Spending cuts favoured in areas where beneficiaries perceived as prosperous
Hardly any voters favour cutting old age pensions or school funding
In research for ‘The Irish Times’ and Ipsos MRBI, 1,000 respondents were asked the top three areas in which they would make savings if they were in government and were faced with the requirement for cutbacks in Budget 2014.
With yet another austere budget due in a fortnight, this poll suggests many voters see potential for savings from the university staff pay bill, public sector pensions and medical card payments to doctors and pharmacists.
By contrast, the survey indicates hardly any voters perceive scope to extract savings from disability allowances, primary and secondary school funding and the old age pension. Rightly or wrongly, the implication is that voters make distinctions between spending categories in which the beneficiaries are perceived to be prosperous and areas in which money is not perceived to be plentiful.
In this research for The Irish Times and Ipsos MRBI, 1,000 respondents were asked the top three areas in which they would make savings if they were in government and were faced with the requirement for cutbacks in Budget 2014.
The survey was carried out against the backdrop of intensive Government debate on the spending plan for next year. Although the troika is seeking €3.1 billion in cutbacks and tax increases, the final figure is likely to come in at a little less than €3 billion when the budget is unveiled on October 15th by Minister for Finance Michael Noonan.
The poll suggests half of respondents support the push to go below the €3.1 billion, while 32 per cent believe the Government should not dilute the target.
A feature of the poll findings is that respondents drew a distinction between the perception of potential savings from different pay bills for similar work.
For example, the university staff pay bill was cited by 18 per cent of respondents, more than any other item, and considerably greater than the 2 per cent who identified potential for savings from the pay bill for primary and secondary school teachers.
Old age pension
Similarly, respondents drew a clear distinction between the bill for public sector pensions and the old age pension. If governments are routinely wary of a political backlash against any targeting of pensioners when it comes to cutbacks, the poll points to a nuanced view among voters.
The potential for savings from the public sector pension bill was cited by 17 per cent of respondents, the second-highest after the university pay bill. By contrast, only 1 per cent of respondents saw potential for savings from the old age pension bill. At the same time, the age breakdown in respect of those citing the public sector pensions is striking. No less than 23 per cent of respondents aged 50-64 saw potential here for savings, greater than any other spending area cited by that cohort. By contrast, only 14 per cent of respondents aged 65 and above were of the same opinion. The poll points to variations over potential public sector pension savings between supporters of the main political parties. While 14 per cent of Fine Gael voters see potential savings here, the figure is higher among Labour voters (20 per cent) and higher still among Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin voters (21 per cent each).
The third-highest area for potential savings was medical card payments to general practitioners and pharmacists, cited by 9 per cent.
Garda pay bill
expenditure areas came in just behind the medical card bracket. The Garda pay bill was cited by 8 per cent of respondents, rent supplements by 7 per cent and the jobseeker’s benefit by 5 per cent.
At the same time, only 1 per cent of respondents saw potential for savings from the disability allowance and funding for primary and secondary schools. Similarly, only 2 per cent of respondents saw potential to realise savings from student grants, the one-parent family payment and initiatives such as the community employment scheme, the back to education allowance and the jobs initiative.
The potential for savings from the back to school allowance and child benefit payments were cited by 3 per cent.
Some 4 per cent of respondent pointed to potential savings from the medicines bill, the health service pay bill and mortgage interest supplements.