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Irish Times poll: Voters prefer public spending to tax cuts with broad support for climate action

First choice for 40% of respondents is to ‘invest in building infrastructure’ such as public transport, housing, hospitals and schools

Poll Budget Finance

There is little enthusiasm among voters for using projected budget surpluses for tax cuts, with a strong preference instead for spending on public services and investing in infrastructure, the latest Irish Times/Ipsos opinion poll shows.

Given a menu of options to choose from, respondents to the poll had little interest in saving the surpluses, paying down the national debt, spending it on climate action or establishing a fund to pay for a united Ireland. And less than 10 per cent gave tax cuts as their first or second choice.

Instead 40 per cent said their first choice was to “invest in building infrastructure such as public transport, housing, hospitals and schools”, while a further 25 per cent of voters said their first choice was “spend on public services such as health and education”.

Asked about their second choice, a further 24 per cent chose investing in infrastructure and a further 28 per cent went for spending on public services.

Irish Times Ipsos Poll shows participants' responses on how public finance surpluses should be spent. Graphic: Paul Scott

Fine Gael supporters were no more likely than voters in general to prioritise tax cuts as their first choice, with just 9 per cent of all voters, and 9 per cent of Fine Gael voters, choosing this option.

The poll comes after Fine Gael Ministers and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar emphasised in recent weeks Fine Gael’s commitment to delivering some tax reductions in the budget for middle-income workers. But the party saw its support tumble in the poll on Thursday, and Mr Varadkar’s personal rating also took a battering.

The Fine Gael leader on Thursday shrugged off those results, saying: “We are probably back to where we were this time last year. We bounced back from that. We’ll bounce back again.”

Friday’s poll also shows an increase in those struggling with the cost of living as the ECB hiked interest rates again. Over half of all voters (52 per cent) now say that they are finding it “a lot more difficult” to manage financially, up by four points since February.

Cost of Living question for Irish Times/Ipsos poll. Graphic: Paul Scott

The poll also finds broad support among voters for climate action measures – though there is little support for the idea that climate action should be the Government’s single greatest priority.

Just over a fifth (21 per cent) of voters say that the Government is moving “too fast” on climate action, while almost four in 10 (38 per cent) say the changes in policy are happening “too slow”. Some 30 per cent say they are happening “at just the right speed”.

Irish Times Ipsos Poll: Question on reducing Ireland's carbon footprint. Graphic: Paul Scott

However, just 18 per cent of voters say that climate action should be the “top priority” of Government, while almost three-quarters (72 per cent) say it should be “one of a number of priorities”. Just 8 per cent say it should “not be a priority at all”.

A majority of voters believe it is “reasonable to ask people” to make a number of changes in their lives to tackle climate change:

  • 54 per cent believe it is reasonable to ask people to use their car less;
  • 54 per cent believe it is reasonable to ask people to take fewer flights;
  • 84 per cent believe it is reasonable to ask people to “promote biodiversity”, eg in their gardens;
  • 83 per cent believe it is reasonable to ask people to be climate aware when shopping;
  • 97 per cent believe it is reasonable to ask people to recycle.

However, a majority of people (52 per cent) do not believe it is reasonable to ask people to eat less meat.

Irish Times/Ipsos poll. Graphic: Paul Scott

Voters were also asked about the Green Party’s role in the Government. When asked if the Greens are making a “positive, negative or neutral contribution to helping Ireland meet its climate change commitments”, 27 per cent said the party was making a positive contribution, 31 per cent said a negative contribution and 28 per cent said a neutral contribution.

The poll was conducted among 1,200 adults at 120 sampling points across all constituencies between June 11th-13th. Respondents were interviewed at their own homes. The accuracy is estimated at plus or minus 2.8 per cent.

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times