Poll analysis: support for Government parties rallies despite budget

Fianna Fáil will see poll rating as a little disappointing as it is exactly the same as in the last poll

The demographic base of Fine Gael’s support indicates it could win well in excess of 30 per cent if an election had been held this week

The demographic base of Fine Gael’s support indicates it could win well in excess of 30 per cent if an election had been held this week


The revival in support for both Government parties since the autumn is the main feature of today’s Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll.

What is striking is that the recovery by Fine Gael and Labour has taken place in the aftermath of another tough budget in October.

Almost three years into its term of office, the Coalition can now aspire to winning a second term at the next general election. Fine Gael will be very happy it has now moved back into the 30 per cent range, if only just. For the past year the party has been polling in the 24-26 per cent range so the recovery to 30 per cent is important, particularly with the local and European elections coming in May.

In regional terms, the party’s support is strongest in Connacht-Ulster, where it is on 39 per cent, followed by Munster and the rest of Leinster, where it is about 30 per cent. Dublin, where it gets 25 per cent, is the party’s weakest region but it is still ahead of all other parties in the capital. Considering Fine Gael was almost wiped out in Dublin in 2002, its recovery there has been critical to its new status as the biggest party in the country.

AB voters
In class terms, Fine Gael is away out in front among the better-off AB voters, where it is on 46 per cent. It is also the biggest party among middle-class C1 voters, where it gets 33 per cent, and among farmers, where it gets 51 per cent support. Among working-class C2 and DE voters Fine Gael gets just over 20 per cent.

In age terms, it does best among over-50s, while it does worst among 18-24 year olds.

Overall, the demographic base of the party’s support indicates it could win well in excess of 30 per cent if an election had been held this week. Its strength among middle-class voters, farmers and the over-50s, who normally turn out to vote in big numbers, gives it a very solid base.

The increase in satisfaction with Taoiseach Enda Kenny is another plus for the party, while the sharp rise in the Government’s satisfaction rating, from an admittedly low base, is further evidence that Fine Gael can aspire to holding its supporters over the next two years.

There is also good news for Labour in the poll, although its standing in the last poll was remarkably low at 6 per cent.

The increase to 9 per cent is a significant comeback by the party, although it still has a long way to go to get near the support it had in the last election. Labour’s strongest regions are Dublin and the rest of Leinster, where it is on 11 per cent, followed by Munster on 8 per cent, and Connacht-Ulster at 5 per cent. The party will need to do significantly better in all of those regions if it is to have any chance of winning a seat in the European Parliament elections next May.

In age terms, Labour is strongest among the 18-24 year olds and weakest among the 25 to 49 age group. In class terms it is strongest among lower middle-class C1 and skilled working class C2 voters.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore’s standing has improved but he still trails other party leaders.

Another worry for him is that among Labour supporters 45 per cent express dissatisfaction and just 31 per cent are satisfied with his leadership.

For Fianna Fáil the poll rating will be a little disappointing as it is exactly the same as in the last poll. In the first half of the year the party got 26 per cent in two successive Irish Times polls and it has now hit 22 per cent in the last two.

Support is spread evenly across the country outside Dublin, where it is on 25 per cent. In the capital it is significantly lower at 16 per cent but that still puts the party in with a fighting chance of recovering council seats in Dublin next May, although winning a European seat will be difficult.

Social classes
Fianna Fáil support is spread relatively evenly across all social classes, although it is weakest among the best-off AB voters. There is also an even spread across the age groups apart from the 25-43 age bracket, where it gets just 14 per cent.

Sinn Féin drops two points to 21 per cent, back to where it was in the June poll. The party has obtained a little over 20 per cent on a consistent basis over the past two years. A very encouraging sign for the party is that it is on 23 per cent in Dublin, and if it obtains that in May then it could win a European seat and significantly increase its number of councillors. It is now winning significant support in all the age brackets up to 50 but it drops among the older age groups and is down to 12 per cent in the over-65s.

In class terms, its support is heavily weighted towards the poorer C2 and DE working-class voters, where it gets 30-35 per cent. The challenge for Sinn Féin will be to get potential supporters out to vote as they tend to be strongest in the groups that traditionally turn out in the fewest numbers.

The Green Party has now fallen to less than 1 per cent and is now included among the Independents/Others.

Independents/Others is still very significant at 18 per cent. In Dublin this category is marginally ahead of Sinn Féin at 24 per cent.

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