Coalition parties face losses in local elections, SF to gain

Surge in support for Sinn Féin and Independents


The two Coalition parties will suffer significant losses in the local elections on Friday, according to the latest Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll.

The poll shows a surge in support for Sinn Féin and Independents with Fianna Fáil support holding up well compared to the last local elections in 2009. If the poll figures are reflected in Friday’s voting there will be huge changes in the composition of councils.

When people were asked who they intend to vote for in the local elections party support – when undecideds are excluded – compared with 2009 was: Fine Gael, 23 per cent (down nine points); Labour, 7 per cent (down seven); Fianna Fáil, 23 per cent (down two); Sinn Féin, 19 per cent (up 12); and Independents/Others, 28 per cent (up 10).

The survey took place last Thursday, Friday and Saturday among a representative sample of 1,500 voters aged 18 and over, in face-to-face interviews at 150 sampling points in all constituencies. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 per cent.

Significant drop
The poll shows a significant drop in the Fine Gael vote since 2009 and it will have a battle on its hands to win more than 300 council seats out of 950. A positive for Fine Gael is that its vote appears to be holding up in Dublin, which has significantly more seats this time. It is also strong among middle class voters and farmers who tend to turn out in big numbers.

Labour faces an even bigger challenge, with just half the vote of last time when it had 116 councillors elected. The party will be relying on the strength of incumbent councillors to pull its share of the vote up.

Fianna Fáil on 23 per cent is two points down on last time, when it won 213 seats, but is six points up on its general election vote of 2011. The bigger number of council seats available should enable the party to come close to the number of councillors it got elected in 2009. A problem for the party is that it remains weak in Dublin and that is likely to cost it seats. It is strongest in the midlands and northwest where the number of seats has been reduced.

The poll shows Sinn Féin making massive gains since 2009 and if its vote on Friday is close to 19 per cent it could treble its number of councillors to about 150. The party’s vote is still strongest in working class areas but it is making some inroads into middle class housing estates.

There has also been a big rise in the vote going to Independents and smaller parties. Independents are particularly strong in Dublin getting more support than any of the parties.