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Generations split over Government response to housing and inflation

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Mary Lou McDonald's Sinn Féin is experiencing a surge in support from younger voters. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA

Mary Lou McDonald's Sinn Féin is experiencing a surge in support from younger voters. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA

Mary Lou McDonald's Sinn Féin is experiencing a surge in support from younger voters. Photo: Brian Lawless/PA

A notable finding in today’s Sunday Independent/Ireland Thinks opinion poll is the evident and growing divergence between younger and older generations mostly influenced by the issue of housing.

At the end of a week in which the Government announced an €11bn Budget, support for the Coalition parties has remained largely unmoved, while backing for the main opposition party, Sinn Féin, has increased to a record high of 37pc.

The rising cost of living remains the most pressing issue for people as winter approaches, although the Budget seems to have somewhat calmed public anxiety. In summary, 50pc of the public feel the Budget will make some, or even a big, difference in their ability to cope with rapidly rising inflation mostly driven by energy costs, while 46pc believe it will make no difference.

This finding is symptomatic of what we might call the Great Divide. By and large, older generations are more satisfied with the Budget and believe the Government’s response to the current crisis is appropriate.

The younger generations in less well-paid employment are less satisfied with the Budget, with almost half (46pc) of those aged 18 to 34 of the view that the Government has not done enough — and it is these voters who are turning in growing numbers to Sinn Féin, taking that party’s support to a new high.

In this opinion poll we delve into the demographics that explain the surge in support for Mary Lou McDonald’s party and highlight data which starkly illustrates the divide between
generations.

Among those who do not own their own home, there is 51pc support for Sinn Féin. Of that cohort, only 9pc identified themselves as intending to vote for Fine Gael, with support for Fianna Fáil lower still at a mere 6pc. That is a sobering finding for both of the main Coalition parties.

The Government may plead a level of mitigation for its failure to tackle the housing crisis by citing a rising population, increasing building costs, and investors and landlords looking elsewhere, but the bottom line is that the situation is not improving fast enough to satisfy the locked-out generation.

On the contrary, concern about housing is on the increase again — up three points in this poll and identified by more than half (55pc) as one of the two main priorities the Government should have today.

Already we have seen warnings from within Government that the Housing for All plan is missing key targets. It will come under further pressure as the country faces into the headwinds of inflation, economic slowdown and possible recession next year.

None of this means a Sinn Féin-led government is inevitable, as some commentators have suggested.

Even without a Budget bounce, the combined Fine Gael/Fianna Fáil total of 38pc remains marginally ahead of support for Sinn Féin. There is a continuing sense, though, that the ground is shifting ahead of a hard winter.

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