Irish Times Opinion Poll
The figures in the final Irish Times/ Ipsos MRBI poll are astounding and confirm a few trends that have been evident in the past week.
Fianna Fáil, 16 per cent (+1); Fine Gael, 37 per cent (+4); Labour, 19 per cent (-5); Sinn Féin, 11 per cent (-1); Green Party, 2 per cent (+1); and Independents/Others, 15 per cent (no change).
(This is written in a hurry so apologies in advance for all typographical errors and sins against the laws of grammar and proper usage!).
Opinion polls are by their nature a bluntish insturment for reflecting voting intentions. In this election, the determination of the final seat will be crucial in almost every one of the 43 constituencies. With a margin of error of plus or minus 3 per cent, it is not possible to predict with any degree of certainty the outcome.
But having said that, they do identify the big trends, especially when then you are looking at cumulative results.
And the big trends are usually, to borrow the favourite phrase of my first editor, as plain as a pikestaff.
Here we have:
The inexorable rise of Fine Gael.
Labour’s dramatic fall.
Fianna Fail stopping the rot.
Sinn Fein losing momentum.
I attended two events today. The Fine Gael event in the Aviva stadium. George Hook was the MC and threw away all objectivity. The FG livery was onipresent. The atmosphere was buoyant verging on triumphalist.
Fine Gael are on 70 plus though I don’t think they have the strategy or candidate management in place to reach 80.
But more than a few of my colleagues noted today that this may be their Sheffied moment, a reference to the infamous Labour Party rally in Britain in 1992 when Neil Kinnock declared victory a week before the event. Only to be kiboshed by John Major’s Tories the following week. I don’t think Fine Gael will lose too much momentum. I have a sense there may be a slight correction in the final week… a tiny move away.
Onto Navan tonight for Micheal Martin’s keynote speech. No better place for the diehard FFers and some 400 of them packed into the room to hear his appeal to the Fianna Fail core to return to a party that was returning to the core. It was a relatively well-crafted speech well delivered, and will position the party when it is picking up the pieces after the election. Fianna Fail will stage a mini rally, I think, this week but will still be 40 seats at least shy of Fine Gael.
And what of Labour? It all seems to be going wrong. Was it the monotone anger? Or the flip-fllp on the deficit and higher tax rates early in the campaign? Or an absense of the detail? Or the negative campaigning? Or Eamon Gilmore’s struggle to find the right picch? Or the fact that it may be more a party than a presidential campaign?
Sinn Fein has also struggled to maintain the momentum given to the party by Pearse Doherty after his byelection victory. The party came close enough in 2007 and is likely to double its seats next Friday. But it no longer looks like it will treble its seats. People might cite Gerry Adams as a factor. I think there was a feeling out there that its economic plan lacked credibility and it would take a mathematical genius of the stature of Isaac Newton to explain why their figures succeed in defying grafity.
The Irish Times poll published at the same juncture in 2007 was critical in determining the outcome. What was set in the poll materialised, give or take a couple of percentage points, on election day.
There’s a lot more volatility out there this time and there’s still a lot to play for. But the big trends are evident. Fine Gael will be the big winners. It two rivals will both lose out, compartively.
Sinn Fein will flatter to deceive… again. The ULA will make a breaktrhrough.
And it’s going to be a big independents day. I’d say 15 at least… and counting!