Opposition Need to Make Campaign Count2016.02.08
Recently we identified the battle for floating voters as being between the desire for stability vs. a fairer society. Both strands of this argument have been clearly used by the main parties’ in the first few days of the campaign proper, with “maintaining recovery” in every other sentence uttered by Fine Gael candidates; while fairness has been at the cornerstone of opposition parties.
We know from last week’s poll that Fine Gael dominates when voters are asked which party the trust most with the economy. But do the electorate actually see any of the opposition as being a better option for a Fairer Ireland. Today’s poll suggests the opposition has a way to go in persuading voters that they are to be trusted in terms of fairness. In fact voters most trust Fine Gael to deliver a fairer society in the next five years, with 29% (very close to first preference share) suggesting they trust the party most to deliver. Crucially it is the only party outside of Independents that registers on this issue with floating voters, where 1 in 5 suggest they most trust Fine Gael.
More importantly none of the opposition parties currently stand out as being the alternative for a fairer society. The next most trusted party for fairness is Sinn Fein (16%), closing matching their first preference vote share but certainly not exceeding it. Despite the Fianna Fail focus on fairness, just 12% of voters say they most trust them to deliver a fairer society, well below their first preference share. In fact only Labour over-indexes on trust in delivering fairness, with 2% more voters trusting Labour, than they achieve is first preference vote. Crucially almost 1 in 10 don’t trust any of the parties or candidates to deliver this fairness.
The picture is very similar for a range of the most important issues that voters will use to decide how to vote. Overall Fine Gael comes close to matching or outperforming its vote share on most of the key issues, and is the only party that features significantly outside of Independent among floating voters. It matches its vote share on trust in delivering a better health service (30%), and significantly over indexes on trust in delivering employment/job creation (41%). It does fall down somewhat on delivering access to affordable/quality housing, but still manages to gain more trust than any other party (25%).
Trust in Fianna Fail falls below its first preference vote share on all these key issues, apart from the Health service, where it does perform slightly above vote share (19%). The same is the case for Sinn Fein, where apart from trust in delivering affordable housing, the party performs below its first preference vote. Those saying they will vote for Independent candidates do not appear to trust the people they will vote for to deliver any of these key attributes except perhaps fairness.
The only other party that performs ahead of its current vote share is Fine Gael’s coalition partner. Labour are trusted most by 12% of the likely voters on providing a better health service, and significantly over-index on providing affordable housing where 18% trust the party most. It also does well among floating voters on delivering employment and job creation.
The fact that the opposition are currently not trusted ahead of their current vote share on these issues would suggest there is little room for recruitment based on a platform of fairness. The campaign will need to work very hard for the opposition parties to change voter opinion and combat Fine Gael’s strength on the economy.
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