Saturday 20 January 2018

Parties are told: 'fix our country before tax cuts'

Poll: 'fairer society' more important than 'economic stability'

HOPEFUL: Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister Richard Bruton on a visit to yesterday. Photo: Barry Cronin
HOPEFUL: Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister Richard Bruton on a visit to yesterday. Photo: Barry Cronin

Jody Corcoran and Philip Ryan

A landmark Sunday Independent/Millward Brown opinion poll will alarm the Coalition today and force Fine Gael and Labour to rethink their election strategies.

The poll finds support for the four main political parties either down or unchanged while support for Independents/others has risen.

In a series of significant findings, however, the poll shows that voters are demanding more spending on social services ahead of tax cuts.

The electorate believes that the health service, unemployment and the issue of homelessness and social housing are more important than "management of the economy".

Nearly two in five voters (39pc) believe that the next government should prioritise such services ahead of tax cuts (25pc). And the poll finds that only one in three (33pc) believes that a change of government would put economic stability at risk.

It also finds that half (50pc) of voters believe that a change of government would help create a "fairer society".

Today's poll explains why the Coalition's message has struggled to fully resonate with voters.

It will also give rise to concern within Fine Gael and Labour over the 'stability vs chaos' election strategy.

The poll finds that the combined support for both parties now stands at just 33pc and that dissatisfaction with the Government has increased.

It also finds that a massive 39pc of Labour voters and 20pc of Fine Gael voters are not at all certain how they will vote or have reservations about voting for those parties.

Almost one week into the campaign, the findings will come as a significant boost to the Opposition, particularly Independent/other candidates.

The state of the parties, excluding 'don't knows', is: Fine Gael (27pc), down two points; Fianna Fail (22pc), down two points; Independents/others (22pc), up three points; Sinn Fein (21pc), unchanged; Labour (6pc), down one point and Greens (1pc), unchanged.

Including 'don't knows' (25pc), the poll finds Fine Gael (20pc); Fianna Fail (17pc); Independents/others (17pc); Sinn Fein (16pc) and Greens (1pc).

The poll also finds that while Fine Gael is most trusted to manage the economy (24pc), it is not overwhelming trusted: 17pc trust Fianna Fail most, while Sinn Fein (31pc) is the least trusted.

Yesterday, Taoiseach Enda Kenny refused to comment when asked three times whether he had concerns that Fine Gael's election message had not reached voters.

On each occasion, he dodged the question and instead repeated the party's election slogans about "keeping the recovery going" and "making work pay".

At the election press conference in Dublin, Mr Kenny eventually said he believed that when Fine Gael carried its "message through the length and breadth of the country" people would see the "progress made and know the recovery is under way".

Today's opinion poll also finds dissatisfaction with the Government (62pc) up two points and satisfaction (29pc) down three points since the last comparable poll in November.

The face-to-face poll was taken among a representative sample of 984 voters at 63 points nationwide between January 25 and last Thursday, February 4, the day after the election was called. The margin of error is 3.1pc.

In other key results, the poll finds Fianna Fail to be the most vote transfer-friendly of the main parties.

Asked which party they would not vote for, voters said: Sinn Fein (37pc), down one point; Fine Gael (34pc), up two points; Labour (31pc), up one point; Fianna Fail (24pc), down one point; Socialist Party (19pc), down one point; AAA-PBP (16pc), unchanged; Renua (12pc), unchanged; Social Democrats (9pc), down two points.

The poll also found that, overall, one in five voters could still change their voting preference.

While a massive 39pc of Labour voters and 20pc of Fine Gael voters are either not at all certain or have some reservations about voting for those parties, just 15pc of Fianna Fail voters and 12pc of Sinn Fein voters have such reservations, but a significant 24pc of Independent/other voters may change their minds.

Asked a range of coalition options which they "believe" will form the next government, voters said: Fine Gael/Labour (14pc); Sinn Fein/Independents (14pc); Fine Gael/Fianna Fail (9pc); Fianna Fail/Sinn Fein (7pc); Fine Gael/Labour/Independents (5pc); Fine Gael/Independents (5pc); Fianna Fail/Sinn Fein/Independents (4pc) and Fine Gael overall majority (3pc).

Disagreement that a change of government would put Ireland's economic stability at risk is higher in Dublin (50pc), among the farming community (49pc) and those aged 35-44 (46pc).

Agreement that a change of government would help create a fairer society is higher among the skilled working class (53pc), in Dublin (53pc) and in Connacht/Ulster (61pc).

Asked which important issues or problems would influence their decision, voters said: health service/hospitals (37pc); unemployment/jobs (13pc); management of the economy (11pc); crime/law and order (10pc); homeless/local authority housing (9pc); mortgage payments/house prices/rent (7pc); water charges (5pc); childcare (3pc); abortion (1pc); constituency issue (1pc).

When other issues of importance are added to the mix, homeless/social housing becomes more important and relegates management of the economy to fourth place.

Sunday Independent

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