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More on the latest RedC/SBP poll September 17, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.

An interesting poll in the SBP this weekend from RedC. It’s headline figures as noted on Saturday were as follows:

Fine Gael – 28% (+3%)

Labour – 8% (+1%)

Fianna Fáil party 18% (NC)

Sinn Féin 23% (+1%)

Independents and Others are also on 23% (-5%)

Adrian Kavanagh – who has transcended the curious disappearance of Political Reform:

…estimates that party seat levels, should such national support trends be replicated in an actual general election, would be as follows: Fianna Fail 32, Fine Gael 56, Sinn Fein 37, Labour Party 3, Independents and Others 30.

FG big enough, one supposes, but… Behold the renaissance of the LP with a …er… ‘new’ leader. And government formation on those figures? 80 is pretty much the bare minimum necessary for a coalition to operate. How’s that going to work with the configuration offered above?

The reconsolidation of FG is troubling, but not entirely unexpected. Pat Leahy in the SBP suggests that this poll shows a ‘boost for the coalition parties’. And that it is ‘encouraging news… as the new political season begins and the countdown to the October budget begins in earnest’. I’m not entirely convinced:

Support for the government parties increases by four points today, with Fine Gael winning the lion’s share of that improvement, rising by three points since our last poll in June to 28 per cent today, while Labour gains by a single point, up to 8 per cent.

Richard Colwell of RedC puts it this way:

The rise in support in this poll [for FG] only claws back that lost during those months at the start of the year, but does show that the party can win back support with a prevailing wind behind them. The key is whether it will be enough to offset anger at austerity in the years before this.

Even if it was just anger at those years, I’d be sceptical that FG could claw back too much support. But the tenor of his analysis is that all is peachy from here on out.

Perhaps partially linked to the economic competence rating, and surely influenced by indications by the government parties that we have seen our last austerity budget, is the finding that voters also appear to be prepared to forgive the austerity that had been such a driver of dissatisfaction just a few months ago.

Erm… water charges, anyone?

In fairness Colwell is clear that Labour’s continuing low polling figures are a significant problem (look again at Kavanagh’s projection of 3!).

Still, looking at FG figures the thought does come to mind as to where else do those on the right go? Hardly FF, whose polls remained mired at just about where they were at election 2011. That in itself is remarkable. So much for their renaissance. It’s been said before that now we know their core vote. Seems they can’t actually break much beyond it. Some will be eyeing this figures carefully and wondering whether a certain M. Martin may have gone beyond his expiry date. That will probably include a certain M. Martin.

Labour? They’re not going to be cheering over 8%. That’s towards the lower end of their operating area, though I suppose a voting pact with FG might be of some help come the day of the election. But not much for them to be happy about either. A change of leader and yet so little to see gained from it. Which as any fule no suggests that it wasn’t the leader at all that was the problem but the party and its approach.

As for SF. Marginal improvement, but so what? They’re above 20% and well ahead of FF and the LP. It’s the very fact of continuity, of consolidation, that is so important to them. There’s perhaps likely to be some slippage at the election, but probably not that much. They’ll be well pleased.

And Independents and Others, sliding some 5%. Outside margin of error, indicative, of what exactly? Hard to say, still well ahead of their 2011 vote. But food for thought. They’d win big, and gain seats on this figure, but can they sustain it as Independents and Others? Or do they require more formal alliances.

That’s a thought isn’t it? Perhaps the public is tiring a bit of Independents, becoming more aware that a volatile post-election environment is likely with no party able to dominate and the combinations available being incompatible. That’s the sort of terrain a clever alliance of sorts might slip profitably onto.

Or, is it that it is far far too early to take away much at all from this poll, coming as it does at the end of a long Summer. Could it be that the return of parliamentary political activity – with the attendant focus by media upon same, will see these figures move around?

So it’s good to have a poll, but I’d feel a lot more comfortable offering conclusions, of sorts, in the wake of a couple more monthly ones. We’re moving into interesting times. The public appears to think austerity has done the business, or at least a majority of them. Perhaps that’s in a certain hope that austerity is now ‘over’ – as some of the media seems to suggest. We should be so lucky.

Notable are the figures in favour of increased public spending over tax cuts in the same poll. That probably won’t cut much ice with Fine Gael. But perhaps it should. Not least because citizens are as noted above now facing water charges and so on, and a budget too.

Leahy argues that:

What today’s poll suggests is that the root of the government’s political difficulties lies not in the unpopularity of its austerity policies – and how can one reasonably expect austerity to be anything other than unpopular? – but in the collapse of competence that occurred after the bailout exit at the end of last year.
Look at the numbers again: 58 per cent say austerity was necessary – even hefty minorities of Sinn Féin (42 per cent) and independent voters (45 per cent) agree. In the light of this, it doesn’t make much sense to assert that the voters were punishing the government for implementing something most of them agree with.

There may be something in that, but I wonder if that ‘agreement’ with austerity is rather like the agreement of one acquiescing to someone holding a gun to your head and walking forward on their command. There’s no agency involved here, no visceral or other attachment to austerity. Or to put it another way, to expect political reward for carrying through such policies (and let’s note that the government itself eschewed agency and let itself be pushed forward by the troika, not very unwillingly it has to be said) is to miss the point. Some might agree in theory that the policies were necessary, but that doesn’t mean they agree with the way they were implemented (something that the preference for increased funding of services over tax cuts is also suggestive of).


1. Joe - September 17, 2014

This far out from an election, it’s all speculation. Things change and can change radically once an election is called, the campaign gets going and people start to focus. Thus we got the Spring Tide, where Labour suddenly became the party of choice for many, and similar down the years.
So here’s a speculative prediction for the next election. FG to get a wind behind them and get a serious bounce as the campaign progresses. Why? The view that they’ve managed the crisis well, that the economy is on the up and that we need a strong, stable government – people start to believe that. Labour get a much smaller bounce which means they’ll struggle to get into the low teens in terms of seats. SF to become the opposition party of choice. Their numbers stay strong and get stronger. Independent vote to collapse for the “strong government” reason that increases FG’s vote above. FF to be stuck where they are and where they are doomed to remain. As discussed in the other FF thread, they won’t ever again appeal to the young vote. Older voters look at their Front Bench and say meh. Older voters more impresssed with the FG front bench.
So result is an FG/Lab coalition with maybe support of a few non-aligned. SF as the party of opposition.


2. Ed - September 17, 2014

With all the polls that have been done lately, has there been any attempt to dig beneath the surface and figure out what people in the independent/others bloc are thinking? That’s the big uncertainty at the moment, we can’t say whether that’s a left-leaning bloc or a right-leaning bloc or a mix of the two without knowing what they think about particular issues. There’s a nugget there in the quote from Leahy – 55% of independent voters think the austerity programme was wrong, compared to 42% of voters in general; not as high as the SF figure, 58%, but still a good bit higher than average. You’d need to ask them what they think about other economic issues to get a better sense of what they’re thinking. And that would give you an idea of where they might break if they move away from independents and towards parties, would FG be the beneficiary, or SF, or anyone else?


3. PaddyM - September 17, 2014

Notable are the figures in favour of increased public spending over tax cuts in the same poll. That probably won’t cut much ice with Fine Gael.

If I’m not mistaken, there was an interview with Leo Varadkar on RTÉ Radio a few weeks ago where he said that, while people might be getting €5 or €10 back in the budget, if they continued to see the health service deteriorate as a result, they might prefer to forgo the tax cuts and see the money going there instead.

Now that might be special pleading on behalf of the minister responsible for the HSE, but nonetheless it was interesting to hear from someone who has up to now marketed himself as being on the Tory Boy wing of the party.


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