Sunday 18 August 2019

The Rising Tide: Poll indicates two-and-a-bit months will be a long time in politics

Public mood is up so Kenny might rue abandoning November election

WALKING ON EGGSHELLS: Kenny may rue his decision
WALKING ON EGGSHELLS: Kenny may rue his decision
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

It could be all over and done with at this stage. Enda Kenny could have been chauffeured to the Phoenix Park after the Budget was announced on October 13 to tell President Michael D Higgins he wanted to dissolve the Dail.

Of course, Joan Burton would have been upset, but Chairman Mayo has the final say and the lowly Tánaiste would have to put up with it.

An overexcited electorate buoyed by news of all the extra money they were promised by Finance Minister Michael Noonan could have rushed to the polls and voted the Coalition back into power.

Well, maybe some of the Coalition anyway, mostly those who commemorate Michael Collins' passing.

A bunch of obedient Independents would also have been necessary, but forming a stable Government may not have been an impossible task.

Alas, Burton had her way and Kenny agreed to hold off calling the election until the new year - around early spring, we're told.

So now the Coalition will spend at least two-and-a-bit months walking on eggshells as the countdown to the election overshadows its every move.

But did Kenny really miss the ideal opportunity to go to the polls? A recent Sunday Independent/Millward Brown poll suggests he may rue listening to the increasingly combative Burton.

The poll showed Fine Gael support was up, as was public confidence in the Fine Gael boss. Even Burton's satisfaction rating increased, despite Labour's static support remaining in single figures.

But, more importantly, the polls showed public optimism is improving and people are beginning to feel a little bit more content with their lot.

And, not only that, people see a future where October is not a month filled with announcements of cuts to services and increases in tax.

In fact, the poll showed one in five people believe they will be personally better of this time next year - a level of optimism not recorded in the same survey since September 2008. Those who said their situation had improved on this time last year is unchanged at 16pc, but again this is a rating not seen for seven years.

But what does this all mean and who are these people who seem to be living great old lives while others, some 35pc, said they are worse off on last year?

A closer look at the survey shows - and this will be of some relief to mothers and fathers fearing they will lose offspring to emigration - almost a quarter of all young people aged between 18-24 feel they are better off since last polled.

More than one in three think their personal circumstances are going to be improved this time next year.

This improved optimism is to be expected with falling unemployment and means fewer young people will be forced to travel to Canada and Australia to find work.

But maybe these bright-eyed young things are naive in their hopes and aspirations, as their above-average optimism is not shared in other age categories. Older people certainly do not feel the same, with just 11pc of those aged 55-64 saying they feel better off since the last survey, and a mere 8pc of people over 65 years old said the same.

Looking to the future, older people are also less optimistic than the younger people interviewed by Millward Brown researchers.

Less than one in ten people aged 55-64 believe they will be better off next year, while three in ten believe they will be worse off.

In the over 65 category, similar pessimism for what the future holds was also expressed. This will be of concern to Fine Gael and Labour election strategists, who know these age categories need to be targeted for votes.

Equally concerning for Kenny will be the finding that people aged 55-64 are more than twice as likely to vote for Fianna Fáil (38pc) than Fine Gael (16pc), and Micheál Martin's party is also marginally ahead with the over 65s.

The findings suggests the small increases to the pension have not won over those retiring ­­- or close to retiring - and election manifestos are likely to be filled with pledges aimed at attracting the grey and greying vote.

Unsurprisingly, those in the higher socio-economic demographic categories feel better off and are more optimistic about the future than those in the lower classification, which includes pensioners.

It will also be of no surprise that more people living in Dublin (27pc) feel better off compared to those living in the rest of Leinster (12pc), Munster (11pc) and Connaught/Ulster (13pc).

Interestingly, when it comes to looking to next year, those living in Connaught/Ulster (25pc) are not far off people in Dublin (27pc) in thinking they will be better off, but the same optimism is not felt in the rest of Leinster (15pc) and Munster (16pc).

There is also a significant gap in attitudes between urban and rural dwellers, which is not surprising given the commonly held view that the economic recovery has yet to spread beyond the Capital.

Nonetheless, things have improved and people are more upbeat about the future. For the time being, Fine Gael is seeing some benefit in the polls - but if a week is a long time in politics, two-and-a-bit months is a lifetime.

Sunday Independent

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