FF enjoys remarkable turnaround in fortunes

Sat, Feb 9, 2013, 00:00

ANALYSIS: The rise in support for FF has coincided with a marginally bigger drop for FG

Fianna Fáil has confounded the critics who wrote the party’s obituary after its election disaster two years ago, with today’s Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll putting it back on top of the political world for the first time in almost five years.

The five-point gain means Fianna Fáil has almost doubled its support since April last year. It is a remarkable turnaround in the party’s fortunes and the question now is whether it can maintain the momentum going into the local and European elections next year.

The rise in Fianna Fáil support has coincided with a marginally bigger drop in support for Fine Gael. The combined support for the two parties has remained remarkably consistent at about 50 per cent since the general election of February 2011. When one party goes up the other goes down.

Heartlands support

Fianna Fáil has managed to claw back support in its old heartlands that had drained away over the past few years.

It is now comfortably in the lead in the poorest DE social category and among farmers, and it also leads all other parties in the C1 lower middle-class category.

In terms of age groups, the party now leads among the over-65s, the most significant demographic when it comes to turnout at elections.

Across the regions it is the leading party by a significant margin in Connacht-Ulster and Munster, and is running neck and neck with Fine Gael in the rest of Leinster (ie not including Dublin).

Fianna Fáil’s Achilles’ heel is Dublin, where it currently does not have a single TD. Despite its recovery in the rest of the State ,The Irish Times poll puts the party trailing on 11 per cent – well back in fourth place in the capital behind Sinn Féin, Fine Gael and Labour, which are all bunched together.

The poll has warning signals for both Government parties, whose combined vote has dropped eight points to 35 per cent.

Fine Gael is down six points to 25 per cent, the fourth poll in a row to show a decline. It has suffered a fall in support in every region of the State and across most age groups.

The party is still ahead of Fianna Fáil among the younger age groups and is well ahead of all other parties among the better-off AB voters and among the skilled working-class C2 voters. In regional terms it is strongest in the rest of Leinster and Connacht-Ulster.

Labour decline

Labour has dropped back to 10 per cent in national terms but it does considerably better in Dublin, where it is on 18 per cent. In the rest of Leinster the party is on 9 per cent, in Munster it gets just 6 per cent and it is on 5 per cent in Connacht-Ulster.

In class terms it does best among C2 skilled working-class voters and is weakest among the best-off AB and the worst-off DE categories.

Across the age spectrum the party does best among younger voters but is very weak among the over-65s.

Sinn Féin has slipped back two points to 18 per cent. Its vote is evenly spread across the State but well above the average among younger and working-class voters.

The long-standing pronounced gender difference in opinion polls, which showed the party appealing much more strongly to men than women, is no longer in evidence. In the latest poll Sinn Féin is equally attractive to both sexes.

At just 1 per cent, it appears that the Green Party is making no recovery with the voters and the prospect of any kind of recovery in next year’s local elections is beginning to look remote.

Boost for small parties

However, the appeal of other small parties and Independents has grown considerably since the last Irish Times poll, with a fifth of all voters now supporting this category.

The level of support for this group is particularly pronounced in Dublin, where 32 per cent of voters say they would support this category.

This is a far higher level of support than any of the political parties managed to attract and indicates that there could be many more Independents and representatives of small parties in the Dáil after the next election.

This survey in the Republic of Ireland was conducted exclusively on behalf of The Irish Times by Ipsos MRBI, among a national quota sample of 1,000 representative of the circa 3.4 million adults aged 18 upwards, covering 100 sampling points throughout all constituencies in the Republic. Personal in-home interviewing took place on February 4th and 5th and the accuracy level is estimated to be about plus or minus 3 per cent. The survey was conducted within the guidelines laid down by the Marketing Society of Ireland and Esomar.