SBP GE11 Poll 20th Feb – Full Report

Published by: Richard Colwell


Can Fine Gael win a Majority?

Less than week from the election, and there is no question that Fine Gael are the party with the famous “momentum” behind them.  During the campaign the party have seen a consistent upward trend in the polls that has taken them from securing 33% share at the start of the campaign, to 39% share in this poll.

SBP 20th Feb Poll 2011 Report

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Whether these trends will continue strongly enough to allow for a majority government isn’t completely clear. However, there is some interesting data to help us try to understand the possibilities of Fine Gael achieving this or greater vote share on Election Day.

The first factor we need to take into account is the turnaround in voter’s opinions of Enda Kenny, from something of a liability to perhaps more of an asset.   Kenny started the campaign at the end of January, trailing both Martin and Gilmore, with just 19% of the electorate believing he would make the best next Taoiseach.  In just three weeks of campaigning he has completely reversed this, and while not all of those that plan to vote Fine Gael believe he would make the best Taoiseach, he does have the support of 31%.  This now places him ahead of both Martin and Gilmore, who has fallen back as quickly as Kenny has risen in the eyes of voters.  This suggests Kenny doesn’t appear to be quite the barrier he once was to undecided voters.

The second factor we can look at is the strengthening loyalty of those that are supporting the party.  While other parties have remained stagnant, Fine Gael has improved its share of loyal voters as the campaign progressed.  At the start of the campaign 19% said they were 100% loyal to Fine Gael, three weeks later and 25% now say they will definitely vote for the party.  At the same time, as people make up their minds, the proportion of people that say they definitely won’t vote for different parties increases for most.  In particular, Labour have seen a hardening trend against them, with 35% of voters now saying they definitely won’t vote for the party, compared to just 29% three weeks ago.  But in contrast to all the other parties, Fine Gael now have less people that say they definitely won’t vote for them.

The final pointer to a possible Fine Gael majority is how well they can turn first preference share into seats.  This is all about the transfers, which are likely to be very different in this election, than in any recent one.  It is apparent from the limited number of constituency polls RED C have conducted, that Fine Gael do appear to be quite transfer friendly compared to the other parties.  It is also clear from today’s survey that both Fine Gael and Independent candidates are growing their share of suggested second preference votes.  Taking both of these factors into account, it is possible that Fine Gael may not need 42% or more to get an overall majority, as is the accepted wisdom. In fact could 39% possibly be enough?

Labour may well still have something to say about that though.  Don’t forget that there are still 16% undecided in this poll, and a further 9% who have told us which party they will vote for but are not definite in that choice.  That means there are still plenty of voters who are unsure about their choices, with only a week to go.  While the trend for Labour has been downward over the campaign, they still have the highest potential vote after Fine Gael.   This poll was also taken largely before Labour went on their latest offensive against Fine Gael; highlighting what they call are “hidden costs” in the Fine Gael proposals, through national adverts.  A very strong final week focusing on the issues, and not perhaps on a declining impact of Eamon Gilmore, may well see them regain some of the lost share.  Labour are also still quite vote friendly on transfers, and as such could themselves do better in seats than their first preference suggests, ensuring a coalition remains on the cards.

Serious movement in share is unlikely for any of the other parties, who do not have very high levels of potential voters over and above the share they secure in the poll.  As such, this election remains all about Fine Gael and Labour in the final week.  Can Fine Gael keep the momentum going, or will Labour do enough to give themselves a chance to form part of the next government?

SBP 20th Feb GE11 Poll Report