituency among the public which believes that Labour shouldn’t be doing austerity in government. This suggests that the attacks on Labour’s left flank is where the party is more vulnerable.
It underlines the trap for Labour inherent in being part of this government: getting blamed for austerity, but getting no credit if anything is achieved.
Fianna Fáil will be happy enough. But two per cent on their election total is not the comeback that one M. Martin desires, or needs. Richard Colwell of RedC puts it like this:
Likewise, Fianna Fáil could also be seeing some small green shoots of growth in support. This month the party secured a 19 per cent first preference vote again, a high point since the election, which it last achieved four months ago.
More interesting though is that if we were to apply the Red C ‘spiral of silence’ analysis (which allocates 50 per cent of voters saying they don’t know, or refuse to tell us how they will vote, back to the party they voted for previously), based on 2007 voting behaviour rather than 2011, Fianna Fáil could be as high as 21 per cent.
As high as 21 per cent? What a difference two years make.
And the Independents/Others shed a point. Now down to their election rating. No cause for wailing and gnashing of teeth there. At that level they’d still return near enough historic numbers for the contemporary era. Still, the lack of coherence there can’t be helping, though it also can’t be helped.
But, for all of that the polls seem to suggest just an hint that the political landscape we’ve seen for the best part of two years may be fracturing slightly, that the inexorable rise of SF may be slowing, that the Independents may be sliding somewhat, that FF may be slowly – painfully slowly – consolidating its support, while the LP sheds yet more of it.
And here’s a thought. Look at the LP. Fourth in terms of the political parties, fifth if we throw the Independents and Others into the mix. That’s not a comfortable place for it to be. Worse still look at the graph. Where SF and FF have been broadly speaking increasing their support across the last two years the LP has been shedding its support. For every small respite it loses more subsequently. Only the Independents appear to be following a similar path, and in their case a more protracted one.
Colwell makes an interesting point:
Underlying this headline-grabbing finding for Labour is the fact that over half of all coalition supporters are either becoming disillusioned or losing faith in the party they currently state they are supporting.
This appears to underpin the feeling that Ireland is coming to the end of its tether with regard to austerity, and suggests that the forthcoming budget could be a breaking point for many.
I think he may be right. All the too and fro over a deal in Europe seems from a position of five years of austerity, or near enough, to be almost beside the point. Enough is enough? Not quite yet. But perhaps soon.