Fine Gael most popular party among emigrants - online poll
Support for FG and FF lower than in Ireland, while Social Democrats perform better
Who came out top in an online political opinion poll for the Irish abroad? Photograph: Cyril Byrne / The Irish Times
Fine Gael is the most popular party among Irish people living abroad, according to an online poll of readers carried out by The Irish Times this week.
Irish citizens living in Ireland will cast their ballots in the 2016 general election tomorrow, but Irish citizens living overseas (with the exception of those who have been abroad for less than 18 months, and return to cast their ballot on election day) are unable to vote.
The online poll, which ran for 48 hours offering readers abroad a chance to cast a symbolic “virtual vote”, showed 23 per cent would give their first preference to Fine Gael.
This compares to 28 per cent support for the party in an Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll published on Monday.
When entries completed from devices in Ireland were excluded, a total of 948 “virtual votes” were received from 66 countries worldwide. The highest number came from the UK, followed by the US, Australia and Canada.
While the online survey was self-selecting and by no means scientific, the aim was to give a snapshot of how emigrants would vote from abroad if they could.
Sinn Féin was the second most popular party with emigrants according to the poll, with 14 per cent of the votes, followed by the Social Democrats at 13 per cent, Fianna Fáil at 9 per cent and Labour at 8 per cent.
Support for Fine Gael was highest in the US at 30 per cent, and lowest in Australia at 15 per cent.
The most popular party in Australia was Sinn Féin, with 20 per cent of first-preference votes, but support for the party was particularly low in the UK at just 13 per cent.
Labour had the most consistent performance across countries, at between 7 and 8 per cent support. This is considerably higher than the 6 per cent support for the party in Ireland, as recorded in the Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll.
Among those who had been abroad less than 18 months, the Social Democrats were the most popular party, with 21 per cent support, followed by Fine Gael at 20 per cent and Sinn Féin at 14 per cent. Labour ranked particularly badly in this cohort, with just 3 per cent of the vote, the same as Renua.
Irish Times Political Editor Stephen Collins said the higher support among emigrants for the smaller parties, particularly the Social Democrats and the Green Party, was striking compared with Irish people surveyed in Ireland, as was the lower support for Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.
Piaras Mac Éinri of University College Cork, who authored the Emigre report of recession-related emigration in 2013, said the relatively high support for Sinn Féin can be explained in two ways.
"First, it’s not out of line with current levels of support in Ireland," he said.
"Second, the great majority of emigrants (unless they have been away for a long time) are young and do not include many of the generation which directly remembers the Troubles."
When asked whether they thought the outgoing Fine Gael/Labour Government had done its best to tackle the causes of emigration, 68 per cent of respondents said no.
Just one in three said they were satisfied with the way the outgoing Government had run the country.
Emigrants living abroad for between 18 months and eight years are the most dissatisfied with the outgoing Government. Just 20 per cent said they thought the Fine Gael-Labour coalition had done enough to tackle the causes of emigration, while just 10 per cent said they thought enough had been done by the Government to assist emigrants to return to live in Ireland if they wanted to.
Respondents to the survey were overwhelmingly in favour of granting voting rights to emigrants. Thirty per cent said Irish citizens living abroad should have the right to vote in general elections for an unlimited time after moving abroad, while 44 per cent said it should be limited to a certain period of time, for example for up to five years after leaving the country. One in five said Irish citizens living abroad should not have any right to vote in general elections.
Nine out of 10 respondents said the Irish abroad should have a vote for the president, while eight in 10 were in favour of a vote for emigrants in referendums.
More than 1,200 people have signed a petition on Uplift.ie this week "calling on the government of the 32nd Dáil to guarantee that the 1 in 6 Irish citizens living overseas have the right to vote in future Irish elections". The #NotHomeToVote campaign is running in partnership with emigrant groups including EmigrantManifesto, Get the Boat to Vote, GlobalIrish.ie, We're Coming Back, and Votes for Irish Citizens Abroad.