Collapse of approval among women will worry Government

Blame for the cervical cancer screening scandal is seeping towards politicians

Minister for Health Simon Harris  and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar:  poll results suggest they are being held responsible for the cervical cancer screening scandal. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Minister for Health Simon Harris and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar: poll results suggest they are being held responsible for the cervical cancer screening scandal. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

 

The sharp fall in the approval for the Government among women is perhaps not surprising in the wake of the cervical cancer screening scandal.

But it will worry those in Government Buildings, even if it does not surprise them. Trust, once lost, is difficult to rebuild.

The poll shows that while Ministers and the Taoiseach have been seeking to place accountability for the crisis with those actively responsible – the senior health officials who made the decisions not to inform women about their defective tests – political blame is nonetheless seeping towards the politicians.

This is frustrating for politicians who say they had no act or part in these decisions, and were unaware of them. But it is how politics works, all the same.

The fall in approval ratings for the Government among all voters is sharp. Last month 44 per cent of voters said they were “satisfied with the manner in which the Government is running the country”, while 47 per cent said they were dissatisfied.

Last month’s 44 per cent was the highest approval that any Government had seen since long before the economic crash.

The drop of seven points in the Government’s approval rating, and the consequent rise to 53 per cent of its disapproval rating restores the sort of net dissatisfaction rating that is more normal for post-crash Governments.

But if the drop in overall Government satisfaction is a jolt for Leo Varadkar’s administration, the numbers for women are alarming for them.

Failures of the system

There is a 12-point drop in the satisfaction among women, and an attendant rise of seven points in the dissatisfaction rating, leaving the Government with a whopping 29-point net dissatisfaction rating among women.

This almost trebles last month’s figure. Clearly, a lot of women are very angry with the Government.

It is striking that the Government is being blamed even though the inquiries so far have not found any culpability on the part of either of the two health ministers concerned, Mr Varadkar or Simon Harris.

It seems they are being held responsible for the failures of the system as a whole, and the callous way that it treated many women by withholding the news of their faulty tests. That may turn out to be a hard problem to fix.

The poll was conducted on Monday and Tuesday of this week in face to face interviews among a nationally representative sample of 1,200 eligible voters. Interviewing took place at 120 sampling points across all constituencies. The accuracy level is estimated to be approximately plus or minus 2.8 per cent.