Indications FF may re-emerge as viable political force

Thu, Oct 18, 2012, 01:00

ANALYSIS:FF’s dire reputation may be wearing off, as its support in Dublin recovers to 15 per cent

FIANNA FÁIL’s image as the toxic party of Irish politics may be beginning to fade, going by the findings of today’s Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll.

The level of support for the party has jumped by 50 per cent since the first Irish Times poll of the year back in April, and it appears that voters are now coming around to considering it as an alternative to the two Government parties.

Fianna Fáil is still far off from the dominant role it held in Irish politics for almost 80 years but the poll indicates that it is capable of recovering to become a serious political force in the years ahead.

What will be particularly encouraging for the party is that its vote in Dublin has recovered to 15 per cent, even though it does not have a single TD in the city or county.

At this level of support, it is tied with Sinn Féin in Dublin and only four points behind the Labour Party. To capitalise on this support, however, will require a major rebuilding project in advance of the next local elections in 2014.

The party has seen a significant recovery in its support among the poorest DE social category and among working-class C2 voters.

In age terms, Fianna Fáil is strongest among the over-65s but it has also seen a significant recovery in the 50-64 age bracket.

Across the regions, the party is strongest in Connacht Ulster where it is now neck and neck with Fine Gael. It still trails well behind its old rival in all of the other regions.

Sinn Féin has dropped back four points since the last poll but it is still on a highly respectable 20 per cent of the national vote.

The slide has been biggest in Dublin where it has dropped eight points and is now behind Labour and tied with Fianna Fáil.

The bedrock of the party’s support is still the poorest DE social category where it is on 31 per cent but Fianna Fáil is now making inroads among this group.

The party’s highest level of support is found in the rest of Leinster outside Dublin but it is relatively even across the rest of the country. In age terms, it does best among the 18-34 age groups and worst among the over-65s.

Sinn Féin is significantly more attractive to men than women but the trend is not as pronounced as it has been for the past decade and more which indicates a potential to make future gains.

The combined vote for the two main Opposition parties comes out at 41 per cent, exactly the same as the last poll at the end of May.

Remarkably, the level of support for the two parties that form the Government almost exactly mirrors the last poll with an increase of just 1 per cent to 43 per cent for the combined Coalition parties.

Fine Gael can take some heart from the fact that the slippage in support has been relatively slight despite the travails of government.

What will be of concern, though, is that this is the third poll in a row to record a drop in the party’s support.

The party still has more support in every region of the country and among every age group than any other party but it no longer holds the lead across all social classes with slippage in both the C2 and DE categories where it is now in second place.

The party’s vote in Dublin is holding up well at 29 per cent, where it is easily the strongest political force, and the same applies in Munster where it registers at 37 per cent.

However, Sinn Féin has pulled level with Fine Gael in the rest of Leinster while Fianna Fáil is breathing down its neck in Connacht Ulster.

Among the best-off AB voters and the middle-class C1 voters, Fine Gael is easily the biggest party.

There will be relief in the Labour ranks that the party has gone up two points since the last poll. A 12 per cent rating is still well down on the 19 per cent the party got in the general election but at least the downward spiral has been ended.

Labour has suffered more from being in Government than Fine Gael but that is because the party raised such expectations in Opposition.

Making the transition to taking difficult decisions in office was always going to be more difficult for the junior Coalition party.

The party is still getting a very respectable 19 per cent in Dublin, which is easily its strongest region. The rest of Leinster comes next on 12 per cent, but the party’s vote in Munster is just 9 per cent while it is only 3 per cent in Connacht Ulster.

In class terms, Labour is strongest among the best-off AB voters and weakest among the poorest DE category.

The party’s vote is evenly spread across the different age groups although it tails off among the over-65s.

The Green Party is still languishing on 2 per cent and it is difficult to see how it will make any kind of recovery in the short term. Party leader Eamon Ryan has seen a rise in his satisfaction rating but is coming from a very low base and it will take some major changes in the political order for the Greens to make any kind of comeback.

The level of support for Independents and others at 14 per cent reflects the fact that the various parties and individuals who make up the technical group in the Dáil are still managing to attract a fair degree of support.

The whole Mick Wallace saga does not appear to have done a great deal of damage to the credibility of the Independents in the Dáil, and it seems that they will continue to make an impact in national politics in the years to come.

The strongest support for Independents and others comes in Dublin where they attract 17 per cent of the vote and their support is spread across social categories and age groups.

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