Friday 30 September 2016

Paul Moran: Poll points to a restless people

We want a government but remain unsure of who should govern, writes Paul Moran

Paul Moran

Published 03/04/2016 | 02:30

ANOTHER ELECTION? Joan Burton pictured being elected at the Election 2016 Count centre in Phibblestown Dublin 15. Photo: Collins
ANOTHER ELECTION? Joan Burton pictured being elected at the Election 2016 Count centre in Phibblestown Dublin 15. Photo: Collins

What a difference a week makes. Last Sunday, the nation was surprised, and surprised by itself, by the way we conducted ourselves at the Easter 1916 commemorations. The event was arguably the most dignified, solemn and yet refreshing observation of any milestone that we have seen in living memory.

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Now, we are back to normality. The week just gone has shunted back this sense of adulthood as we revert to the routine of Irish politics. We have had to endure the unedifying sight of the two largest parties having a spat before they even sit down to talk to each other about who rang whom, and who sent a text to whom. We really have come a long way.

So what does the population think about all of this? This latest Millward Brown Poll, conducted over 10 days up to and including Friday, sought to understand where we should go from here.

The results, whilst nuanced, are instructive. First off, the spectre of another general election looms large. Given the uncertainty over the last month, we asked what would be the preferred option in light of the current impasse.

Over one in four (27pc) are in favour of a new election. What this would achieve any differently is anybody's guess.

There are many newly-elected TDs that would baulk at such a development. Given the precariousness of the current set up, and what we know now, the political landscape would be a very different place to where we were just seven weeks ago.

The appetite to develop a new communications strategy (which would invariably have to happen for most), yet alone the financial and emotional considerations, will surely focus the minds.

So, the alternative needs to be compromise. Over one in five (22pc) endorse the notion of a grand coalition between Fine Gael and Fianna Fail.

And this is where it gets interesting. Looking at those tending to support the two parties, the differences are stark - 27pc of those affiliated to Fianna Fail endorse this scenario, compared to 43pc of Fine Gael-minded supporters.

An FF-led minority government gets the nod from 14pc of the population, compared to 8pc endorsing an FG-led minority. This is where the narrative of this poll lies. The impetus is with Fianna Fail after this election. Of course, numbers don't lie, and Fine Gael is in the driving seat. They are by far the most likely to form a government, whatever its profile will be.

But the momentum has been sucked out of the party. Consider its demeanour and utterances going into the election compared to now. It is fumbling for power, as opposed to ascending to it.

Putting the assumption that an FG-led government is the most likely scenario to one side, we asked who the public would prefer to see as the next Taoiseach. Again the results point to a shifting of the sands. Just 17pc endorse Enda Kenny, versus 39pc nominating Micheal Martin.

We need to bear in mind that we framed this question as a straightforward shootout between the two leaders, and brought nobody else into the equation.

However, it points to the fact that Kenny has suffered damage in the election. One suspects that the endorsement of Martin is not based on his own pedigree, but rather is a reflection on Enda Kenny's lacklustre leadership of late.

It is even more interesting when you analyse the levels of endorsements among those tending to vote for either party. Among Fianna Fail supporters, 84pc would endorse Martin for Taoiseach (numbers you would expect to see). Yet among FG supporters, a rather underwhelming 54pc approve of Kenny.

Of course, being the leader of the party that suffered a bloody nose on February 26, attitudes will harden. The issue for Kenny was that he was totemic of that party's failure, in stark contrast to Martin's performance.

With that in mind we asked who people would like to see as leader of Fine Gael.

The younger flank of the party shone through - 28pc opted for Leo Varadkar, followed by 15pc nominating Simon Coveney. One in eight (12pc) endorses Kenny. Among FG supporters, Varadkar's popularity increases to 38pc, whilst Kenny makes up some ground (27pc).

Simon Coveney hasn't endeared himself to the party faithful of late - just 16pc would endorse him.

Turning briefly to Labour, the preferred leader of that party is less clear cut. Brendan Howlin is endorsed by 16pc of the population overall.

What is more illuminating is that nearly half the population (48pc) are ambivalent to all candidates put to them - illustrating the battle that lies ahead for Labour to become relevant again.

These results paint a picture of a population that is restless. We want to have a government in place, but are still unsure by whom.

Paul Moran is an Associate Director with Millward Brown

Sunday Independent

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