Thursday 29 September 2016

Steadying the ship sees Enda return to the top of the pile

The political heavyweights show signs of recovery, but the upcoming referendum could be close run thing, writes Paul Moran

Paul Moran

Published 05/04/2015 | 02:30

This latest Sunday Independent/ Millward Brown opinion poll, conducted up until Thursday of last week, indicates there has been a sharpening of opinion among the population in terms of how they view the body politic.

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The proportion of Undecideds has dropped across many of our tracking metrics, indicating the public is evaluating political proceedings through a more focussed lens. Of course, the change in tone from all parties and politicians has been quite apparent since the beginning of the year - we are undoubtedly now in election mode, regardless of when that may be.

First off, the headline figures. Fine Gael will be pleased to see themselves restored to the top of the pecking order. They will be confident that at this stage of the run-in to the General Election, they are working off a baseline figure of support in the mid 20s.

With the economy continuing to improve, consumer sentiment on the up, and more money in Michael Noonan's kitty for the Autumn Budget, they will view 2015 as a springboard. Of course, this is on the proviso that there are no more banana skins lurking for the party. 2014 will be held up as a mirror by party strategists internally on how not to do things.

For the second poll in a row, Labour's fortunes have improved. Although the increases have been glacially slow, they are going in the right direction. For them, to break the psychological double digit barrier will be their next target. However, there is no doubt the next election will be a trying time for the party, and in particular, many of the newly elected TDs from 2011.

Reflecting the 'steadying' of the Government ship, satisfaction with this administration's performance is at a six month high - 26pc are happy. Whilst not a stellar performance in itself, it nonetheless mirrors the trend of improving consumer sentiment.

Sinn Fein, having dropped two points to 24pc, will still be happy with this performance. They have, yet again, deflected many of the allegations concerning allegations of sexual abuse cover-ups. In addition, Mary Lou McDonald, their de facto leader down south, has performed impressively in the Dail - articulating the fears and frustrations that many unquestionably feel.

Support for Independents has slipped, with just one in five now plumping for them. Within this grouping, both Renua and the Socialist Party gain 2pc support. For both these parties, the key will be to target specific constituencies only, and to hope that on the day the ball bounces their way. This task, one suspects, may be easier for the Socialist Party to achieve.

Which leads us to Fianna Fail - the apparently forgotten man in Irish politics. Their inability to break through the 20pc mark in a series of opinion polls is becoming a more open cause of concern and frustration within the party. For whatever reason, they seem to be playing second fiddle in opposition most of the time. The upcoming Carlow/Kilkenny by-election will be closely watched by many - whilst the result is important, their performance is even more so, particularly for Micheal Martin.

However, Fianna Fail's alleged travails may be slightly overstated. In the local elections last year, they actually returned the highest number of councillors nationwide - their disastrous performance in the Europeans tarnished this fact.

In the short term, there is the upcoming Same Sex Marriage Referendum to consider. With less than seven weeks to polling day, the Yes side still maintain a commanding lead (when the 13pc Undecided are excluded). Yet, the gap is narrowing. Those intending to vote yes have dropped four points to 76pc, whilst those voting no have increased by a similar margin to 24pc. The age profile is as expected - younger voters are more likely to be in favour, with a majority of older voters against. It is a given that actual turnout on the day increases with age, and this point alone suggests that come May 22, the result may be a lot tighter than is presently indicated.

Paul Moran is an Associate Director with Millward Brown.

Sunday Independent

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