Voters warn politics must go beyond parish pump
Poll reveals massive shift towards 'national issues'
Published 17/02/2011 | 05:00
THE number of voters who want an end to parish-pump politics and a shift towards national issues has doubled, according to a new Irish Independent/ Millward Brown Lansdowne poll.
The poll results represent a significant transformation in what people want from their elected politicians with three-out-of-four voters now wanting their TD to focus on national issues like the economy and job creation.
The number who say their vote will be influenced by choosing between party policies has doubled since the last general election.
Voters have also delivered a crushing indictment of the Seanad, with 57pc saying they want it abolished. A further 28pc said they wanted the upper house of the Oireachtas to be reformed, with just 5pc in favour of the Seanad remaining in its current format.
The poll reveals a substantial switch towards party policy and away from constituency and personality politics in the forthcoming general election.
In the 2007 election, just 24pc of voters said they were motivated to vote by choosing between the policies set out by parties.
But this has now more than doubled to 50pc -- making policies by far the most important influence on voters.
The importance of selecting a candidate to look after the needs of the constituency has dropped from 39pc in 2007 to 25pc today.
Choosing who will become Taoiseach as the motivation behind voting has fallen from 22pc to 9pc.
And choosing the set of ministers who will form the government has risen slightly from 12pc to 14pc.
Likewise, when it comes to the role of TDs and putting local or national issues first, the voters are clear. Nearly half (49pc) want their TDs to focus primarily on national issues, with just under a quarter (24pc) more concerned with local matters.
The final quarter of respondents (26pc) said they saw the role of TDs as focusing on both.
However, the poll also found a strong urban-rural divide, with the vast majority of wealthier, younger, city voters in favour of a more national approach to politics in the Dail.
Those planning to vote for Independents however, still tend to put needs of the constituency first.
Millward Brown Lansdowne account director James MacCarthy-Morrogh said the poll shows "the personality politics of the Bertie Ahern era" are now of little interest. "The power of the parish pump is waning," he said.
"People want solutions and they want policies -- thereby driving political reform ahead of any changes in our institutions or voting system.
"Right now, it seems, Fine Gael's five-point plan is tapping into this trend best."
The poll comes after a new score-based study by academics found that Fine Gael's proposed reforms to the political system were the best of all the parties. But the experts also described the party's pledge to cut the number of TDs and reduce the term of the Presidency as "silly".
Bizarrely, the concept of electoral reform was left out of the scoring system undertaken by 'Reformcard'.
University College Dublin's Professor David Farrell claimed that "changing the electoral system is not fixing the system".
The panel of Trinity College, UCD, UCC and DCU academics put Fine Gael first, followed by Labour, Fianna Fail, the Greens and Sinn Fein when it comes to their political reform plans.
Overall, Fine Gael took the highest score of 73.
Dun Laoghaire TD Ciaran Cuffe took issue with the failure to include electoral reform. "You need legislators as well as messenger carriers," he said.