Confidence and Supply a Likely Feature of General Election 2020

Published by: Richard Colwell


The last RED C poll of 2019 provides us with a good picture of the political landscape in which the General Election will be fought in 2020.  The fact that everyone knows an election has to take place in the first half of next year, means that most parties are already on election footing, and it is likely that the rhetoric will ramp up as we move into 2020 and TD’s can see the campaign approaching.

The current first preference support for the two largest parties in the state is eerily similar to that seen before the last General Election in 2016; and point towards a similar outcome, with neither party potentially able to form a government without the support of the other.

Currently Fine Gael have 30% of the first preference vote.  This means they start in a good position of being the largest supported party in the state.   At the start of 2020 there will also be a focus on the parties handling of Brexit, as the situation comes to a head once again in the UK, and this is the party’s strongest card among the public.  However, the highest polling support figures Fine Gael have seen since the last General Election has been at 34%, so even with gains during the first few months of the year, the party is unlikely to secure support above this level.

It should also be remembered that Fine Gael were in the driving seat prior to the last General Election in 2016, polling at a similar level of 30-32% support.  The trends at that time moved against the party, and it lost support during the campaign, ending up securing 26% at the General Election itself.

Fianna Fail on the other hand is currently polling at 24% for the last two RED C polls, and trailing Fine Gael by 6%.  While currently behind Fine Gael, they have in polls over the last year managed to secure highs of around 28%.   Current levels of support also leaves them in a better place than the party was at just prior to the last election.  In 2016 Fianna Fail were regularly securing 18-20% in the polls  before the last election, but during the campaign their support improved, and they also ended up securing a higher level of support than the polls had suggested they would.

Were this trend to repeat itself moving into a 2020 election, we could expect Fianna Fail to do better than their current poll standing suggests.  In a scenario where Fianna Fail gain support, and Fine Gael potentially lose support, that 6% gap between the two parties could soon be removed.  Potentially leaving us with both parties at similar levels of support after the election, and each fighting to be ahead enough, to be in the driving seat of any confidence and supply arrangement.

Sinn Fein are in a disappointing position of securing just 11% support in this last poll of the year.  Instead of kicking on with the change of leadership, the party appears to be in decline.  If they were to secure this level of first preference vote at the next election, it would mean a loss of 3% support vs. 2016, and certainly a reduced presence in the Dail.  This poll result, is despite their Ard Fheis being held last the weekend, during which time the poll was being conducted.  Coverage of which would traditionally have given them a bounce in the polls.

It is true that the party does perform more poorly in RED C polls vs. those conducted by other companies.  This is due to the fact that we heavily weight results based on likelihood to actually go and vote.  Among all adults, the party secures 13% support, but the problem remains that many of these supporters will not actually vote on the day.  RED C polling methods have historically been very accurate at predicting the Sinn Fein vote.

The Green Party could see themselves as possible kingmakers, with support for the party currently more than double that they achieved at the last election.  How much impact they can have, will depend on who they are prepared to go into coalition with, and whether they can field enough candidates nationwide to take advantage of these levels of support.  Recently they have suggested they would not go into coalition with Fine Gael, but this could be their only option to have a real influence on the government.

Labour, Independent candidates and the Social Democrats are all on levels of support very similar to those they secured at the last election. Certainly, there is a possibility of a liberal social coalition of Green, Labour and Soc Dems, to have some impact, were it to materialise, while Independent candidates will remain an important part of any future Dail after GE2020.

For the smaller parties Aontu and Rise are yet to really feature, and Renua and Solidarity PBP both in decline, so the opportunity for any of these parties to have a significant impact is minimal.

In summary, the political landscape remains remarkably similar to that seen in 2016.  Some small movements are seen with gains for Fianna fail and the Greens, and a decline for Sin Fein and Solidarity PBP.  But the reality is, that we are currently looking at an election that could well end up with exactly the same general picture as was seen in 2016.  Confidence and Supply anyone?

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November 2019 Poll