Sinn Féin feeling the love, from core working class voters

Published by: Richard Colwell


Sinn Féin appear to be the party that have best got their message across in the first week of the GE16 campaign, resulting in a 3% rise in support that suggests a connection with some voters.  These gains also need to be put into the context of the fact that many commentators believed their support would in fact fall, in the wake of possible links by association of the party to the gang shootings in Dublin.

The reality is that these shootings, despite claims that they were carried out by the CIRA, have not yet been proved to be directly linked to the organisation.  It is also the case that the journalist who took the call from the CIRA, stated that the group wanted to be seen as “the protectors of the people”, and suggested that more drug dealers and criminals would be targeted.   While many feel this is an outrageous stance, you can see how this fight against the drug criminals in Dublin may appeal to others.

In any case the shootings certainly do not appear to have damaged Sinn Féin by association among their core voters, where gains have been made that far offset any loss of support among those not happy with the links.  The gains in support for the party are focused on more working class voters, and suggests a possible widening of a divide in vote behaviour by social class.

Support for Sinn Féin has increased by +7% among more working class voters, while falling back by -3% among those in more professional and clerical occupations.  This makes Sinn Féin the largest party among those from more working class social backgrounds, securing 29% of the first preference vote.  Conversely they fall well down among those in more professional and clerical occupations securing just 11% of the first preference vote.

This split of voting behaviour isn’t new in Irish politics, but is certainly becoming more pronounced, and does suggest that the first week of campaigning has been successful in Sinn Féin further targeting this core group.

The second core group that Sinn Féin appear to have wooed for this Valentine’s Day poll are mid aged male voters.  In the past the Sinn Féin vote has been heavily dependent on young voters.  This is particularly dangerous, as younger voters are far less likely to actually go and vote and also more likely to change their mind.  The strong gains among more solid 35-54 year old men seen in this poll, suggests the vote we are seeing may not be as flaky.

So how likely is it that these gains can be retained and built upon?  By looking at the combination of first and second preference support RED C build a model of total potential reach for all the parties.   This analysis suggests that Sinn Féin haven’t extended their total potential reach among all voters.  What they have done is managed to persuade some of those voters that were originally only giving them a second preference, to move them up their preference list to first place.

Having said that, historically Sinn Féin have tended to lose support as the campaign progressed.  This was mainly due to those younger and more unlikely voters either not voting or changing their minds.  The strengthening of support in this campaign poll suggests we may be seeing a very different campaign impact for the party in General Election 2016.  If Sinn Féin has had a real breakthrough in persuading more mid age group voters to give them a first preference, and this is replicated in the next and other polls, this may suggest a very strong performance come Election Day.

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SBP 14th Feb 2016 Poll Report – GE16

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