Sinn Féin surges as leader of anti-treaty forces
ANALYSIS:It seems clear that the pro-treaty Irish political establishment has staked its future on a European solution to an Irish problem
THE LATEST Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll confirms the rise of Sinn Féin in advance of the European fiscal treaty vote on Thursday. The poll shows support for the party at 24 per cent, a gain of three points since our April poll.
Fine Gael are on 32 per cent, a drop of just one point. However, Labour have lost a further three points and now stand on 10 per cent, their weakest showing since the 2007 general election almost five years ago.
The Green Party, on 2 per cent, are unchanged, while Independents/others have drifted marginally, down two points to 15 per cent.
Conducted on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of last week, our latest poll reveals the full impact on party support of the referendum campaign, coverage and debate.
While the activity around the campaign may not have had much of an influence in how we will vote (the margin in favour of a Yes vote has held remarkably consistent throughout), it has marked out the playing field on which politics in Ireland is being played today, and arguably will be played for the foreseeable future.
The most striking political story to unfold over the last three Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI polls has been the success achieved by Sinn Féin among the electorate generally and specifically within key demographic segments.
From having minimal support among older (55+ years) and middle-class voters, Sinn Féin can now claim significant levels of support among these groups, 22 per cent and 16 per cent respectively.
And the cherry on top for Sinn Féin from today’s poll is Gerry Adams’s satisfaction rating, which is up eight points to 37 per cent, making him the highest rated party leader in the country.
Such a strong poll-showing dares us to imagine where the Sinn Féin vote will go from here.
If austerity or an austerity-growth strategy does not bear fruit in the next few years, Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Labour will be fighting the next election on the wrong side of the only argument that matters and Sinn Féin could thrive.
Alternatively, this new wave of Sinn Féin voters could be reluctant followers, sharing with that party a lack of faith in austerity and not much else, leading to a drift from the party when broader policy issues are discussed in the run-up to the next general election. Politics in Ireland has never been more volatile than in the past few years and this is set to continue.
The lift in Sinn Féin’s vote appears to be only marginally crowding out support for Fine Gael, down one point since campaigning on the fiscal treaty began. It seems that Fine Gael are insulated somewhat by ideology from the rise of Sinn Féin, located as they are at either extreme of the austerity debate. Fine Gael supporters are overwhelmingly in favour of the treaty, with just 8 per cent expecting to vote No, whereas just 13 per cent of Sinn Féin voters intend to vote Yes.
With a strong Yes vote likely, the expectation may have been that Fine Gael would do more than just hold its own. The sense is that the public is more afraid of voting No than would like to vote Yes, which could explain why Fine Gael is not capitalising on its referendum success.