People over 50 led vote for change, say political parties

Idea of ‘youthquake’ in general election dismissed

 Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin:   noted an increase in support among the over 50s. Photograph Nick Bradshaw

Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin: noted an increase in support among the over 50s. Photograph Nick Bradshaw

 

A sense of dissatisfaction about the state of public services and the cost of living drove voters of all age groups to “vote for change” in the general election, political campaigners have said.

Voters over the age of 50 led that change and accounted for a large portion of the extra first preference votes received by parties like Sinn Féin, challenging the idea that there was a “youthquake” in this month’s general election.

Sinn Féin TD Eoin Ó Broin said that the party increased its vote share in all demographics and age groups but that he particularly noted an increase in support among over 50s.

“Our vote increased everywhere but the exit poll data tallies with the experiences that I had on the canvass trail,” he said. “If we take, for example, Palmerstown in Dublin. In 2016, I would have received 14 per cent of the vote there as a general election candidate and the support would have been among younger families.

“This time around we had people in their 50s who had adult children living back home with them or were aware that their grandchildren were back living with their mam and dad. There was a growing awareness among over 50s of how the housing crisis was affecting their extended families.”

Bacik said other issues that drove a desire for change among those in the older age groups were housing, childcare and a mooted increase in the qualifying age for the State pension

Mr Ó Broin said over 50s were “disproportionately affected by the crises in the health system” and he believes this was a factor in them changing their vote.

Labour’s director of elections for the campaign Ivana Bacik said the vote for change was driven “by all groups”.

“Among all age groups there was a dissatisfaction that emerged during the campaign that I don’t think any party foresaw, not Fine Gael and not even Sinn Féin. It was evident in terms of the issues raised by different demographics,” she said.

‘Harrowing stories’

“I canvassed with wide range of our candidates across different environments and we were hearing from all sides about that discontentment with public services. Healthcare emerged as key issues for all ages, and there were harrowing stories even among younger people.”

Ms Bacik said other issues that drove a desire for change among those in the older age groups were housing, childcare and a mooted increase in the qualifying age for the State pension. “These two issues came up on every canvass,” she said.

Ms Bacik also said that before the election, many commentators predicted climate action would engage and influence younger voters but that “this did not materialise to the extent that we had all anticipated.”

“It was raised on doors many times by all ages but it didn’t seem to be driving change,” she said.

There was also a narrative that voters who were politicised by the referendums on same-sex marriage and repealing the ban on abortion would play a big role in shaping the outcome of the election.

Ms Bacik said that there was “no doubt” that younger voters were politicised during those campaigns and she believes it did have a “direct and indirect impact” on the election result.

“I was one of the organisers for Together for Yes and the number of people we were getting out to canvass who had never canvassed before was phenomenal,” she said.

Ms Bacik added that there were campaigns to identify anti-abortion candidates and noted the case of Green Party candidate in Dublin Bay North David Healy, who lost out on a seat after being widely tipped for election.

During the campaign he was questioned on how he voted in the referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment and stated that he voted no.

Mr Healy said the issue did come up on the doorsteps.