Poll reminds Coalition all politics is local
Voters care more about what happens in their backyards than in Frankfurt
Today’s Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll suggests the patience of the Irish electorate is wearing thin.
Fine Gael continues to be punished by voters, dropping six points (to 25 per cent) in this latest poll, allowing Fianna Fáil (on 26 per cent) to reclaim the title of Ireland’s most popular political party for the first time since 2008.
Labour has retreated to what could be considered its core vote, with just 10 per cent support and a far cry from the party’s high of 33 per cent recorded in 2010.
Sinn Féin has slipped two points to 18 per cent, with Independent/Others on 20 per cent, up six points since October 2012. The Green Party registers just 1 per cent support.
This latest poll was conducted on Monday and Tuesday of this week, before the bank debt deal had been announced.
Of more salience to voters were the news stories that featured in the days and weeks prior to polling.
For older, traditional voters and rural voters, the mood music in recent weeks was quite unsettling – the imminent closure of Garda stations against the backdrop of the brutal murder of Garda Adrian Donohoe, the beef industry under the microscope, abortion legislation on the horizon and the deadline looming for owners of septic tanks to register.
For PAYE workers everywhere, the next wave of austerity arrived in January, with higher PRSI deductions from every payslip.
For Fine Gael, today’s drop of six points is somewhat larger than the trend would have predicted and cannot be explained by austerity fatigue alone. For a more complete explanation we need to look closely at the changes in party support across the various demographic groupings.
Strikingly for Fine Gael, it is no longer number one among the farming community, for whom Fianna Fáil is now the party of choice. And among the broader population of rural voters, a lead of 16 points over Fianna Fáil last October has been turned into a deficit of eight points. Rural Ireland has given Fine Gael a bloody nose and a timely reminder that in Ireland all politics is local.
For Labour, its decline over the past three years has been dramatic. Equally dramatic has been the fall in satisfaction with Eamon Gilmore’s performance, from a high of 49 per cent to a low of 17 per cent today. His personal credibility may well have been damaged by the growing belief that Labour has not delivered on its pre-election promises.
Perhaps recognising that the situation cannot be allowed to deteriorate any further, in the run-up to today’s poll Labour made securing a deal on the Anglo promissory note a hostage to fortune. Time to deliver on “Labour’s way or Frankfurt’s way”. Only time will tell if yesterday’s agreement will be seen by voters to be a vindication of Labour on this promise or if Michael Noonan, Enda Kenny and Fine Gael will get the credit.
It continues to be the case that Labour’s heartland is in Dublin, with 18 per cent support compared to just 7 per cent support outside Dublin. Considering how the pain of the new property tax will be felt more acutely in Dublin, Labour’s core vote may come under increasing pressure in the year ahead, notwithstanding recent developments in Frankfurt.