Voters want to cut politicians but to keep voting system


THE PUBLIC would like to reduce the number of elected politicians but is adamantly opposed to any changes in the electoral system, according to a major new study.

It shows that people want their TDs to concentrate even more on local issues and even less on national issues than they do at present.

Another finding of the survey is that the electorate ranks the banks, political parties and the Dáil as the least trusted institutions in the State, with the Garda, RTÉ and the courts emerging as the most trusted.

Despite all the controversy over the EU-IMF bailout and the Catholic Church, people have more confidence in them than they do Irish national political institutions.

The Irish national election study, designed to understand election behaviour, was carried out under the direction of Prof Michael Marsh of Trinity College, Dublin, with the participation of political scientists from a number of other third-level institutions.

A random sample of 1,863 electors was interviewed by the polling company Red C during the election campaign last February and the results were presented at a seminar in Leinster House yesterday to mark Democracy Day.

The study is designed as a comprehensive analysis of the recent general election by providing a picture of what Irish citizens expect from their national parliament and its members.

One of the conclusions of the study is that people want to see more women and younger people elected as TDs, but the representation of minorities is not considered a priority.

Voters want to see more “ordinary” people elected as TDs and they say that the opinions expressed by politicians and community representation are equally important.

However, when asked what sort of things TDs should do, the emphasis is on more local and less national issues.

The local area is considered as being more important than party affiliation when it comes to voting for a candidate, and providing a local service to the constituency is regarded as a strength of the Irish political system.

Dublin differs from the rest of the country on this topic with the emphasis on providing a local service being less strong in the capital. The study found that a significant number of people have engaged in making represent-ations to their politicians, with community and personal motives being roughly equal as the major reasons prompting represent-ations.

There is a general satisfaction with the kind of service provided by politicians.

Party loyalty is regarded as the least important attribute in a politician and speaking up for the area they represent the most important.

On the question of reforming the political system, there is strong support for reducing the number of TDs and abolishing the Seanad. There is also some support for a greater separation of the legislature from the executive.

However, there is strong opposition to any attempt to change the current system of proportional representation using the single transferable vote.

Asked how much confidence they had in a number of important institutions the Garda came out on top, followed in descending order by RTÉ, the courts, the Civil Service, local administration, the European Union, the church, trade unions, the Dáil, political parties and the banks.

There are a number of significant regional variations with Connacht Ulster and Munster showing stronger support for traditional clientelist politics.

Support for the system is less strong in the rest of Leinster and lowest in Dublin.

Despite the lack of confidence in political institutions and the desire to reduce the number of politicians there is general satisfaction with the service currently being provided by individual TDs.


The public wants more women and younger TDs but representation of minorities is not a priority

People want TDs to have more local, less national focus (although Dublin opinion varied from this stance)

A significant number of people are making representations to TDs, and there is significant support for the local TD

Community and personal motives for contacting TDs is roughly equal

There is general satisfaction with the service provided by TDs

The public is happy to have less politicians but does not want the electoral system changed