Where do the opposition go from here? – APR 2013

Published by: Richard Colwell


Fine Gael retain 28% of the first preference vote in this poll, 8% below the level the party achieved at the last election. In itself the figure is not that remarkable, given the tough decisions that have had to be made along the way, and the fact that we currently lie midway between elections. What is far more interesting, is that this is exactly the same first preference share the party secured for the past five polls running back to November last year.


This means support for the party has remained stable at this level despite….the controversy over Health Minister James Reilly and the location of care centres, a tough budget, the initially poor response to the Magdalene Laundries and subsequent apology, the introduction of the property tax, negative press over water rates, the difficult negotiations over Croke Park and its eventual refusal by the Unions, not to mention clear divisions across the party in relation to the abortion debate.

There may well be more problems for the party that I haven’t recalled, but you get the general idea. Despite all these problems, the fall in support witnessed during the past year has hit an invisible floor. This suggests that for current Fine Gel voters, something pretty dramatic will have to happen, before they will consider moving their support elsewhere.

Labour has seen support fall back again this month. This fall leaves them securing 11% of the first preference vote; which is pretty much within margin of error where they have been also for the past five or six months despite some small shifts either way in the meantime. The fact that the Labour party’s support fluctuates a little more than Fine Gaels, is evidence that they are certainly the party more under pressure within the coalition, and perhaps more open to further losses. However the recent trends for party over the longer term suggests they too have shored up support somewhat from the declines seen last year, at least to stop them going below the 10% mark.

The fact that Fine Gael and Labour appear to have arrested declines, and in Fine Gaels case hit something of a floor in support levels, has interesting implications for those in opposition. The reality is that despite positive gains for both parties over the last year, Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein are not making the consistent gains they were.

This month Sinn Fein has made some small gains in share, securing at extra 2% of the first preference vote, to leave the party taking 16% overall. These gains are of course positive for the party. However, these gains are quite likely due to the coverage that the party received at their Ard Fheis last week; and in itself represent a regain of lost ground, rather than a further advance for the party.

Likewise Fianna Fail share rises by 1%, to leave the party securing 25%. To have got to this level of support is of course an extremely good result, following the beating that the electorate gave them at the last election. But the question does have to be asked, how much of this has been down to the work being done by the party, and how much is due to the lack of a credible alternative to the government parties? This particular month on month rise is not that significant, given they has secured 26% two months ago. The real challenge lies ahead, in either persuading more hardened government party supporters to jump ship, or persuading those who still see the party as toxic that they have really moved on.

Recent poll results therefore suggest, that the opposition parties are going to have to do far more in the future to persuade further voters to switch to them. Up till now they have benefited from largely from a leakage of support, based on voters feeling that the government parties are breaking their promises. But let’s face it, at this stage any gains that the opposition have made from the government not keeping their pre-election promises, appears to be pretty much built in to where the parties stand now. Instead, the opposition are going to have to find ways to make more noise and perhaps stick their heads further above the parapet in order to take share, and that is of course far more difficult and dangerous game than the one both parties appear to have been playing.

Some have muted that the start of Fianna Fail’s improved fortunes and rise in the polls began around this time last year, which coincided with Micheal Martin’s personally apology for the parties actions at the Ard Fheis, making the party less toxic for past voters. The question is what realistically what can the they do this year if anything, that is a strong enough trigger to persuade more voters to switch to them?

Download the full report below:-
adobeSBP 28th Apr 2013 Poll Report