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The why rather than the what… October 30, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Perhaps the most illuminating element of the RedC/SBP poll at the weekend comes not in the electoral material but the attitudinal stats. Richard Colwell draws attention to these in an article which probes the question as to why economic growth – of sorts – and a ‘giveaway’ budget isn’t translating into support for the government. Now many of us would contest the use of both those terms. There may be growth but it is weighted to the eastern seaboard in the main and elsewhere it doesn’t exist. Furthermore it is only growth in a limited range of areas. And as to the budget, well, many would hardly characterise it as ‘giveaway’ particularly given that it comes on top of years of cumulatively takeaway budgets.

Still, ignoring Colwell’s language one faces further problems. He notes that while 56% of those polled agreed that the budget was generally fair, only 42% agreed with the proposition it would make them more likely to vote for the government parties. Worse again, 57% agreed with the proposition that they hadn’t benefited from the economic recovery, and 55% agreed with the line that they did not trust this government to stand up for ordinary people.

Colwell suggests that it even goes beyond the lack of personal sense of increased wellbeing – though surely that fact alone suggests that talk of a recovery is overdone:

It is clear that many of those that switched away from FG and the LP feel rightly or wrongly ‘let down’ to various degrees by their decision to put them into power in 2011 and that there is an underlying lack of trust that needs to be addressed if they are to win them back.

And he notes somewhat tellingly that:

This ranges in veracity from those who have switched away from FG to ‘undecided’ using language such as being ‘let down’ to the middle ground of those who believe the government parties have ‘broken promises’ to the extremes of those who have left Labour for SF using language such as ‘betrayal’ of promises.

Not, some would think, a very broad range of the spectrum on display there between broken promises and betrayal, but let it pass.

He notes that:

An extra €10 a week in your pay packet does little to counter the potentially massive debt of pre-recession mortgages.

Or the LPT, or water charges, or… well, add as applicable. Though he doesn’t mention those items – oddly enough.

He concludes by suggesting that:

The government parties will be pinning their hopes on the fact that the economic benefits seen in January will be enough, coupled with a possible fear factor that a change of government may have on the economy.

Interesting. But what if the electorate decides that there’s not that much to fear, that when push comes to shove FF and FG could work together and that a vote for the opposition might be worth it whether just as a protest or as a means of pushing them (the opposition) towards power.

Which makes me wonder whether the left in all its variegated forms shouldn’t be pushing that line, that if FG wants to keep power it can always work with the other right of centre party FF and to hell with the talk of instability. Because that’s the reality.

Doesn’t really bring the left closer to power this next time out, but perhaps after that. And that line happens to have one absolutely fundamental virtue. It is true.

By the by, an extremely, some might say curiously, optimistic Pat Rabbitte in the SBP at the weekend opining on the Red C poll. He argues that the poll is an unpleasant surprise for the coalition. Really? Really? Though he is correct that it’s a bad one for the LP – at least it’s a bad poll for the LP.

He clings to the notion that it as poll respondents ‘not responding as voters but as citizens’. That’s a new one on me, but he parses it out as ‘what will be the impact of having to commit themselves in the polling booths across the country when the time comes?’

We’ll see is the only adequate answer to that. He argues that a share of the middle ground will come back ‘very disproportionately’ to Fine Gael. Can’t disagree with that.

Still he looks at the LP polling data and concludes rightly that getting to a government is a problem. Well it is if you think that a government can only be formed with the LP. But if you don’t… well that’s quite another matter.

He has to admit that the only real option is an FG/FF government, at least on the poll results. Though he doesn’t mention minority government, which is curious given that it is in fact even more likely as an option. He rightly in my opinion argues that after last week SF participation in government is unlikely in the extreme. As he notes FG’s ‘law and order DNA would not permit it’ and FF is for reasons of survival not going to admit to the possibility this side of the election result. And possibly not then. He believes, and again I think he’s right, that support for the Independents, and he means independents here, will contract during the campaign proper. That said it’s at such high levels that one way or another there’s going to be lorry loads of them elected, barring some entirely unforeseen problem. And intriguingly he agrees that half a dozen supporting an FG government would be workable. After that he sees problems. Well, there you are now. What about half a dozen and two small parties of 3 or more TDs apiece? Is that ‘infinitely more difficult’? He doesn’t say. I’d think if there was a Minister apiece representing those smaller parties it might just work.

Thing is I don’t think the numbers come good for that. Again, Adrian Kavanagh’s projections, already discussed seem to require many more TDs again to get to the majority, let alone across it.

So what does he envisage? A second election no less. ‘In rapid succession’ no less.

Realistically it can only be ruled out if Labour performs better than today’s poll suggests.

Remember I mentioned optimism?

Candidate reports from being out and about are convinced that they will.

Really? I’ve spoken to some who have only recently left the LP and even accounting for intrinsic antipathy of sorts their reports from the ground are that there’s massive anger against that party. And worse still a sort of irrelevance. I’d love to know where Rabbitte is getting his reports from… anyhow, he continues:

Clearly the people are not telling the pollsters as much. All of which adds up to the conclusion that Labour was correct not to go with a November election.

Right.

Though… a thought strikes. He says the LP should do better, indeed must do better, for FG’s sake in relation to forming the next government. Okay. So what are the figures like for good results. Take May this year when a more favourable poll for the LP, though not quite as good for FG saw the following:

Fine Gael 28% (up 3%), Independents and Others 22% (down 4%), Sinn Fein 21% (down 1%), Fianna Fail 19% (NC), Labour Party 10% (up 2%). My constituency-level analysis of these poll figures estimates that party seat levels, should such national support trends be replicated in an actual general election, would be as follows: Fianna Fail 34, Fine Gael 52, Sinn Fein 32, Labour Party 12, Independents and Others 28. 

Very good. But the combined number of TDs would be lower than this weekend which was as follows!

Fine Gael 30% (up 2%), Independents and Others 27% (down 1%), Fianna Fail 20% (down 2%), Sinn Fein 16% (NC), Labour Party 7% (down 3%). My constituency-level analysis of these poll figures estimates that party seat levels, should such national support trends be replicated in an actual general election, would be as follows: Fianna Fail 33, Fine Gael 63, Sinn Fein 22, Labour Party 2, Independents and Others 38. 

What’s interesting is to look back at the projections Kavanagh has made and try to see what the figures for FG and LP on higher numbers would be. It seems to me that 2013 was the pivotal year where both parties support really went south, though the outcome of these trends wasn’t visible for some time. January 2013 brought a dip for FG beneath 30%, while the LP remained fairly strong (note that Independents were the ones who were weaker then).

Fine Gael 29% (down 3%), Labour 13% (NC), Fianna Fail 21% (up 3%), Sinn Fein 16% (down 4%), Green Party 3%/Independents, United Left Alliance and Others 18% (combined levels up 4%). My constituency-level analysis of these poll figures estimates that party seat levels, should such national support trends be replicated in an actual general election, would be as follows: Fine Gael 56, Labour 18, Fianna Fail 37, Sinn Fein 23, Green Party 1, United Left Alliance 4, Independents and Others 19. 

March 2013 saw worse news with the LP sinking, and pulling the prospects of a majority under.

Fine Gael 28% (NC), Fianna Fail 25% (up 1%), Sinn Fein 16% (up 2%), Labour 11% (down 2%), Green Party, Independents and Others 20% (down 1%). My constituency-level analysis of these poll figures estimates that party seat levels, should such national support trends be replicated in an actual general election, would be as follows: Fine Gael 57, Fianna Fail 43, Sinn Fein 22, Labour 13, Green Party, Independents and Others 22.

Worse again in June with RedC/Paddy Power (note the previous two quote were RedC/SBP) where FG was up, but the LP was down but higher than where it is today:

Fine Gael 30% (up 4%), Fianna Fail 24% (down 2%), Sinn Fein 16% (NC), Labour 10% (down 1%), Green Party, Independents and Others 20% (down 1%). My constituency-level analysis of these poll figures estimates that party seat levels, should such national support trends be replicated in an actual general election, would be as follows: Fine Gael 59, Fianna Fail 44, Sinn Fein 21, Labour 11, Green Party, Independents and Others 22.

But then the variables elsewhere were different with FF up, SF up Independents and others down.

With such variability it is difficult to realistically say what will be the situation in four months time. What seems reasonable to suggest is that the underlying hostility to the government will remain. Some will come back – probably from the Ind/Other category. But even if it does the figures above suggest that that alone doesn’t offer any guarantee of success that a government can be elected – not least because the sort of Ind/Others who return may simply not be there.

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