That end of January RedC Poll. January 29, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.
Seeing as we’re thinking about polls, there’s something interesting happening at the moment and in a way it’s hard to explain. What we appear to be moving towards is a situation where all the broad groups, including Independents and Others, but notably excluding the Labour Party, inhabit zones of support between 15 and 25 per cent. Look at the graph and one can see that since September 2011 after an initial spike in the ratings for Fine Gael – and one delivered overwhelmingly by Independents and Others voters, the general trend has been towards the 15 to 25 area for Sinn Féin, Fianna Fáil and Independents. There have been set-backs. For much of last year those three groups were in the sub-20 position. Sinn Féin has risen above 20 per cent only once in the RedC polls, that in May of last year. But overall, and very oddly, their fortunes seem to be linked.
Interestingly a Sunday Times poll appears to corroborate much of the general trends, with FG at 26 per cent, the LP at 11 per cent, FF at 24 per cent (worth thinking about that) and SF at 19 per cent. That leaves 20 per cent for Others/Independents.
Fine Gael by contrast while never regaining the dizzy heights above 40 per cent seen in May 2011 had managed to make the 30 to 35 per cent band its own until late last year and early this. Now it’s dipped sub-30 two polls in a row – and more tellingly across other polls (including the Sunday Times poll).
Labour continues its slow decline, reaching down towards the 10 per cent level that was its lot for much of the past three decades.
Obviously all others do well when FG and LP decline, but note that it is all others. Sinn Féin, Independents and Others and Fianna Fáil. There’s still a fairly strong correlation between Fine Gael and Independents and Others, generally when one is up the other is down, look at March and October 2012. This is interesting because it suggests a core of former FG supporters who cannot bring themselves to vote for either SF or Fianna Fáil and will therefore tilt towards Inds/Others. Room there for a right of Fine Gael party? Could be.
Labour’s vote, by contrast, is being cannibalised by both Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil, though more the latter than the former. That’s interesting too. One would wonder will we see a somewhat more left inflected rhetoric from SF in light of that? But if we are reaching the core LP vote then that would suggest some limits on SF’s rise, for can it hope to gain more support from more dyed-in-the-wool LP supporters. But that also suggests limits on FFs support too. For FG has reached its traditional poll ratings of the pre-2011 period. Perhaps FF can pull votes from there. But perhaps not.
More likely all parties will consider the Independents and Others and wonder how they can prise away support from what now constitutes 1 in 5 voters. And that’s an odd bloc to put it mildly. Is it the fact there are so many Independents now that they have a much higher profile before and even if in opposition seem to be a credible part of the system – whatever they actually are happening to do? Or is it that this is a reservoir of the undecideds, or those merely waiting the moment to trip back to FF? Hard to know, but one would have thought that at this stage that vote would be a lot softer than it appears to be currently.
Granted it’s not quite as simple as an LP to SF and FF transfer of support. Votes will come from (almost) everywhere and go (almost) everywhere in different numbers. But it’s not unreasonable to suggest that this is probably the major dynamic at work because LP votes are going somewhere.
Why now? Pat Leahy suggests in the SBP that the effects of the Budget have come into sharp focus this month and consequently people are exercising their ire at the Labour Party. He also asks where can the upward rise of Fianna Fáil stop.
You’ve got to think that the legacy of the bust and the bailout means that huge swathes of voters are lost to Fianna Fáil for ever. But where’s the ceiling? 25 per cent? 30 per cent?
And he notes that the growth of SF while ‘more uneven’ is ‘still a clear trend in the long term’. It’s difficult not to think that SF is now occupying the ground that the LP did – however briefly from late 2008 onwards where the latter party was achieving on occasion ratings in the mid-20s and sometimes even higher again. All part of the volatility that now makes up normal political life in the Republic, but still remarkable.
Richard Colwell from RedC in the same paper makes the point that in Dublin Labour has been overtaken by Sinn Féin. That’s a problem too for the LP.
Leahy believes this year is ‘make or break’ for the coalition. On the face of it, given these poll ratings, hard to disagree. Where next?
Meanwhile, Adrian Kavanagh on Political Reform suggests the following outcome were an election held with these ratings.
Fine Gael 56, Labour 15, Fianna Fail 38, Sinn Fein 25, Independents, Green Party, United Left Alliance and Others 24.
He thinks that both the RedC and Sunday Times poll results point to only an FG and FF coalition having sufficient seats to govern without the need of third parties or Independents. That would certainly make for a most interesting period ahead. And for those of us on the left a worrying one.
By the by, Paddy Healy on Political Reform asks a most interesting question, whether Patrick Nulty et al will run as LP candidates at the next election?
Finally I’ve noted before that for FG hitting sub-30 was problematic and it now appears to have lapsed to that level. But there’s another milestone, or is it a rubicon ahead. When and if FG is overtaken by Fianna Fáil, difficult but by no means an impossibility if Leahy’s thoughts about a potential ceiling on FF’s vote being 30 per cent or so are correct then that will provide problems not just for that party as a party but for the leadership of Enda Kenny.
And what shape the Irish political landscape then? Consider a situation where FF was on 30 per cent or so, FG in the mid-20s or so, Sinn Féin on 20 per cent and the LP on 10 per cent. That would leave but 14 per cent for Independents.
Interesting times? Too interesting.