Orthodoxy… and public opinion. April 24, 2012Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, The Left, Uncategorized.
Here’s an entertaining one. Stephen Collins was dissecting the most interesting polling data from the IT/Ipsos MRBI poll on government policy (and by the way, how many acronyms can a polling company squash into one name?). Anyhow, we’ll get to the results in a moment. But note his treatment of two different findings from the poll.
He introduces it as follows:
The strategy of introducing new taxes like the household charge as an alternative to income-tax increases is rejected by voters by a margin of more than two to one.
There is an even stronger rejection of the Croke Park agreement, with a massive majority in favour of reforming or scrapping the deal that protects public-sector pay and pensions.
And then writes:
Voters were asked if they agreed with the Government’s strategy of opting for measures like the household charge this year and a property tax in the future as an alternative to income-tax increases.
Just 28 per cent said the Government strategy was right, 63 per cent said it was not right and 9 per cent had no opinion.
Okay. And a little more followed with no editorialising about this really quite remarkable finding.
And then onto the next finding.
Voters were also asked their views on the Croke Park agreement under which the Government made a commitment not to cut the pay and pensions of public servants in return for improved productivity.
Asked if the agreement should remain in place, be modified or be abolished, just 16 per cent say it should remain in place, 43 per cent want it modified in some way, 22 per cent want it abolished and 19 per cent have no opinion.
Which he then follows up with:
Given that Labour Ministers are much more strongly committed to the continuation of the deal than their Fine Gael counterparts, the poll should give them food for thought.
Erm… I’m not sure I’d read that quite the way he did. 63 per cent determinedly against a policy is – to me – a stronger rejection than 22 per cent who want a policy abolished and a further 43 per cent who want it modified in some unspecified fashion. And to be honest there’s little ambiguity about the options as regards income/consumption tax, in comparison to the other issue of CP.
But it’s not that that’s most striking so much as the fact he editorialises on one but not on the other. Why shouldn’t the consumption/income tax finding give more pause for thought than Croke Park?
Why does he pick out one and not the other?
Of these things an orthodoxy is fashioned.
On Croke Park some intriguing data:
In party terms, Labour supporters were most hostile to the Croke Park agreement, with just 13 per cent of them in favour of continuing with the deal as it stands. Fine Gael voters were a little more supportive, although there was still a large majority in favour of change.
Fianna Fбil voters are much more supportive of the deal than those of any other party, which is hardly surprising given that it was initially agreed when the party was in government.
You’d wonder at that. Is it those self-ascribed as LP voters, that small and diminishing body of people who are ‘most hostile’ whereas others who were LP voters have jumped ship to other formations they might regard as better able to support the agreement? And the FF finding is just bizarre given the evident antipathy to CP from members of the FF PP.
Does this mean CPs days are numbered? I’m sceptical. As Michael Taft and others have noted, the benefits of CP far outweigh the negatives to the Government, not least in providing a most convenient spur to PS employees to keep in line or else. And the financial benefits of reworking it substantially (and note that the largest block is for modification not abolition) seem in the general scale of things to be so over stated as to not actually exist.
And more interesting information in other aspects of the poll.
Asked if the Government should stick by its commitment not to cut welfare rates, 69 per cent said they should not be cut, 25 per cent said they should and 6 per cent had no opinion.
In class terms, the strongest support for cutting welfare comes from the best-off AB voters and the strongest opposition to cuts comes from the poorest DE category. However, a majority of voters in every social category is opposed to welfare cuts.
But putting all else aside isn’t it a remarkable indictment of the government that its efforts to introduce this raft of charges has led to a situation where close enough to 3 out of every 4 voters in this survey believes that income tax is a fairer mechanism to fund various services. One can have quibbles about the campaign against the household tax in regard to the danger that it might inadvertently generate a no-tax attitude amongst the general society, but its effect, and the more general opposition, seems to have conveyed the central message that non-progressive taxes (in the technical sense) are inequitable and inappropriate. And perhaps it is the fact there’s a broad consensus of opinion amongst most of the opposition against these charges/taxes and that this consensus including as it does Independents, ULA, and SF (however active that opposition), seems fairly broad based even if the actual numbers of opposition deputies is more limited than some might think.
After three decades of Thatcherism and the constant drumbeat of neo-liberalism that’s an oddly hopeful message to take away from this.
And politically, given the context approaching the government they might do well to consider the implications of that very carefully indeed.