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The silent voting minority? January 29, 2020

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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Fiach Kelly of the IT is actually one of their better correspondents, so it’s odd to see him arguing the following:

The swing voters are still silent as week three of the election campaign begins.
This cohort of voters – “the people who are not saying anything”, according a seasoned canvasser with one of the big parties – are keeping candidates guessing, but this coming, crucial week will have a huge bearing on who they will support.

My problem with this is that polling across four years now is fairly clear that there’s no great mystery, no tranche of voters whose intentions are somehow difficult to read. Instead party and other support is – as it has been – locked into fairly clear bands and what movement there is has been not in relation to FG and FF (bar the glorious dawn of the Varadkar age) but rather around the edges – perhaps 5-10% or so who currently have plumped for the GP and SF in the last six months and yes, might be persuaded to go to FF or FG but so far seem fairly immune to those parties charms. Perhaps they will return but that consistent polling data, and the simple fact that both FF and FG remain more or less as they have been across the last two or three years (that is sub-30%) with FF currently a bit ahead and we now well into an election campaign.

I think the following from the same article is key:

Fianna Fáil sources concede they are encountering some doubters, but believe they are still on course to be the largest party in the next Dáil.
They also say Fine Gael’s core vote across the country is holding.
“There is no animosity to us,” said one local Fianna Fáil activist with decades of experience.
There is deep unhappiness with the Government, but when it comes to Fianna Fáil, the activist added: “There is a stop, a comma, if you get my drift.
“People are looking for something different, and can’t articulate what that is.”

FF are indeed on course to be the largest party in the Dáil, but a diminished FF in historical terms. FG is coming to terms with an unpopularity that I think surprises even it. And there’s a sentiment of ‘none of the above’.

Some people are indeed looking for something different, and the heterogenous offerings politically aren’t satisfying them. What would?

All of which suggests that even if the FF vote strengthens it is unlikely to be anything like sufficient to leave us in a political space significantly different to that seen in the last four years.

Comments»

1. NFB - January 29, 2020

Is this the same gigantic band of silent voters that were going to say No to SSM and 8th repeal, as we were told over and over and over again by certain people?

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2. Daire O'Criodain - January 29, 2020

First, based on the trend of the polls which is the least bad cluster of “data” we have your summary is most reasonable.

“FF are indeed on course to be the largest party in the Dáil, but a diminished FF in historical terms. FG is coming to terms with an unpopularity that I think surprises even it. And there’s a sentiment of ‘none of the above’.”

I am not saying Fiach Kelly is good or bad. But is there any value in the snippets of gossip he offers in the extract immediately above your comment? Does it offer any insight at all; i.e., a perception with some acuteness that you mightn’t have thought of yourself. No, entirely predictable chatter to my mind.

Remember, not one of the mainstream pol corrs saw the apparent rise of SF in this campaign coming (nor indeed their earlier by-election victory). If they can’t enhance our perspective on the present in a way that prompts us towards a read on the future that actually transpires, well, what use are they? Other than as a bit of diversion?

Its no better than the foreign correspondent who takes his/her read on what’s going on here from their taxi driver from airport to hotel.

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WorldbyStorm - January 29, 2020

Agreed but in a way that is the point – if Kelly, who in fairness has been the length and breadth of the state cannot even get a sniff of an SF revitalisation then that suggests there is a problem with Irish political reporting. now in fairness neither did anyone I know anticipate this including some with a huge focus on Irish political activity. But there’s another point which is that the ITs political reporting has a political approach – agenda is perhaps both too strong and too weak a term. It’s almost entirely explicit – they champion a broadly liberal approach and mix of parties – SDs, GP, LP at the more ‘radical’ fringe, and essentially centre/centre-right politics with a strand of redistributionism (at best). So it’s not unuseful to keep pointing at that dynamic and how it diverges from actual reality on the ground.

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Paul Culloty - January 29, 2020

To be fair, as recently as May’s local elections, SF were decimated in large swathes of the country, and even in areas that could be considered their strongholds (Kerry, Donegal) they just about held what they had, so evidence that the left was moving in their direction was entirely conspicuous through its absence. Even the by-election rise had to bear the caveat of a low turnout, so quite why the poll spike has materialised just now remains unclear.

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WorldbyStorm - January 30, 2020

Very true. There’s something very interesting in there – and of course, let’s not count chickens before hatched, etc. As you say the turnout was low on the by-election. My tentative thought re the spike is that given the imminence of an election discontent with FG and lack of enthusiasm with FF has sent a small, but not insignificant tranche of voters to a point where – at least as of now, they are reassessing their view re SF as an option. It only needs three or four % of voters to go to SF for them to do better than 2016. I think there are other issues as well, a sense that the left of Labour and Ind left can’t work usefully together or is splintering, or retiring or leading lights have got out of Irish politics entirely. Perhaps the sense that MLM is a ‘safer’ person than predecessors and/or that she seems fairly straightforward. perhaps also the basic contradiction of two states forcing SF to go into govt in the North but the seeming anathema to that in the South. And no doubt a general convergence of opinion with the broadly palatable SF policy platform.

But I don’t know. There was a clear spike for the GP prior to this, and in fairness they have gained 3-4% as well. Perhaps that’s just the limit of their spike. If they do get 7-9 TDs back they’ll be delighted.

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3. Joe - January 29, 2020

“This cohort of voters – “the people who are not saying anything”, according a seasoned canvasser with one of the big parties – are keeping candidates guessing, but this coming, crucial week will have a huge bearing on who they will support.”

There was another thread asking people for canvassing stories. One thing I remember from canvassing for Seán Ó Cionnaith of WP in the early 90s was doing an area where there were a lot of people who weren’t saying anything. That translated on polling day into not voting for Ó Cionnaith. So, for what it’s worth, my take on people saying nothing to this canvasser for a big party is that they are telling him they are not voting for his candidate. It’s an Irish thing, isn’t it, being too polite to say it to your face, so say nothing. In this case, I hope so anyway.

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4. roddy - January 29, 2020

Just saw Waterford profiled on RTE news.The PBP candidate said she expected big transfers from SF “because of the closeness of our policies”.If I was there I would give PBP number 2.Similarly I would expect PBP to give high preferences to SF.This could have a big impact on the last seats in many places and should be encouraged.

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