Budget may have boosted Coalition


ANALYSIS:Fianna Fáil regains ground but remains a long way from dominant position

VOTERS APPEAR be giving the Coalition some credit for taking decisive action in the Budget, going on the findings of the latest Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll, which show a recovery in the satisfaction ratings of the Government and the Taoiseach.

While the Government’s satisfaction rating of 19 per cent is still very low by historical standards, the jump of five points since the last poll just before the Lisbon Treaty referendum should give it the confidence to continue with its current policies.

It is the highest rating the Coalition has achieved since June 2008 when it was at the heady heights of 46 per cent, before plunging to 18 per cent after Brian Lenihan’s first budget in November of that year.

The Taoiseach’s satisfaction rating of 26 per cent is in even more respectable territory, back to where it was in November 2008, after going as low as 15 per cent in the first poll of the Lisbon referendum campaign in early September last year.

The recovery in the Fianna Fáil vote follows the same pattern, with the party back to 22 per cent, a figure last achieved in February 2009. The party has a long way to go to recover its historically dominant position in the Irish political system. It is still trailing well behind Fine Gael and has again been pushed into third place by the Labour Party.

The scale of Fianna Fáil’s problem is illustrated by the fact that it is still coming a poor third in Dublin. A breakdown of the core vote of the parties shows Fianna Fáil on a paltry 12 per cent in the capital. Things are considerably better in the rest of the country, with the party on 20 per cent in Munster, 23 per cent in the rest of Leinster and 27 per cent in Connacht-Ulster.

Across the age groups, Fianna Fáil does best among the over-65s, where it is on 30 per cent, well ahead of its national average. This reflects a long-standing trend that was probably reinforced by the decision to exempt pensions from the social welfare cuts in the Budget.

The party does worst among the 35- to 49-year-olds, where its vote is just 14 per cent, and only a little better among the 25- to 34-year-olds, where it gets 18 per cent.

In terms of social class, Fianna Fáil does best among farmers, where it gets 26 per cent, followed by the C2 and DE social categories where it is on 21 per cent, despite the decision to cut social welfare in the Budget.

The party’s share of the vote remains below 20 per cent among the better-off AB and C1 voters.

The Fine Gael core vote is up slightly since the last poll and it remains ahead of Fianna Fáil in almost all age groups, regions and social classes. In Dublin, Fine Gael is on 23 per cent of the vote; it is on 24 per cent in the rest of Leinster and Munster, while it gets 26 per cent in Connacht- Ulster, the only region where it is not ahead of Fianna Fáil. In age terms, Fine Gael does best among the 50-64 age group and the over 65s where it is on 28 per cent, with it weakest category the 25-34 age group.

In social terms the party is strongest among farmers, where it scores 40 per cent. Its next strongest category is the best-off AB voters where it is on 30 per cent, well ahead of Labour and ahead of Fianna Fáil.

Fine Gael is also the strongest party in the C1 and C2 social categories, but it has slipped back a bit among the DE social group, where it comes behind Labour and Fianna Fáil.

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny remains stuck in the low 30 per cent range when it comes to his satisfaction rating. There is no significant regional, age or class variation, apart from a higher rating in Connacht-Ulster. Among Fine Gael voters 61 per cent are satisfied and 27 per cent dissatisfied but among supporters of all other parties, including Labour, dissatisfaction outweighs satisfaction.

Labour has consolidated its position as the biggest party in Dublin where it is on 26 per cent of the vote. If that figure is repeated in the next general election it will gain a considerable number of seats in the capital, where it got 14 per cent in the last election.

The next strongest region for Labour is Munster where it gets 18 per cent, followed by the rest of Leinster on 13 per cent and Connacht-Ulster with 9 per cent.

In class terms Labour is the strongest in the C1 voters, where it is on 20 per cent, followed by the DE category where it gets 19 per cent. Since the last poll it has slipped significantly among the best-off AB voters, where it now gets 15 per cent. In age terms Labour is strongest in the 35-49 age group, and weakest among the 50-64s.

Eamon Gilmore is easily the most popular party leader and even among Fianna Fáil voters he generates as much satisfaction as dissatisfaction.

Green Party support has dropped a point into dangerous territory at 2 per cent. The party is marginally stronger in Dublin at 3 per cent than the other regions where it is on 2 per cent. Such an even spread is dangerous for the party and it could end up losing all its six seats if that is repeated in a general election.

Party leader John Gormley’s satisfaction rating has recovered a little, but a majority of all party supporters, apart from the Greens are dissatisfied. Among the Greens just 45 per cent are satisfied while 31 per cent are dissatisfied.

Sinn Féin has slipped since the last poll, reflecting the ongoing difficulties that have seen the defection of a number of party councillors since the local elections. Its strongest region is Connacht-Ulster, where it gets 9 per cent, followed by Dublin, where it is on 7 per cent. It gets 6 per cent across the rest of the country.

In class terms the party’s vote is heavily concentrated among C2 and DE voters and it attracts very little support among higher earners. In age terms it does best among 18-24-year-olds and it does worst among the over-65s. The level of support for Independents and Others is strongest in Connacht-Ulster and Dublin and in class terms is highest among the best-off AB voters.