Polls… so many polls… 1 September 29, 2009Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, The Left.
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?