Friday 18 October 2019

Poll: Government should focus on improving public services ahead of more tax cuts

Public prefer better public services by two-to-one, poll finds

Leo Varadkar Photo: Damien Eagers/INM
Leo Varadkar Photo: Damien Eagers/INM
Jody Corcoran

Jody Corcoran

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's pledge to raise the level at which people pay the top rate of income tax has failed to capture the mood of the country, according to a Sunday Independent/Kantar Millward Brown opinion poll.

The nationwide survey has found that, by more than a two-to-one majority, the public says the Government should focus on improving public services ahead of more tax cuts.

Asked which option the Government should focus on over the next two years, 64pc said improved public services and 30pc said more tax cuts, in a finding which leaves little room for doubt as to the public's preference.

In his keynote address to Fine Gael's Ard Fheis last month, the Taoiseach pledged to accelerate the pace of tax cuts in the coming years.

Mr Varadkar said Fine Gael would raise the level at which people pay the top rate of income tax from just over €35,000 to €50,000 for a single person and €100,000 for a two-income couple. The current point at which a dual- income couple enters the 40pc rate is around €70,000.

The policy announcement was regarded as a significant move by Fine Gael, given that recent budgets have been heavily tilted toward increases in public spending.

However, the Sunday Independent/Kantar Millward Brown poll found that two-thirds of the public believe the Government should "focus on improved public services" ahead of tax cuts.

Excluding don't knows, the state of the parties is Fine Gael (32pc), down two points since April and down four points since February; Fianna Fail (27pc), unchanged since April; Sinn Fein (21pc), down one point; Labour (5pc), unchanged; Greens (1pc), down two points; and Independents/others (13pc), up five points.

The poll found a significant 29pc expressed 'don't know', perhaps a reflection that people are more focused on other issues such as the approach of Christmas and even political events in the UK related to Brexit.

In other findings, while the poll confirmed a traditionally strong level of support for the European Union, there is growing concern that Brexit is a 'lose-lose' situation for both the EU and the UK, but a growing belief (65pc), up three points, that the EU will respect Ireland's "special position" with the UK in Brexit negotiations.

The poll was taken between December 1 and 13, before Micheal Martin announced Fianna Fail's intention to continue to support the Fine Gael-led minority government for another year. The margin of error is 3.2pc.

In further bad news for Mr Varadkar, satisfaction with the Government (43pc) is down five points since April, while dissatisfaction (49pc) is up three points.

And in another blow, satisfaction with the Taoiseach (49pc) is down seven points since April and down nine points since February.

However, the Fine Gael leader is still the most popular in the country, ahead of Fianna Fail's Micheal Martin (40pc), down four points; Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald (37pc), down nine points; and Labour leader, Brendan Howlin (24pc), down two points.

Furthermore, while Mr Varadkar commands an 83pc satisfaction rating among Fine Gael supporters, Mr Martin's satisfaction rating with Fianna Fail supporters is considerably lower, at 74pc, perhaps a reflection that many Fianna Fail supporters are disenchanted with the confidence and supply arrangement.

The view in favour of improved public services is higher among Munster (68pc) and Connacht/Ulster (70pc), Labour supporters (77pc) and within the DE social class (71pc), which includes the working class, or semi-skilled and unskilled manual workers, state pensioners, casual and lowest grade workers and the unemployed with state benefits only.

Sunday Independent

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