Monday 24 November 2014

Overall party check-up finds Labour faltering, Sinn Fein rising

Paul Moran

Published 28/04/2014 | 13:00

There is a certain weariness with the current body politic in Leinster House
There is a certain weariness with the current body politic in Leinster House

There is a certain weariness with the current body politic

For the final part of this Millward Brown opinion poll, we looked at the state of the parties, regardless of people's voting intentions towards the European elections.

The Euros are often about the personality, and can be different to the way people feel in terms of more day-to-day politics (Brian Crowley's poll-topping showing in Ireland South being a case in point).

However, there are still common trends that cannot be explained away by personality. The two that come to the fore in this opinion poll are: one, that the rise in support for Sinn Fein is real, very real. Two, the decline in support for Labour is just as authentic.

Looking first at Labour, they receive just 6pc of the national vote. This is not a blip – we have seen this happen to the party on a number of occasions.

While the party leadership will have fortified themselves for a backlash from the electorate, even they will be filled with trepidation at the potential magnitude of this incoming tsunami of discontent.

Labour's issue has been that they were too clear in their election manifesto (in spite of the utterances of Pat Rabbitte after the event). They are now, to a certain extent, going to reap what they sowed.

You would have to feel sorry for the lonely furrow that the average Labour canvasser on the door must plough.

Labour gave up the ghost of realistically competing in the European Elections a long time ago. What will be of more concern, and will rankle even more with them, is what happens within the local elections.

On the basis of these and other findings, there will be a swathe of casualties.

The junior party in Government, so vocal and articulate in opposition, may well find itself in the position of fighting for the scraps of the final seat in councils in the country.

Contrast this with Sinn Fein. They muster 21pc of the vote, and look certain to increase their share across all elections on May 23. The only question is how much of that obvious increase in support is soft – come the secrecy of the polling booth, how many people will cross their personal Rubicon and vote for them? All recent indicators suggest that many will.

However, based on the proposition often put forward that Sinn Fein is a party of protest, it is interesting to note that over half of those surveyed (54pc) feel that there is a need for a new political party.

How many potential votes currently resting in the Sinn Fein account would be transferred if such a proposition came to pass?

Fine Gael will be somewhat happy with their showing of 25pc. The party has averaged a 20s performance more recently. While it is a far cry from their February 2011 showing, it is arguably as good as it's going to get – given the circumstances. In contrast to their junior coalition partner, they are, comparatively speaking, in rude health.

Much has been said and written recently about Micheal Martin's leadership of Fianna Fail. He is, however, the leader with the joint highest satisfaction rating of all parties (34pc are happy with how he is doing his job, similar to Gerry Adams). Among his own supporters, two in three are happy with his performance, with just one in four disgruntled. Contrast this with Eamon Gilmore – less than one in five (18pc) is happy, with 70pc unhappy.

Even among his own supporters, they are more likely to be discontented (47pc) than not (42pc).

Taking a step back, it is interesting to note that all party leaders have a dissatisfaction rating of over 50pc. There would seem that for many, there is a certain weariness with the current body politic.

Looking to the issue of property tax, there is an element of parochialism at play – seven in 10 feel it should be for the benefit of the locality, rather than ploughed into a central pool. Interestingly, Dubliners are more inclined to take a view that the income should be distributed nationwide.

Property tax as an electoral issue also throws up some curveballs – particularly in light of the upcoming local elections.

There is a proliferation of candidates and left-wing parties in this race, and this issue is one that is close to their hearts. However, the public at large would seem to have bigger fish to fry. Just four in 10 will be swayed to vote for a local candidate based on their stance towards this tax, versus nearly half (48pc) saying it will make no difference. Unsurprisingly, Fine Gael supporters (56pc) are even less vexed by this issue.

It would seem that, yet again, the ball has bounced more kindly for the senior Government party on this issue – they may be facing a rebuke on May 23, but it will be a rebuke they will be able to handle.

PAUL MORAN IS AN ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR WITH MILLWARD BROWN.

Irish Independent

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