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That latest RedC poll – redux… June 29, 2010

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, The Left.

Okay, had some more time to digest the implications of the latest poll numbers. Again, I haven’t much changed my thoughts that given all the contention over the Kenny/Bruton leadership issue the actual outcome for Fine Gael is pitifully small. They get 3% extra? That’s the best they can do?

But it’s also instructive, perhaps, to those who would argue that if Bruton had succeeded in his goals that Fine Gael would now be doing better, because truth is the increased poll share seems not to be coming from a Labour party already on the up, or from a Fianna Fáil gutted down to its core vote, but from the Independents. And that makes sense. There’s few other places for those votes to come from. Sinn Féin? Hardly likely given the rhetoric over the years, although you’d wonder if some inside FG aren’t thinking back to Frank Flannery and wondering whether he wasn’t a darn sight cleverer and more strategic than they gave him credit given his musings on the suitability of SF as a potential future coalition partner. That won’t happen at the next election, but it might someday and even to air the possibility would be something that might, just might, pull the odd useful transfer FG’s way. But no, Brian Hayes style rhetoric has been the order of the day (although even he softened it slightly in recent times). The Green Party have little to give being on 2%. And erm… that’s it as the numbers stack up.

The best FG can hope for is a significant decline in the Labour vote from which to harvest increased percentages, but that party with the most popular leader in the country is hardly going to let them get away with that (by the way, entertaining to see Labour’s PR efforts last weekend before this poll was taken where they were clearly trying to reinject themselves into the media narratives for fear their star would wane… you’d think from polls like this that they don’t need to bother that much… they seem to say it best to the Irish people in this state when they say next to nothing at all).

But this stuff around the Independents? This I find really curious, genuinely remarkable in a way. I’d always thought that the Independent vote share might contain essentially Fianna Fáil voters unwilling to publicly acknowledge their rather perverse political association (I jest, I jest!). But here we see that the shift from that group is to FG. Now, of course, the two aren’t mutually exclusive. Perhaps the Independents category provides a means of ‘decontaminating’ (I jest again) former FF voters who have slowly moved towards FG. Or perhaps the situation is more muddled even than that with some of those who afforded their support to FG in the last two years but grew weary of the Kenny brand tilting back towards FF but unable to do so because of the growing perception that they were busted. That too is a dynamic that probably has a currency at this point. No-one is going to want to back FF too much in the current climate, well, no-one other than the 24% or so that now appears to constitute their core vote. By the way, for all the sense that FF may have been beaten back from its urban heartlands and may now be dependent upon its rural fastnesses, precious little evidence, as of yet, that that is having a political impact as regards the hunting issue. And that may account for why so far those voices arguing against the proposed legislation are so muted. FF may well find it convenient at this moment in time not to play to type as an essentially rural party (and almost needless to say, all this remains hypothetical this side of an election in the sense that opinion polls are just polls).

Richard Colwell in the Sunday Business Post has some slightly optimistic words to say:

Support for Independent candidates also falls back by 3 per cent to leave them securing just 6 per cent of the first preference vote.

This is the lowest level seen for a year, and perhaps reflects the popular wave of support for the main opposition parties.

This may mean gains seen this month for both Labour and Fine Gael are possibly inflated by the heavy media coverage for these parties over the last month.

Perhaps, but in truth, this isn’t great news for Independents of any hue, albeit that their vote will be subject – I imagine, to considerable churn once we see transfers in action at the next election. I’d wonder too if the ‘pragmatic’ streak displayed by some of them in recent times has been just a little too pragmatic, particularly in the context of a government that almost inevitably short of the most unfeasible circumstances imaginable is simply not going to return to power (indeed that raises questions about a bunch of peoples actions in the recent past given that we will be faced with a different configuration of forces in the near enough future).

And considering that many of the left sit within that category in these polls it’s not good news at all. The certainty that various figures, we know the names – no reason to repeat them here, will return may be fading as they’re pushed aside by the leftish rise of a Labour Party that has somehow transformed this into a three horse race.

For the Green Party there will be disappointment. 2% is a grim level to be at and one which would see them all but vanish as a nationally represented formation at an election. 8% for Sinn Féin is disappointing too but in a different way. They seem to oscillate between that and 10% and seem unable to shift above that. This is, and I’ve said it many times before, a respectable poll share for a smaller party, a very very respectable one, but not an earth shaking one and problematic if the trend continues, perhaps delivering them back to 2007 election levels. I’m more sanguine than I was that they’ll win a couple more seats at least than they did then. But… a couple more than a couple more? Not so sure about that a chairde and there’s a real danger of a squeeze if Labour really comes out fighting.

Note too a small but not insignificant point

Labour also scores highly when voters are asked who they intend to give their second preference votes to, with Fine Gael voters and voters for the smaller parties favouring Labour.

And the poll is even more revealing in terms of the leadership contenders (and by the way, how will those electoral debates be structured – an interesting conundrum awaits RTÉ).

He [Gilmore] is the most popular choice for taoiseach, with 40 per cent of voters saying he would make the best taoiseach.

Just 28 per cent prefer Enda Kenny, and 18 per cent say Brian Cowen.

Cue the noises about a ‘new’ leader for FF. For all the good that will do (although they might well find the current events in Labor in Australia instructive).

And it is the economic conditions that are driving down Fianna Fáil support. So barring a political game changer – and many TDs are wondering if a change of leadership might qualify as one – Fianna Fáil support is not going too far from where it is now.

The consequences of that for the party are calamitous.

Achieving a quarter of the vote in a general election would not give Fianna Fáil much more than a quarter of the seats, given the mathematics of three, four and five-seat constituencies and the transfer toxicity of the Fianna Fáil brand for many voters.

About a quarter of the vote gave Fianna Fáil about a quarter of the seats in last year’s local elections.

A quarter of the Dáil seats would give Fianna Fáil 41-odd seats. In 2007, it won 78.

That’s truly terrible for them. But… it’s hardly a surprise that the economy has spelled out something awful for two or three years now. So, the scale is the issue rather than the actuality.

Which all sort of leads me back to the thought that in truth this poll spells more bad news for Fine Gael, however much they may seek to spin it. That 3% could shift towards Labour easily enough. And then… And here’s the thing, Labour remains so well ahead in Dublin and that’s where it needs to be to make the sort of seat gains that will deliver it to a serious level that demands its rivals pay attention.

What a pity – for them – that the dissidents inside FG didn’t hold their powder because two polls like this with a Labour reaching historically unheard of levels might well have done Kenny in. But they’re a cowed bunch and even the satisfaction of saying ‘we told you so’ may be limited given the reality that they may be soon facing dealing with a Labour Party only a little smaller than they are when they return to a new Dáil. A Labour Party that may well have some very hard choices indeed to make, choices perhaps not dissimilar to the Green Party in 2007 given that for all the talk the prospect of an exclusively left wing government is patently a chimera on these figures. Although a left-led government? Now that’s another matter, perhaps.

And perhaps too the GP can console itself that in politics what comes around may indeed go around.

And Fianna Fáil remain mired in third place, and this is the third poll to see them there. Once upon a time that would have been politically earthshaking news. But now? Meh!

Happy days.


1. realitybites - June 29, 2010

As a Labour supporter I find the figures amazing but also disconcerting because while wonderful we have no way of knowing how tangible this support level will be in a General Election. The previous attachment of the electorate to FF & FG and the sea-change these polls indicate in ground level support point to massive and unprecedented changes in practically every constituency- but upon looking at the power of incumbency and FF personalities on the ground converting these ratings into seats will be huge task even in Dublin where we are riding high.

For SF one has to wonder that for a party bouncing off the same level of support Labour had in last GE that delivered 20 seats for us, where their gains are going to come from outside of 2 in Donegal and possibly 2 in Dublin. They should be close to 15 seats on this kind of support.

The biggest take-away for the broad left should be that with Labour close to 30% and SF close to 10%, plus other Inds, SP and PBP- in some constituencies we may see the combined FF&FG vote relegated to below 50% on election day. That would be quite the turn-around when compared to last recession in 80s when FF&FG support held solid in 80% plus range.


2. DublinDilettante - June 29, 2010

Not sure why you expected FG to get a bounce off the back of Brutusgate, WBS. Sure, they got plenty of media coverage, but it was almost exclusively related to what a shambles they are, and the response of the PP was pretty much that they like it that way! If anything, the fact that they rallied at all indicates the fragility of the Labour surge.

The significance of these polls for the left hinges very much on whether people are declaring for what the Labour Party represents, or what they think it represents.


WorldbyStorm - June 29, 2010

I don’t know if I did DublinDilettante. Actually, it’s worse than that in terms of my analytical capacity, I thought that it was more likely they’d go down and Kenny’s rating would go up.


On your last point, would you think then that that latter is really that they think it represents ‘other’? I can’t see it as being much more. It certainly isn’t leftism (except maybe nebulously on the part of those in the PS who’ve had it up to here with the rhetoric, and even that isn’t quite the same being more a sectional issue).


DublinDilettante - June 29, 2010

I think you’re right there, in fact, I think it was you who described Labour as representing the acceptable (i.e. negligible) level of political heterodoxy. The question is whether that’s what the public wants, or all they think is on offer. The narrowing of the political spectrum has been normalised to such an extent that it’s hard to make a judgement on that. But I do think a significant portion of the population (hell, a decent portion of the party) positions Labour to the left of its actual stance. Possibly they believe Gilmore is cannily keeping his red powder dry.


WorldbyStorm - June 29, 2010

Actually, that’s a very fair point and I agree entirely, re a fair chunk of the population being to the left of the LP. How far further is a good question, but it’s still significantly so. Now, to mold a programme around those positions…


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