Political Reform Poll Results

By Jane Suiter

Political reform ran a poll here for a number of weeks, it has taken a little time to report the findings for which I apologise. We received some 485 responses to the poll with people from 16 to 65 responding from most counties across the country. These are of course not nationally representative but are probably representative of those that read this site. Some of the results make for interesting reading with unsurprisingly an appetite for political reform, some of it quite radical.

Overall, some 61% of people either agreed or strongly agreed that we need a new constitution with just 23% disagreeing or strongly disagreeing.

A similar majority of some 75% of people agreed that we need to develop more participatory forms of democracy so that people can have greater participation in political decision making between elections. Only 12% of people disagreed with this proposal. At the same time some 67% of people felt that there should be a greater role for the people in policy making.Of these some 60% agreed or strongly agreed that the people’s views should be taken into account through a process such as a citizen assembly.

In terms of increasing representation some 59% supported increasing the involvement of youth in politics with only 8% disagreeing. Some 67% support increasing the involvement of women in politics with only 9% disagreeing. However, this did not translate into support for gender quotas, the most widely advised remedy. Here opinion was evenly divided with 39% agreeing or strongly agreeing that quotas should be introduced and 38% disagreeing or strongly disagreeing. There was less support for the proposition that there should be incentives for political parties to select candidates from minority groups with only 38% support.

One proposal which received a very favourable response was to develop a system where a sufficient number of citizens could petition the Oireachtas to debate and if agreed introduce new legislation with 72% support and only 12% disagreeing.

Respondents also wanted changes in the role of TDs. There was huge support for the idea that TDs should be given more power to hold the government to account with some 87% of respondents agreeing or strongly agreeing with this idea. However, support was more evenly divided for the proposal that ministers should not be elected representatives of constituencies or should resign their Dáil seats on appointment. Here some 47% of people agreed or strongly agreed while some 33% disagreed or strongly disagreed. Somewhat surprisingly support for abolishing the Senate was lacklustre with 41% of people supporting abolishing the Senate with 42% disagreeing.

In terms of electoral reform there was no support for the notion of introducing single seat constituencies as in the UK with 55% disagreeing or sternly disagreeing with the idea. There was a little more support for introducing a list based ballot as in many European countries with 50% agreeing or strongly agreeing and some 32% disagreeing or strongly disagreeing.

Outside of political reform one of the largest areas of agreement was in negotiating with the bondholders with some 76% agreeing or strongly agreeing that this should be a priority for the government.

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4 thoughts on “Political Reform Poll Results

  1. On 25th February last, I sent this email to the organisers of the poll – the results of which now presented

    “Please explain your survey which I started to complete until I came to this question
    ‘There is a need to develop a system where a sufficient number of citizens could petition the Oireachtas to debate and if agreed introduce new legislation.’

    Given that there are three candidates standing in this General Election on a platform for direct democracy (,http://www.directdemocracyireland.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/Direct-Democracy-Ireland-DDi-Leaflet_web1.pdf) I would like to know why you have omitted this particular option from your questionnaire

    I realise that most of you favour Citizens’ Assemblies, which given the scale of political and institutional reform needed here – will be endless.
    It is also about time that those advocating citizens assemblies come completely clean about these particular methods for considering options for political and institutional reform
    1. How many have actually been set up?
    2. Where?
    3. When?
    4. How have these assemblies been funded?
    a. How were the funds actually spent?
    5. How many have concluded the mandates under which they were set up?
    6. What did they propose?
    7. Have these been implemented?
    8. To what extent, are citizens’ assemblies any more successful than any other particular forum for considering proposals for political and institutional reform?

    Lastly, if citizens’ assemblies are the answer, what is the question?

    I fear that the good work that you are trying to do will lose credibility with poorly thought out surveys, the results of which you, as Editors, will claim
    ‘The results of this survey will transform subjective opinion about what issues should be prioritised in any reform programme into objective facts.’

    I suspect that if election opinion polls were subject to such standards, your colleagues would be among the first to rubbish them.”

    I never received any response

    I now add another thought – is this poll in the tradition of political opinion polling which found that Dewey was going to win the 1948 Presidential election?

    If I remember correctly, one factor supporting this belief was an opinion poll by telephone – at a time when telephone ownership and usage was not representative of the electorate.

    I gather that this led to more focus on political polling methods in the US.

    I hope that this lesson has not been forgotten by those involved in the poll which WetheCitizens have commissioned.

  2. @Donal the poll on this site is simply a snapshot of the opinion of those who read this site as I clearly said. Obviously the answers cannot be generalised to the population ot to any other group for that matter. You particularly asked me to report the results and that is what I have done. The polls for wethecitizens are of a different order. These are being carried out by MRBI according to best practice, they will be nationally representative and hence will be generalisable. Some of these results have already appeared on wetehcitizens. More surveys have been commissioned and these too will conform to scientific polling standards.

  3. I’m concerned about the use of any polling in the effort to make changes and introduce political reform. Surely, any real political reform needs dialogue, speaking, listening and reflecting. For example, the List System seems to have gained some currency in the media but given Irish cultural norms there will be serious problems with the implementaation of any form of a List System. For any real reform, we need to make ourselves and all of the Irish electorate think about how we behave. I’m involved in trying to overturn the ‘cessation of turfcutting’ decision, but to some degree I’m horrified by the complete disregard some of the ‘self appointed’ leaders have for any opinion but their own. It just seems that when Irish people achieve a little power, they become kings in their own little world. There seems to be no knowledge or respect for facts, and slogans such as ‘We will have no more evictions’ and ‘EU and Government as our new Landlords’ are some of the rabble-rousing shouts from the top table. I really do think polls at a time of crisis such as we have at the moment can be unhelpful and even quite damaging, as they are opinions of a dissappointed and angry citizenry.
    Having said that, I think this site and wethecitizens are a great idea and I’m delighted to see ‘political academics’ taking a public role and attempting to influence the road of political reform. Civic education at second level is vital. I looked at some of the text books for CSPE at Junior level and some gaping errors – for example, ‘The attorney general is a member of government’. Doesn’t the Constitution specifically say that the ‘Attorney General is not a member of the Cabinet.’ I suspect the AG should be much more independent than he/she currently is.

  4. I txhink any opinion poll where the number of respondantsn ad possible biases are clearly and honestly declared is a useful part of the political debate. This one, for example, shows a split on the abolition of the Seanad, which suggests that reform, after debate, rather than abolition, is an option which people might be interested in. This is one of the few places where I have seen the Enda Kenny’s simplisitic preference for abolition challenged, so that makes this poll a useful part of the reform conversation.

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