Seven stats and charts to ponder from today’s Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll
Farmers, Independents, the grey vote and more
Farmers protest: Kevin Smith from Co Cavan outside Government Buildings last week. Have the farmers abandoned Fine Gael for Fianna Fáil? Photograph Nick Bradshaw
A fifth of voters are undecided
The numbers show that undecideds are at 20 per cent. Remember that the headline figures from the poll exclude the voters who said they are as yet undecided about who to vote for. Because you can’t vote for “don’t know”, the figures for each party are then calculated from those who express a voting preference. So this is a chunk of voters who could have a decisive impact on the election. Beware though: pollsters say that even though people will change their minds, those who will actually vote tend to express a preference when asked. In other words: don’t knows don’t vote.
Independents are likely to lose seats
Big national polls are not the best vehicle for measuring small party and independent support, because they depend on strong support in individual constituencies for high-profile candidates. However, taken as an aggregate, it’s clear that the umbrella group of “Independents/others” is on course to lose seats. At the last election, the group got a whopping 30 per cent of the vote, including the Green Party.
But strip out the Green Party’s 8 per cent today and they are on 18 per cent, divided between the small parties of the radical left, Independents of various stripes, the Social Democrats and Peadar Tóibín’s Aontú. But some of these – including Shane Ross’s Independent Alliance – come in at less than 1 per cent. Taken together, it seems inevitable that there will be fewer TDs elected from this political archipelago.
Farmers have swung towards Fianna Fáil
Look at those farmers’ numbers – 36 per cent for Fianna Fáil and 25 per cent for Fine Gael. That’s a hefty lead, and underpins Fianna Fáil’s 29-24 lead in rural areas over its chief rivals. These are precisely the constituencies in which most Fine Gaelers fear they are under threat from Fianna Fáil. Those tractor protests might have irritated Dubliners. But they are a message to Fine Gael too – farmers are unhappy, and they will vote unhappy.
Fianna Fáil’s grey vote
Fianna Fáil is also strong among older voters. Among those aged 65 and over, Fianna Fáil is at 40 per cent, compared with Fine Gael’s 25 per cent. Older voters tend to be more reliable at turning out on the day than their grandchildren, so these voters are extremely valuable. It also explains why the parties are scrambling to make promises about the pension age.
Where is the Green tsunami?
The Greens are doing well – on 8 per cent – but the party will need to do better to make a big breakthrough. The regional breakdowns show the Green Party in 15 per cent in Dublin, which should make the party competitive in most Dublin constituencies and should net them several seats. But it is not yet the sort of massive wave of support that some anticipated. If the party manages to push that figure up by a few points, though, it will be winning seats in nearly all the Dublin constituencies and the commuter counties too. That would probably make it essential to constructing the next government. But it’s not there yet.
Fine Gael is stronger with better-off voters
It’s not all doom and gloom for Fine Gael. For a start, the party is doing better than a Sunday Times poll suggested at the weekend. At 23 per cent in Dublin and 22 per cent in the Rest of Leinster, the party is still on top in crucial areas. It is also strongest among ABC1 voters, who are most likely to turn out on the election day.
Sinn Féin’s remarkable recovery
Sinn Féin’s jump back into the 20s is remarkable – but it brings the party back to the sort of territory where it has been since the last election. The average support for the party in that series of polls is 19.14 per cent. At 14 per cent in Dublin, though, the party still lags in what was one of its strongholds – suggesting perhaps that further gains are possible. Against this, however, must be set Sinn Féin’s habit of underperforming opinion polls on election day – a fact of our electoral politics likely rooted in lower turnout among working class and younger voters. Those are the very areas where Sinn Féin is strongest.