Voters See Little Reason to Change Support

Published by: Richard Colwell


Despite weeks of uncertainly, disagreements and careful horse trading between parties and Independent candidates – voters appear to have seen little that would make them change their vote behaviour should another general election be called.  There are small movements within the overall picture, but by and large most parties remain within the margin of error of the result at the last election.

The largest movements in support are seen for Labour, whose gains since a poor poll immediately after the last election will be a welcome relief to new leader Brendan Howlin.  These gains at least suggest that the party remains relevant to a core group of voters, and provides a base for future growth.  Likewise the gains for Independent candidates, to return their support level to be closer to that achieved at the actual general election, following a decline immediately afterwards,  will also be seen by them as vindication for either taking part or not taking part in the current government formation.  At this stage it certainly appears that none are being chastised one way or another for their decisions.

The two largest parties secure equal footing among the electorate, with both reaching 26% of the first preference vote share.  While the differences are small versus the last general election result, they are perhaps somewhat significant.  Fine Gael at 26% is exactly the same result that they achieved at the last election, while Fianna Fail securing 26% is of course a rise in support of 2%.  This is still within the margin of error for this poll, but does suggest that both parties are now pretty much on a level footing among the electorate, rather than Fine Gael being the larger of the two as seen at the last election.

So what is the difference in voter support between the two?  Fine Gael strength appear to be centered in older voters aged fifty five or over.  This of course is potentially a problem for the party in the long run and they need to appeal more to younger voters.  The highest levels of support for the party are seen among men aged 55+, and they are somewhat weaker among women in those age groups, where Fianna Fail does better.  In fact Fianna Fail secures better levels of support among women of all groups, and this is a real strength for the party in comparison to Fine Gael.

Another key difference in support for the two parties can be seen in the regional variances between the two parties.  Fianna Fail has a real strength among voters living in Munster, where its leader Micheal Martin of course has his own strong supporter base.  As seen at the last general election, Fine Gael support is stronger in Dublin and in the Rest of Leinster counties outside of Dublin.

Finally support for both parties differs somewhat depending on social standing and education.  Support for Fianna Fail is somewhat stronger among those who haven’t gone on to higher third level education and come from more blue collar backgrounds.  While Fine Gael has again somewhat stronger support among those third level education and in more upmarket careers.

On the whole though, despite some difference by age, gender and region, the voters for both parties have really quite similar demographic profiles.  Yet another indicator perhaps as to why these two parties have held the balance of power in Ireland for some time, and an explanation of why voters appear to be happy to switch between the two parties.

Once the government actually starts to do some work, which at present appears to have been very little, we will be able to better monitor how it will be evaluated by voters, and who ultimately will be blamed for its failures or praised for its successes.

Download the full report below:

SBP 29th May 2016 Poll Report – GE16