Too many polls… March 5, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.
I’d written a post on foot of the last SBP/RedC poll and you know what? By the time a space appeared suitable to post it up there was a new one, this time from the Sunday Independent. So, that original post went in the bin.
I don’t know, but it strikes me as unusual the sheer number of polls we’ve seen in the period since Christmas. Of course this is a self-fulfilling dynamic to some extent. The polls are extremely variable and therefore are worth reporting because each brings a slightly different message. But the sheer number feeds into this variability because polls will tend to have different outcomes, albeit within broad enough parameters – thereby increasing the sense of variability when truth is the outcomes may be closer than first thought.
But let’s look again at the headline figures.
Once the 28% undecideds are excluded, support for Fine Gael is down one point to 24%, while Labour drops two to 11%.
Fianna Fáil loses the top spot, dropping four points to 23%, while Sinn Féin is up one to 21%.
Independents and smaller parties, meanwhile, gain six points to 22%.
What’s happening, or appears to be happening, is considerable volatility at the top end of the polls. It is FF, FG and – perhaps to a lesser extent – SF who are dancing in this plus 20 area. At least in the Sunday Independent polls. There’s quite some movement in relation to Independents and others too. It is Labour which is odd one out, dropping out of the teens. Now, all this has to be taken with a pinch of salt. Perhaps more than a pinch. But, that volatility continues to exist.
Paddy Healy, in comments makes the following point that’s well worth considering:
Just a cautionary note. The core votes before “undecideds” are excluded were FG 17, FF 17, Lab 8, Sinn Féin 15,Others including Greens 15. The higher figures are generated based on the assumption that “undecideds” will be distributed in roughly the same proportions as happened traditionally. When a political earthquake is taking place, this is a very unsafe assumption.
What’s interesting is how these events are off the radar for much of the commentary on the polls, but changes are taking place.
And that also that minds remain to be made up. But what is also interesting is that both SF and Independents and Others remain in a position to retain considerable support.
But really, have we ever been so well served by media polling – and simultaneously so ill-served. That unusual number of polls is useful, but only to a point. I think comments here from both Eamonn Cork and CMK, amongst others on this thread http://cedarlounge.wordpress.com/2013/03/02/the-latest-polll/ point up the problems in contemporary polling. Both note the lack of definition. There’s 1 in 5 (and close enough sometimes to 1 in 4) of electors selecting Others/Independents and yet we have no breakdown of what that represents. Say the SP is on three or even more per cent. That could be quite significant. What of the ULA figure? Or anyone else? I’d even have no quibble with the GP included in that if others were. But the thing is we cannot tell. And that, I tend to agree with others, is something that shapes the contest. And as EC notes it is possible to generate any number of perhaps contradictory headlines in light of the polling figures. Look at the precipitous decline in FF support outlined above, FF down four points. Outside the margin of error, so indicative of something. But what of FG which while at 24 per cent still commanding the single largest tranche of support continues to fall. And then SF, which hovers on or around 20 per cent (though closer to 18 per cent in RedC). As shea said, this must be a puzzle for SF. What have they done, or not done, in the past three weeks or so to generate this outcome? Or is it that it is movement amongst other parties and none which is responsible in large part for the shifts.
All that said the trend is interesting. FF down sharply. FG descending. Labour likewise. Only Independents and Others and SF increasing. And now moving to a position of being just about three years out from the next election, at most. If you had asked me in 2011 just after the election whether the Independents/Others would be here, let alone that SF would have doubled and more its vote I’d have been deeply dubious. But yet this is the situation. And before people talk about a remarkable recovery for Fianna Fáil note that it has added less than six percentage points onto its Election 2011 level. A return, but only barely above half of their Election 2007 rating. A return, yes, but not a renaissance.
So what happens next? I’m still minded to take RedC as the gold standard – with all the caveats mentioned above, and perhaps, perhaps our elected representatives could be pushing for the polling companies to be breaking down the Independent/Others vote into sections. There are problems with that. ULA won’t appear because it remains unregistered. Perhaps UL will, as will SWP and PBP, if the polling companies agree. But that does require pressure.
But as it stands while useful for discerning some trends they remain opaque on the very area many of us are most interested in.