Irish Polling Report

A place to discuss Irish opinion polls

Rising without trace

with 8 comments

As promised, I’ve got back to the Paddy Power/Red C poll to have a closer look at what might be happening ‘under the bonnet’.

Usually, there are no polls this early in the year, and I’ve not been able to track down any historic ones taken before the Christmas Tree comes down on Jan 6th. The reasons for this may be practical as much as questions about their inherent value – schools aren’t back until Monday, and many workplaces are light in staff numbers as a result. However, going by two posters on it appears that the polling was done by staff outside the country, possibly ICM polling, who were identified as the company when they contacted the oft-polled Future Taoiseach.

To recap, the figures (change from Dec ’10 RedC in brackets) were as follows;

FG 35% (+1)
LP 21% (-2)
FF 14% (-3)
SF 14% (=)
GP 4% (+2)
OTH 12% (+2)

When the (late) January polls were conducted in 2010, they showed an increase in support for FF, and so the drop here will be of some concern to them. While the movement is equal to the margin of error, the drop of 3%, bringing them within 1% of their worst poll ever, is not good. The previous 13% poll could have been seen as a rogue poll, but a sequence of 13-17-14 suggests that they are in the low-to-mid teens, and given this was taken just before the first post-budget payslips came out, and before the VHI price hikes were announced, there seems little basis for them hoping to bounce back any time soon.

FG will be moderately pleased with a 1% increase, even if it is well within the margin of error, but even they must be wondering what they have to do to pull out of the 30-35% range. As I noted last month,

They polled 35% in a RedC poll in November 2008, and in the series of more than 20 RedC polls since then, they have always been 30-35%, except for November ’09 when they hit 36%… Over that period, FF have slid from 30% to 17%, without any net improvement for the main opposition party, and the current decline in the LP FPV rating appears to be all going to SF or ULA, with little likelihood of it ever going to FG.

This is further underlined by a poll where FF are down 3%, LP and down 2%, and yet FG are only up a fifth of that. It appears that if Kenny becomes Taoiseach, it will be because everyone else lost it, rather than he won it.

That said, they appear to have learnt a lesson that LP have forgotten. Some months ago, it was being suggested that LP’s popularity was being generated by their leader being absent from the media. LP apparently took this to heart, and his more regular appearances appear to have lost them the first preferences of some of the electorate, for a time at least. Kenny’s handlers, on the other hand, have tried the same trick, and it appears to work whoever the leader. Perhaps a lesson there that you lose more votes by opening your mouth than by keeping it shut, particularly in the current anti-politics mood. It remains to be seen how much he can be kept under wraps in the course of an election campaign, but to date, the success has been impressive.

LP will be disappointed, whatever the caveats. Sure, it’s within the margin of error, it’s before the Dail resumes, and its before the Budget cutbacks in expenditure become evident (tax increases are always immediately obvious, whereas the cuts in health and education reveal themselves over the months, and these are what LP will hope to gain support over). However, this is on top of the previous poll showing a 4% drop, and in line with the MRBI poll that showed LP drop to 25%. Clearly, LP are losing first preferences to Sinn Fein and most likely ULA, although this poll raises the possibility of GP also. While it would be foolish to panic, they will be eyeing the next RedC and MRBI polls to see if this is the start of a trend, or just the normal up and downs that they like all parties experience in polling. If the RedC/SBP later this month has them below 22%, they may have to consider that they’ll enter the GE campaign 10-15% behind FG, and that would make their key strategy, i.e. making the election a choice between Gilmore and Kenny as Taoiseach, a very hard sell.

SF will be happy with this poll, although it says a lot for their recent progress that they’d not be ecstatic. It means RedC have given them the following sequence 9-11-16-14-14 (and MRBI gave them 15% during that period), which suggests that after a strong surge, they have settled down a little at somewhat over 1.5 times what was, until recently, very good polling for them. Figures suggest that this is in equal measure from FF and LP, indicating that while they have created a niche that could broadly be described left/oppositional, it is capable of attracting some FF voters that the LP and ULA weren’t able to reach. Key for them now is consolidating as much of this vote around good candidates who can deliver the growing goodwill that appears to be awaiting collection, although the further complication, evidenced by the hiding of Kenny, is that they may have to make a decision about how much Adams is seen to lead the campaign. Personally, I believe that the likes of Pearse Doherty is a better spearhead than Adams, who carries baggage that many Southern voters find unsettling. While this may not impact upon those whose first preferences they are after, it will among the transfers they need to pull in seats in places like Carlow-Kilkenny, Laois-Offaly and Wicklow, and so there is some serious thinking for them to do, and not an awful lot of time to do it.

The Greens … well…. I don’t know. It is just in the margin of error, but a jump from 2% to 4% is still some surprise. Maybe if the Govt collapses over some point of principle, they may survive. Or maybe it’s just the poll being a bit out. Who knows? But at least it’ll give them some heart, as if being at 4% could be as low as 1%, it also follows that their previous poll rating of 2% could’ve been as high as 5%. It could be enough to get the canvassers out, anyway…

OTH remain the biggest imponderable. They are up to 12%, which is their highest rating in any poll since 2009. Some of it no doubt is the launch of ULA, which may give some focus to the smaller groups on the Marxist left (and who could be looking at 5 seats on the basis of this poll), but it could also be, in part, a result of Indo Cllrs around the country announcing that they are running, pushing up their numbers, and perhaps the odd party hopeful who didn’t get the nomination and who has announced that they’ll run solo. I do strongly believe though that the next RedC should have a category for ULA, who are probably at least as high as GP nationally, provided voters polled know that SP and PBP are part of the Alliance.

Now, the bits in the report….

Definitely, maybe!
As you’ll remember from last month’s analysis, RedC are now trying to capture the likelihood of voters voting particular parties, although the detailed figures they published were for any preference I commented on this last month, and I don’t know if they were listening, but this month they also give some “definite” first preferences in the narrative of the report, and it will be interesting to track these.

Of the “definite” first preferences, the following is revealed in the narrative part of the report;

FG 18% are definitive (with a further 22% saying they are “likely” to)
LP 14% are definitive (with a similar 22% saying they “may well” do so)
FF 9% are definitive (56% say they definitely won’t)

No figures are revealed for SF, GP or OTH.

This, if accurate, suggests that the FG lead over LP in definite first preferences is barely above the margin of error, and an unusually large proportion of their lead is among a section of the electorate that declare themselves to be unsure. Given they appear to have been supporting FG in the polls for some time now, this appears surprising (to me at least), and it may be that their support for FG is not as soft as they perceive it themselves. But if it is correct, it suggests that RedC are finding that a large portion of their otherwise very stable FG support is still unconvinced. Maybe they’re just drama queens, or want to play hard to get. But maybe it’s something to watch, particularly if a new party is created on the right of the spectrum (see below).

Choice of Taoiseach
There been some comment on on the apparent decline in Gilmore’s lead in choice of Taoiseach, but this is based on a greater choice being offered on this occasion. The previous time RedC asked this question (also for Paddy Power) it was last month and showed a continued increase in his support, with the results being;

Gilmore 45%
Kenny 24%
Cowen 11%

This time, Gerry Adams is included in the list of options, and given the relatively high popularity Gilmore had in successive polls with SF voters on this question, it’s hardly surprising that his share of declared preferences is significantly lower when the question includes the SF President. This weeks poll gives the following figures;

Gilmore 36%
Kenny 27%
Cowen 10%
Adams 9%

Looking at those figures, the Gilmore drop is 9%, and Adams comes from nowhere to get 9%. While there may be other movement, with Kenny up 3% and Cowen down 1%, it seems that the only real change here is in the question being asked. It’s also worth remembering that it was only a few months ago that Gilmore was high 30s in the question without Adams being an option.

On Adams being on the list, it’s interesting that about 50-60% of SF voters (presumably) want him as Taoiseach, although if most of them are happy with Gilmore as Taoiseach (or have him as their first choice) the preferred Govt for their current supporters is a LP/SF govt, with them pretty happy for it to be led by the former WP man. Strange times.

Choice of Finance Minister
The polls also asked who respondents would choose as Minister for Finance from a list of 7 politicians (1 FF, 3 FG and 3 LP). Splitting the vote this way saw Brian Lenihen top the poll at 19%, following by Bruton (18%), Noonan (16%), Burton (9%), Rabbitte (8%), Gilmore (8%), and Varadkar (5% – really!). The LP options provided are surprising, as the most common proposed alternative to Joan Burton as LP Finance spokesperson is former Finance Minister Ruairi Quinn (regarded by many as the best Finance Minister in recent decades), and I’d be interested as to why he was excluded from the list, given Pat Rabbitte was an option, and I’ve never heard him mentioned in this regard.

Resolved into parties that’s FG 39%, LP 25% and FF 19%, which taken in conjunction with the previous heading, suggests that, given the explicit choice, the greatest number of people want a govt with a LP Taoiseach and a FG Minister for Finance, although this sits oddly with the replies to last month’s RedC, which showed more voters have confidence in LP’s ability to handle the economy than FG. Similarly the MRBI last month showed greater public support for LP’s approach to the deficit than FG’s, so it’s hard to make sense of what the people are saying here, unless they think they can put FG people into the job and expect them to implement another party’s policies, which appears somewhat unreasonable….

Spiral of Silence
This is a device RedC have recently devised to measure “Shy” FF voters, if they exist. They’re not sufficiently convinced that it works (otherwise it would be a straightforward adjustment to their figures), but it does mean they have two sets of numbers, and presumably come the GE, whichever comes closest to the result is the one they’ll trumpet the loudest! According to the report, they calcualte it by taking those who are (a) undecided, or (b) refuse to say how they voted last time. They then re-allocate 50% to the party they voted last time (presumably based on the undecideds!) and 50% to who the rest claim they will vote this time. I’m sure I’m not the only person who can see the shortcomings there……

In December, this saw FF gain 1% each off FG and LP. This month, it takes 1% off FG and SF. A certain poster on will be delighted, therefore, to hear that the “Shy Tory” syndrome would reduce the gap between FG and LP 😉

A Bit of a Breakdown
As I’ve stated elsewhere, you have to be careful to jump to conclusions about regional figures in one or two polls, as (a) the samples are much smaller, and (b) the requirement to have the right mix in your sample only applies to the national sample, e.g. there may be too many middle class voters in one region and too few in another. I tried doing projections based on regional breakdowns sometime before and it gave me about 8 Indos in Leinster, which showed the limits of this.

For the record however, this showed the following figures for parties in Dublin, RO Leinster, Munster and Connaught-Ulster for the parties;

FG – 29-37-38-35
LP – 29-21-18-13
SF – 11-11-14-20
FF – 10-15-17-16
GP – 6- 2- 4- 3
Oth- 15-14-9-13

All caveats applying, this would suggest if accurate that SF are making particular headway outside Leinster, and might suggest that they could fall short of the seats I give them in some Dublin constituencies (notably Dublin NE), but seal the deal in places like Sligo. Other than that, there aren’t any notable deviations outside the larger margin of error that we’d expect from these national figures.

On gender, there’s a remarkably strong gender bias, with men more inclined to vote for the centre-right, and women for the centre-left (in opposition to many international trends), with support for the parties among men and women as follows;

FG 40-30
LP 19-24
SF 12-15
FF 16-12
GP 3-5
OTH 10-14

Interestingly the trend for women to vote left is mirrored in the OTH columns, which lends support to the idea that this is predominantly left-leaning. The lead of FG/FG over LP/SF/GP/OTH is 56-44% among men, but among women, the figures are reversed, at 42-56%. What this tells us, I suppose, is that women are more conscious of the effects of cuts in services and spending, such as health, education and child benefit, whereas men are more aware of the impact of taxes on their pay packets. And I’m not even going to try to second guess if abortion is in the mix in these figures….

Bad attitudes
Finally, voters were also asked about their attitudes to a number of questions, and agreed (as opposed to disagreed) with the following statements to the following extents;

Govt should have stood down ages ago (62-24)
I’ll never vote FF again “after last year” (51-27)
I’ve less trust in politicians than ever before (66-18)
We shoudl have defaulted rather than take bailout (45-28)*
I’d like to see a younger party leader (57-19)
A new political party is needed to make change (61-25)

*The question regarding default/the bailout is interesting, as it suggests that a majority have a more radical position than most of the main parties, although the extent to which this is thought through, as opposed to a general sentiment, is unclear.

The one on a new party is of course not of great value, as the 61% in favour may all have contradictory views as to what such a party should stand for. Although I still think there’ll be some attempt to fill that gap, the main question being how competent this attempt would be. Given the large component of the 35% FG vote that self-describes as soft, however, one could see them nervous if Chairman Ganley decides that this is the time for him to serve his Fatherland….

Anyways, those are my musings. And I’d just like to end this entry with a quite sincere “best wishes” to Kenny. I really hope he confounds everyone and pulls off a sensational campaign this year, with a historic victory.

Here’s hoping …! 😉


Written by Dotski

January 9, 2011 at 2:52 am

Posted in Uncategorized

8 Responses

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  1. With FF on 10% in Dublin, if replicated on the day, that would see them losing all their seats.
    Could see places like Dublin South East returning four Government TDs (there won’t be a strong FF-GP transfer mix there due to the type of GP voters).


    January 9, 2011 at 2:25 pm

  2. […] posted here: Rising without trace « Irish Polling Report Share and […]

  3. What this tells us, I suppose, is that women are more conscious of the effects of cuts in services and spending, such as health, education and child benefit, whereas men are more aware of the impact of taxes on their pay packets.

    Women are also more likely to work in the public sector.

    Paddy Matthews

    January 10, 2011 at 7:30 pm

    • Excellent point Paddy – I work in the PS and it didn’t occur to me, but yes, it’s got to be a contributory factor.


      January 10, 2011 at 11:34 pm

  4. Looking at the figures by way of right-left blocks , it seems to me that the FG/FF right block now has approx. 50% of the vote, the Lab/SF/Green progressive block has approx. 40% with the independent & nutter groups holding about 10%.

    The third group will end up with less seats than their proportion of votes, with the main gain going to FG.

    The other key issue inside both blocks of voters is going to be a) the difference in 1st prefs between the two parties and also transfer rates. My own gut feeling is that you have understated the FG total. A lot of right wing FF voters will end up electing FG candidates as FF candidates are eliminated. The choice for example could be between say a Boyd Barrett or a Shinner and a Blueshirt. Class will win out.

    Assuming for example the right block comes to 50% of the vote, split 37-13, the two parties will end up with close to 55% of the seats. FG could end up with close to 45% of the seats or around 74 seats.

    In such a circumstance, I can only see FG doing a deal with the rump of FF. I can’t see the leftovers of FF wanting to spend 10 years rebuilding the party for a chance of power.

    FG’s biggest problem may be splitting the vote between candidates to keep junior members of tickets still around at the end. But if they can manage that it is their election to win.

    As a fellow PS worker, the possibility fills me with worry, but it looks very possible.


    January 13, 2011 at 5:45 pm

  5. […] Crowley, Michael D and Fergus Finlay, she would have polled some 13% (compared to 35% for FG in the previous poll) It is also possible, as I suggested in the last post, that the absence of FF means that being the […]

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