Voters 'No' to positive spin, and survival of Coalition
Poll: Anxiety about impact of property tax and increased fears of losing homes and jobs
THE Government's attempt to present a more optimistic outlook for 2013 has been rejected by the public, who remain in a mood of deep-rooted anxiety about the state of the country, according to a Sunday Independent/Millward Brown opinion poll.
The nationwide poll has found that only a third of voters are confident that the Government will run its full term and almost half have doubts as to Labour's position and impact in Coalition.
In response to the poll, the Labour chairman and dissident TD Colm Keaveney said Labour should remain in Government but "refuse to implement" policies that directly contradicted the party's "declared values".
The poll has found a significant increase since November in the number of people who are worried that they will lose their job and home this year, as well as deep concern about the impact of the property tax when it is introduced in July.
This weekend there were indications that the Government may face a revolt by Fine Gael TDs from Dublin in relation to what they see as iniquities in the proposed property tax.
"This is not a property tax. This is nothing more than a revenue-raising exercise," said Dublin South TD Olivia Mitchell, adding: "I bitterly resent having to pay this because we are paying for the rest of the country."
In particular, the poll has found that parents and those aged 25-44 are consistently most fearful for the future.
There is also widespread disillusionment with the main political parties and independents. When presented with seven coalition options, 22 per cent said (unprompted) "none of these" and a further 22 per cent said "don't know".
Asked for their preferred coalition, voters said Fine Gael/Labour (11 per cent) and Fianna Fail/Sinn Fein (11 per cent).
At the start of Ireland's EU presidency, the Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore predicted that a "post-recession" Republic would start to become apparent this year.
The Communications Minister, Pat Rabbitte, also blamed what he claimed was an "all-pervasive negativity" in the media. He said this was not helping the mood of people in distress and difficulty.
However, in a swipe at Mr Rabbitte last night, Mr Keaveney said: "There is little point in politicians complaining about the media being overly cynical towards politics and politicians when we give people due cause to feel such cynicism on the basis of saying what it takes to get elected."
Improved consumer sentiment seemed evident over Christmas, followed by a range of macro-economic indicators in the New Year, which gave rise to a more upbeat assessment in some quarters.
However, our poll, which was conducted nationwide between December 20 and January 10 among a sample of 1,044 in face-to-face interviews, will come as a sobering reality check for the Government this weekend.
Also in the Sunday Independent today, economist Colm McCarthy presents a caustic assessment of the Government's attempt to lift the national mood at the turn of the year.
He writes: "While recovery in 2013 is possible, there is no hard evidence that recovery is under way. There is a real boom, though, in one sector of Irish manufacturing – namely the manufacture of good-news stories to usher in the New Year."
Mr McCarthy adds that there is "no way of knowing" that the economy will begin to recover this year, no matter how confidently forecasts are presented.
"All that is known is the latest batch of proper statistics from the Central Statistics Office and they show that no actual recovery has commenced."
After a period which has seen Mr Keaveney resign from the parliamentary party in protest at social welfare cuts in the Budget, this poll contains further bad news for Labour in particular.
Close to half (44 per cent) of voters on the bottom of the economic ladder, who will be disproportionately affected by the cuts, want Labour to leave the Coalition. Among the higher professional classes, however, 47 per cent say Labour should remain in Government.
This finding has caused Paul Moran, associate director with Millward Brown, to write today: "Where exactly is Labour's heartland?"
Mr Keaveney said: "I'm not surprised by the results of this poll, as many of those who supported us in the last election did so in the belief that we would honour our most solemn pledges, including the absolute pledge that Eamon Gilmore gave on our behalf that child benefit would not be cut."
In a reflection of the unease among the public at the direction of the Coalition, just 35 per cent are confident that the Government will stay in power for a full term. Thirty-nine per cent are less confident, while a further 10 per cent say "it depends".
At a time when the troika has delivered a critical assessment of the Government's attempts to deal with the mortgage crisis through the Personal Insolvency Bill, the poll has also found a huge level of anxiety among voters on a range of issues which relate to them directly.
Overall, more than one in three (34 per cent) – rising to nearly half in the 25-34 category – fear losing their job, a five-point increase since the last poll in November. One in seven (14 per cent) fear losing their home, up four points in the same period.
Meanwhile, 57 per cent are worried about paying their household bills and a further 53 per cent are worried about having to reduce their standard of living.
A clear majority (60 per cent) feel that the proposed property tax will negatively impact property prices while just a quarter (26 per cent) say the tax will have no impact and 14 per cent do not know.
While the poll has found tentative signs that the public believe that the property slump is now bottoming out, there are also indications that the property market will remain stagnant this year.
Sixty-eight per cent are in total agreement that now is a good time to buy, but 76 per cent are in total disagreement that now is a good time to sell property.