Irish Polling Report

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Gay abandoned

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One of the puzzling things about the Presidential Opinion Polls, for an outsider, might be as to how there could be such a large discrepancy between FG’s ratings in the state of the parties, and Gay Mitchell’s figures, with his score skittering between a half and a third of their party figures.

There are a number of reasons, in my view the main one being that he’s unsuited to a values type election, i.e. There are people voting FG now, not because they agree with their values, but because they see the State in a hole, and reckon FG will be the most brutal in pulling us out of it. This opinion gets some weight from a Presidential poll taken before the GE, when RedC found that, if Mairead McGuinness ran for FG against Norris, Bertie, 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 “anti-FF” candidate no longer carries the same benefit.

While the January poll offered 2 choices for FF and LP, it was still way under half of the support her party was getting, which should’ve indicated to FG that this was not going to be a walk in the Park for them as a party. Further evidence arrived in June when a selection of four FG candidates, all representing different strains within the party, mustered less than 30% between them, even after exclusion of undecideds, with last-placed Gay Mitchell in the margin of error at 2.6%. It is beyond most people’s comprehension how Mitchell could have been picked following that poll – it clearly showed that FG were in serious trouble, and needed as many votes as possible to have a decent showing. Enda Kenny saw this when he pushed for Pat Cox, and Mairead McGuinness would, based on that poll, appear to have been a decent bet, but to go for the only candidate with no apparent personal vote was reckless, as they appear to be learning to their cost.

Nevertheless, many FG members appear perplexed, as they have bought into the myth that he’s a great vote getter, whereas the reality is that he is no more than competent, even in elections that suit his temperament.

His most recent outing was the 2009 European Elections, when he topped the poll in Dublin with 23.78% of the vote. Not bad, but above what FG would have got with another candidate? Probably not. On the same day, there were Local Elections, and the FG vote in Dublin amounted to almost exactly the same. In Dublin City and County, FG candidates got a total of 23.73% of the vote. In other words, the Mitchell vote was almost exactly at the same level as the party vote in the LEs, among the same voters on the same day.

His previous test was in 2004, again an EP election coinciding with the LEs. On that occasion, he polled 21.51%, again without a running mate. On this occasion, it was at least above the FG LE performance, but only marginally at less than 3%, and given how low the base was, it wasn’t something you could really use 7 years later to justify someone as an  über candidate.

Previous to that, his electoral tests were in Dublin South-Central. There, his prowess was largely agreed to be the result of intensive clientelism, and a well oiled local machine, neither of which will come into play in this election, but let’s have a look at how he did anyway. His base was always in the mid-to-northern end of the constituency, and if he had been serious about brining in a running mate he would have had one from the more middle-class Terenure end. But Gay was always too canny to allow something like that happen, and he eh, the party, chose Catherine Byrne (now a TD) as his running mate. She had come third in the previous bye-election, polling decently in his areas, and getting 20%, but was based in the Inner City, and if Gay wanted to outpoll his running mate in places like Terenure, she was the candidate to have on the ticket.

In the end, the vote was badly split, and he got 12.37% to her 4.57%, a combined vote of less than 17%. Given the advantages he had as an incumbant TD, geographically based in the middle of the constituency, and with his running mate at the end least FG-minded, his FPV of 5,444 on that occasion does not scream “winner” to me.

Going back to the last century, he managed to top the poll by crushing his running mate Ruairi McGinley in 1997, getting 22% to McGinley’s 3%. Again, its obvious that he was never keen to have a strong running mate, and McGinley a debutant, was never going to challenge Mitchell, who clearly saw topping the poll (and enhancing his reputation) as more important than bringing on a running mate. But even if you take it that this was evidence of his great vote getting ability, his strongest appeal was among what used to be called the “Senior Citizen” vote in Drimnagh and Crumlin. 14 years on, many of those voters are with us no more, and those that are certainly aren’t going to swing a national election.

I suspect he may still poll better on the day, but if he does it won’t be because he is a greater campaigner. It will be because he could hardly do worse. The best FG can hope to come out of this election is a realisation that those votes don’t “belong” to them, and listen to a wider circle than the lads who turn up for branch meetings.  Had they chosen Mairead McGuinness, they would probably be in the mix now, and this would be a very different election.  As it is, there will be a lot of soul searching in the party this Halloween.



Written by Dotski

October 1, 2011 at 1:25 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

7 Responses

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  1. Thought provoking. I think there are other reasons too why Gay is not getting traction.


    October 1, 2011 at 1:43 pm

    • How would you call it at present?…


      October 1, 2011 at 5:00 pm

      • Hard to see past Higgins at present, Norris & MMG doing too poorly on transfers. Davis has most potential but I suspect she’s been badly hit by today’s headline in the Indo.

        Still, a week a long time and all that..


        October 1, 2011 at 5:21 pm

  2. Hi Dotski,

    You can’t really talk about Gay’s lack of traction without mentioning his associations with conservative catholicism. Weird that FG have a leader like Enda Kenny, who is capable of going through the RCC like a dose of salts (to huge public approval) and are yet capable of selecting a candidate swimming in associations with conservative Catholicism (with predictable results).

    You’re right about the fact that his voter-attractiveness was always a myth, but that doesn’t go near explaining his miserable showing so far.

    There is absolutely no danger of this dreadful candidate getting elected.


    October 2, 2011 at 9:45 am

    • Hiya! Yes, there are a number of factors, and his association with the more conservative wing of the RC church has lost him some support, but I think that’s only a small part of it. Most ppl I know who aren’t especially tuned into politics are unaware of this, and so it couldn’t be a big part of why he’s getting a fraction of the FG vote. Most of them just don’t like him, one person (who has never met him and knew nothing about his politics beyond them being FG) opined to me that he “just seems like a nasty piece of work”. It’s hard to get at the root of why he gives that impression to ppl who don’t really know him, but it appears that he does.

      On the disconnect with Enda, I think it’s worth remembering that he opposed GM, and while it may have been largely inspired by the electoral result of his selection, I’ve no doubt that the religious stuff also played a part.


      October 2, 2011 at 4:46 pm

      • ” It’s hard to get at the root of why he gives that impression to ppl who don’t really know him, but it appears that he does.”

        The simplest reason may be the best

        October 3, 2011 at 11:23 pm

  3. The core FG vote know members, are members etc etc, they know what Mitchell is like in person, it is simple as that. He is not noted for his manner with ordinary party workers, indeed anyone. Has there ever been a party candidate that so failed to energize the base?? Not that I can think of.


    October 3, 2011 at 2:01 pm

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