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Surge in prominence of immigration issues, according to new survey

Housing ranks next as a concerning problem, at 19%, with taxes and social policies each at 4%

Immigration tops the list of issues getting the attention of voters in the past month, according to a new measure of public sentiment introduced today by The Irish Times and Ipsos B&A.

Almost a quarter (24 per cent) of respondents to the survey cited immigration issues when asked what they had noticed about what the Government had done recently.

Next on the list was housing, at 19 per cent, with taxes and social policies each at 4 per cent.

Six areas were each cited by 3 per cent of respondents — climate change, cost of living/inflation, budget/spending, employment, crime/gardaí and the Israel-Palestine conflict. A further five were each mentioned by 2 per cent — energy prices, healthcare, the economy, education and democracy/the political process.


A series of other issues were mentioned by 1 per cent of respondents or less.

The findings indicates how immigration and related issues have come centre stage in political affairs since last year, with many politicians expecting them to feature prominently in June’s local and European elections.

The new survey asks more than 1,000 respondents the following question: “What have you come across in what the Government has said or done recently that has made you think the country is going in the right or wrong direction?”

Their responses are then collated and sorted by issue and whether they view the Government in a positive or negative light as a result. A selection of verbatim responses is carried in today’s Irish Times.

The vast majority of immigration comments are negative — 81 per cent of them, with just 17 per cent positive and 2 per cent neutral.

The picture was similar on housing, with 87 per cent of comments negative and just 12 per cent positive.

Immigration and housing capture citizens’ attention in the first edition of SnapshotOpens in new window ]

What is Snapshot? Introducing our new monthly poll designed to track which Government messages are cutting throughOpens in new window ]

On social policies and taxes, however, the outlook was much better for the Government. Almost half, 47 per cent, of comments about social policies were positive, and 61 per cent of comments about taxes were positive.

While the prominence of housing is perhaps not a surprise, the rise of immigration in the public’s attention has been rapid since last summer.

Ipsos B&A has been running the survey in the background since last July when immigration was mentioned by just 6 per cent of voters. By October, it was only 7 per cent. However, it rose to 10 per cent in November, 15 per cent in December and now 24 per cent in January.

Crime and gardaí was mentioned by 16 per cent of respondents in December, following the Dublin riots — but falls to just 3 per cent today.

This suggests the high level of public concern about law and order issues late last year has abated. Similarly, despite its prominence in public debate, healthcare ranks low among the issues noticed by voters. The same might be said of the cost of living, which has fallen from 17 per cent in September to just 3 per cent today.

The data was collected using Omnipoll, Ipsos’s telephone omnibus survey which interviews a fresh, nationally representative sample of 1,000 people aged 15 and over every two weeks. The sample includes mobile and landline telephone numbers. Fieldwork was carried out from January 10th to January 18th.

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Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times