Tuesday 12 November 2019

Poll Exclusive: The Verdict of the Squeezed Middle

Angry voters tell Noonan to slash taxes USC now toxic as hated water charges

Enda Kenny (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
Enda Kenny (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

Jody Corcoran and john Drennan

Angry voters are demanding their money back after eight years of hard austerity, the latest Sunday Independent/Millward Brown opinion poll has found.

The economic recovery has so far failed to clearly boost the Government's standing with the electorate, according to the poll.

Dissatisfaction with the Coalition has actually increased a little at a time of higher than expected economic growth.

Exchequer returns for the last three months show €545m more tax than anticipated has been collected.

Now voters are demanding a financial dividend after almost a decade of increased taxes and charges.

With the economic recovery taking hold, a clear message in the poll is that people want more money in their pockets.

The Government's performance has satisfied one-in-four, a three-point increase drawn from the undecided, but the level of dissatisfaction has also increased a point to 69pc.

The poll was conducted in 971 interviews between March 24 and April 2. Among the key findings are that the Universal Social Charge (USC) is hated as much as water charges.

Read more: For all his great endeavour, the truth is, Micheal will never be Taoiseach

Voters want austerity taxes and charges, such as the USC and water charges, to be cut first ahead of the Coalition's preferred option to reduce income tax. The poll has also found demand for pay hikes has increased, with a reversal of wage cuts in the private sector being favoured over the public sector.

After undecided voters (20pc) are excluded, the state of the parties is: Fine Gael (25pc) unchanged; Sinn Fein (24pc) down two points; Fianna Fail (19pc) unchanged; Labour (8pc) up two points; Greens (3pc) up two points; Independents/others (20pc) down three points.

Sinn Fein's fall in support confirms findings in other polls and shows the party has been damaged by recent scandals related to child sex abuse.

The level of public disillusionment in general is illustrated by an increased level of dissatisfaction with all party leaders.

Although satisfaction with the Government (26pc) has improved somewhat, the level of dissatisfaction has also increased, up a point to 69pc, the same level as a year ago and within the margin of error from two years.

Today's poll will add to the pressure on Finance Minister Michael Noonan after a week which saw a surge in anger at the banks' imposition of high mortgage variable interest rates and industrial action on zero-hour contracts.

The average variable mortgage rate for new customers in Ireland is 4.2pc, compared with a rate of 2.09pc in the rest of the eurozone.

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This means the holder of a €200,000 mortgage here is paying €350 a month more than mortgage holders in Europe. The Coalition's economic Spring Statement was initially scheduled for April 21, but is to be delivered on April 28 instead at the insistence of Labour, which wants to concentrate on the mortgage arrears crisis first.

The Coalition intends to use the statement to outline a five-year tax reform plan to secure a second term after the Budget in October.

However, today's poll illustrates the level of voter expectation with which the Coalition must now contend.

The poll finds support for wage hikes has increased for both the private and public sectors but that voters still believe the public sector may have to wait.

Asked if there had been sufficient economic improvement to merit wage increases in the private sector, 45pc said no (up one point) but 43pc said yes (up five points) while 12pc did not know (down six points).

Half of voters (50pc), down one point, did not believe there should be public sector pay increases, while 37pc (up six points) believed there should and 12pc (down six points) did not know.

If exchequer money is to be given back, 61pc said water charges should be reduced; 60pc said USC should be cut; 54pc said reduce income tax; 47pc want a cut to property tax; and 38pc wanted PRSI reduced.

Dissatisfaction with all the party leaders has also increased: Enda Kenny (67pc) up three points; Joan Burton (65pc) up four points; Micheal Martin (57pc) up eight points; Gerry Adams (56pc) up six points.

Renua Ireland leader Lucinda Creighton has recorded a satisfaction rating of 20pc and dissatisfaction of 44pc; while 36pc said they did not know.

Sunday Independent

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