Next week's Dublin Bay South byelection promises to be a straight shoot-out between Fine Gael's James Geoghegan and Labour's Ivana Bacik. Today's Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll predicts 27 per cent first preference votes for Councillor Geoghegan and 22 per cent for Senator Bacik.
Of course, the byelection is not until July 8th, so this poll, like all polls, is only a snapshot in time and furious canvassing in the days head may alter this picture. Turnout will also be a factor, especially if fair-weather voters stay at home, which happens frequently in byelections.
Today’s poll was conducted between Friday and Sunday, in-home, among a representative sample of 500 eligible voters across every electoral district in the constituency. It should be kept in mind that a constituency poll margin of error is estimated at between four and five percentage points.
Dublin Bay South is a hugely diverse constituency, incorporating some of Ireland’s most deprived and most affluent neighbourhoods. It is part old Ireland and part new, modern Ireland. But much of this diversity is concentrated in the city. Travel south of the canal and the landscape turns monochrome, brick red with a hint of green.
Dublin Bay South is Fine Gael heartland and it is no surprise that James Geoghegan tops the poll on 27 per cent. In the leafier parts of the constituency, his vote share stretches to about one in three (Rathmines/ Rathgar 34 per cent; Ranelagh/ Milltown/ Portobello 33 per cent; Sandymount/ Ballsbridge/ Donnybrook 32 per cent).
Geoghegan, a barrister by trade, is a clear favourite among his fellow professionals, capturing approaching half (44 per cent) of the AB vote. His poll advantage would be bigger except for the not insignificant cohort of Fine Gael voters opting for Bacik. In fact, a feature of this byelection is the somewhat diluted vote along party lines – 90 per cent of Labour supporters will vote for their candidate, but loyalty levels are lower for the other main parties, such as 78 per cent for Sinn Féin, 70 per cent for Fine Gael, 68 per cent for the Greens and just 61 per cent for Fianna Fail.
Labour’s national poll standing is not acting as a drag on Ivana Bacik’s vote, with the Trinity Senator on 22 per cent and in clear second place. Bacik, a long-time women’s issues campaigner, leads the field among female voters on 29 per cent. In age terms, she appeals most to the 35 to 49 year-old age cohort (29 per cent)
While Geoghegan is ahead on first-preference votes, Bacik will very likely close the gap on transfers. The Portobello resident takes 19 per cent and 16 per cent of second preferences and third preferences respectively, compared to 15 per cent and 10 per cent for Geoghegan.
Sinn Féin may be the most popular party in the country, but this enthusiasm is not shared by residents of Dublin Bay South, where Lynn Boylan is a long way back in third place.
Senator Boylan’s rating of 13 per cent varies across the constituency, peaking at 26 per cent among voters living in the South Inner City/Ringsend area, but ultimately she struggles to gain traction in the more prosperous suburbs south of the canal where the majority of voters live.
In fourth and fifth are the other two Government party candidates. Councillor Claire Byrne (Green Party) is on 11 per cent and Councillor Deirdre Conroy (Fianna Fail) is on 10 per cent. Where transfers from Byrne and Conroy land will be key to deciding this byelection.
Dublin Bay South's eclectic population is reflected in the mix of candidates that complete the leaderboard. Sarah Durcan of the Social Democrats and Independent Mannix Flynn each take 5 per cent of the vote. Mairead Tóibín of Aontú is on 3 per cent and PBP's Brigid Purcell is on 2 per cent.
At this stage, Geoghegan’s lead is by no means unassailable. That said, more Dublin Bay South voters are satisfied (55 per cent) than dissatisfied (38 per cent) with how the Government is running the country and this fair wind may be enough to edge Geoghegan over the line.
It is a cliché for a reason – another one too close to call.