Recent polls point towards Fianna Fail recovery (October/Early November 2012)

Adrian Kavanagh, 18th October 2012 – updates on 19th November 2012 

A number of recent opinion polls all point towards gains in Fianna Fail support levels, albeit to varying degrees, leaving Fianna Fail at its highest support level in opinion polls since the IMF-EU bailout in November 2010 and positioned as the second most popular party in the state after Fine Gael.  The Irish Times-Ipsos MRBI poll puts national support levels for the main political parties and groupings, and relative to the most recent Ipsos-MRBI poll in April 2012, as follows: Fine Gael 31% (down 1%), Labour 12% (up 2%), Fianna Fail 21% (up 4%), Sinn Fein 20% (down 4%), Green Party 2% (NC), Independents and Others 14% (down 1%). My constituency-level analysis of these poll figures estimates that party seat levels, should such national support trends be replicated in an actual general election, would be as follows: Fine Gael 63, Labour 17, Fianna Fail 37, Sinn Fein 25, Green Party 0, Independents and Others 16. The Sunday Business Post-Red C poll (28th October) puts national support levels for the main political parties and groupings, and relative to the most recent such poll on 24th September 2012, as follows: Fine Gael 34% (up 2%),  Labour 13% (down 1%), Fianna Fail 19% (up 1%), Sinn Fein 17% (down 1%), Green Party 2% (NC), United Left Alliance, Independents and Others 15% (NC).  My constituency-level analysis of these poll figures estimates that party seat levels, should such national support trends be replicated in an actual general election, would be as follows: Fine Gael 72, Labour 19, Fianna Fail 33, Sinn Fein 17, Green Party 0, United Left Alliance 3, Independents and Others 16. The Sunday Times-Behaviour & Attitudes poll of 18th November 2012 puts national support levels for the main political parties and groupings, and relative to the most recent such poll on 9th September 2012, as follows: Fine Gael 30% (down 1%),  Labour 12% (down 2%), Fianna Fail 22% (up 6%), Sinn Fein 14% (down 4%), Green Party 3% (up 1%), United Left Alliance, Independents and Others 19% (NC). My constituency-level analysis of these poll figures estimates that party seat levels, should such national support trends be replicated in an actual general election, would be as follows: Fine Gael 62, Labour 17, Fianna Fail 38, Sinn Fein 19, Green Party 2, United Left Alliance 4, Independents and Others 16.

This analyses used here are similar to previous posts which have applied a constituency level analysis (although with these using the constituency units used for the 2011 General Election) based on assigning seats on the basis of constituency support estimates and simply using a d’Hondt method to determine which party wins the seats, while also taking account of the factors of vote transfers and vote splitting/management (based on vote transfer/management patterns observed in the February 2011 election). Based on such an analysis and using the new constituency units (as defined in the 2012 Constituency Commission report) - the new constituencies which will be used for the next general election (assuming an election is not called in the following months before the Electoral Act putting the new constituency configuration into effect) – these analyses estimates what party seat levels would be, should such national support trends be replicated in an actual general election. These analysis suggests that Fianna Fail would seem to be the party most likely to be positively effected by the redrawing of the constituency boundaries and suggests that the party, in this context, would be gaining as a result of the boundary changes, in addition to the party’s improvement in its opinion poll levels relative to its 2011 General Election figures, irrespective of the impact of a reduction in Dail seat numbers from 166 to 158.

The constituency support estimates based on the Irish Times-Ipsos MRBI poll figures, when using the new constituency units (as used for the next general election), are as follows:

FF FG LB SF OTH
Carlow-Kilkenny 33% 33% 10% 18% 6%
Cavan-Monaghan 19% 28% 3% 44% 7%
Clare 27% 37% 9% 7% 20%
Cork East 21% 33% 20% 22% 4%
Cork North Central 18% 23% 15% 28% 15%
Cork North West 30% 42% 9% 15% 5%
Cork South Central 34% 29% 11% 16% 10%
Cork South West 29% 42% 9% 14% 6%
Donegal 20% 17% 4% 46% 13%
Dublin Central 18% 17% 17% 25% 22%
Dublin Mid West 15% 27% 20% 24% 14%
Dublin Fingal 20% 29% 18% 6% 27%
Dublin Bay North 16% 31% 19% 18% 17%
Dublin North West 14% 14% 26% 41% 6%
Dublin Rathdown 12% 34% 11% 6% 36%
Dublin South Central 11% 19% 23% 29% 18%
Dublin Bay South 15% 35% 18% 8% 24%
Dublin South West 13% 26% 20% 25% 15%
Dublin West 21% 25% 19% 13% 21%
Dun Laoghaire 20% 34% 19% 5% 22%
Galway East 23% 39% 8% 11% 19%
Galway West 24% 30% 7% 12% 26%
Kerry County 14% 29% 10% 22% 25%
Kildare North 19% 31% 20% 12% 18%
Kildare South 27% 31% 18% 13% 11%
Laois 31% 30% 7% 26% 6%
Offaly 29% 24% 3% 13% 32%
Limerick City 27% 37% 13% 15% 8%
Limerick 25% 47% 10% 8% 10%
Longford-Westmeath 25% 34% 17% 15% 8%
Louth 17% 24% 11% 38% 10%
Mayo 20% 56% 3% 13% 8%
Meath East 24% 36% 13% 18% 9%
Meath West 20% 36% 8% 31% 4%
Roscommon-Galway 18% 37% 7% 12% 27%
Sligo-Leitrim 24% 27% 5% 31% 13%
Tipperary 19% 26% 10% 11% 34%
Waterford 17% 33% 12% 20% 19%
Wexford 23% 31% 13% 12% 20%
Wicklow 13% 35% 11% 20% 22%
STATE 21.0% 31.0% 12.0% 20.1% 16.0%

Based on these constituency estimates and using a d’Hondt method to determine which party wins the seats in a constituency, the party seat levels are estimated as follows:

FF FG LB SF OTH
Carlow-Kilkenny 2 2 1
Cavan-Monaghan 1 1 2
Clare 1 2 1
Cork East 1 1 1 1
Cork North Central 1 1 1 1
Cork North West 1 2
Cork South Central 2 1 1
Cork South West 1 2
Donegal 1 1 3
Dublin Central 1 1 1
Dublin Mid West 1 1 1 1
Dublin Fingal 1 2 1 1
Dublin Bay North 1 2 1 1
Dublin North West 1 2
Dublin Rathdown 1 2
Dublin South Central 1 1 1 1
Dublin Bay South 2 1 1
Dublin South West 2 1 1 1
Dublin West 1 1 1 1
Dun Laoghaire 1 2 1
Galway East 1 2
Galway West 1 2 2
Kerry County 1 2 1 1
Kildare North 1 1 1 1
Kildare South 1 1 1
Laois 1 1 1
Offaly 1 1 1
Limerick City 1 2 1
Limerick 1 2
Longford-Westmeath 1 2 1
Louth 1 1 3
Mayo 1 3
Meath East 1 2
Meath West 1 1 1
Roscommon-Galway 2 1
Sligo-Leitrim 1 1 2
Tipperary 1 2 2
Waterford 1 1 1 1
Wexford 1 2 1 1
Wicklow 1 2 1 1
STATE 36 60 14 27 21

Amending the model to account for seats that may be won or lost on the basis of a large/small number of candidates contesting the election (e.g. Others being allocated two seats in Dublin Rathdown, but largely on the basis of a larger personal vote for one candidate, Shane Ross), vote transfers and vote management (e.g. discrepancies between votes won by party front runners and their running mates which would see potential seat wins fall out of a party’s hands), the seat allocations across the constituencies would look more like this:

FF FG LB SF OTH
Carlow-Kilkenny 2 2 1
Cavan-Monaghan 1 1 2
Clare 1 2 1
Cork East 1 1 1 1
Cork North Central 1 1 1 1
Cork North West 1 2
Cork South Central 2 2
Cork South West 1 2
Donegal 1 1 3
Dublin Central 1 1 1
Dublin Mid West 1 1 1 1
Dublin Fingal 1 2 1 1
Dublin Bay North 1 2 1 1
Dublin North West 1 2
Dublin Rathdown 2 1
Dublin South Central 1 1 1 1
Dublin Bay South 1 2 1
Dublin South West 2 1 2
Dublin West 1 1 1 1
Dun Laoghaire 1 2 1
Galway East 1 2
Galway West 2 2 1
Kerry County 1 2 1 1
Kildare North 1 1 1 1
Kildare South 1 1 1
Laois 1 1 1
Offaly 1 1 1
Limerick City 1 2 1
Limerick 1 2
Longford-Westmeath 1 2 1
Louth 1 1 1 2
Mayo 1 3
Meath East 1 2
Meath West 1 1 1
Roscommon-Galway 2 1
Sligo-Leitrim 1 2 1
Tipperary 1 2 2
Waterford 1 1 1 1
Wexford 1 2 1 1
Wicklow 1 2 1 1
STATE 37 63 17 25 16
 % Seats 23.4 39.9 10.8 15.8 10.1

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The constituency support estimates based on the Sunday Business Post-Red C poll figures, when using the new constituency units that will come into effect at the next general election (assuming of course that a general election is not called before the passing of the Electoral Act putting these into effect), are as follows:

FF FG LB SF GP ULA OTH
Carlow-Kilkenny 31% 37% 11% 13% 4% 1% 2%
Cavan-Monaghan 20% 34% 3% 35% 1% 0% 7%
Clare 24% 40% 10% 5% 3% 0% 18%
Cork East 20% 37% 22% 16% 2% 0% 4%
Cork North Central 18% 27% 18% 21% 2% 8% 7%
Cork North West 28% 47% 10% 10% 2% 0% 3%
Cork South Central 32% 33% 13% 12% 4% 0% 8%
Cork South West 26% 47% 10% 10% 2% 0% 4%
Donegal 20% 22% 5% 37% 1% 0% 15%
Dublin Central 17% 20% 20% 19% 3% 0% 22%
Dublin Mid West 14% 31% 22% 17% 5% 7% 4%
Dublin Fingal 17% 30% 18% 4% 12% 15% 3%
Dublin Bay North 14% 34% 21% 13% 2% 3% 13%
Dublin North West 14% 17% 31% 32% 2% 2% 4%
Dublin Rathdown 11% 35% 12% 4% 11% 2% 25%
Dublin South Central 11% 22% 26% 21% 3% 14% 4%
Dublin Bay South 12% 34% 18% 5% 9% 1% 20%
Dublin South West 12% 30% 23% 18% 4% 4% 9%
Dublin West 20% 28% 21% 9% 2% 20% 1%
Dun Laoghaire 17% 36% 20% 3% 6% 10% 7%
Galway East 20% 43% 10% 7% 1% 0% 19%
Galway West 22% 33% 8% 9% 3% 0% 25%
Kerry County 13% 33% 11% 16% 1% 0% 26%
Kildare North 17% 34% 21% 8% 3% 0% 16%
Kildare South 25% 34% 20% 9% 0% 0% 12%
Laois 31% 35% 8% 19% 0% 0% 7%
Offaly 27% 27% 3% 9% 0% 0% 33%
Limerick City 25% 41% 14% 11% 0% 0% 8%
Limerick 22% 52% 11% 5% 0% 0% 10%
Longford-Westmeath 23% 39% 19% 11% 0% 0% 8%
Louth 17% 29% 13% 30% 0% 0% 11%
Mayo 19% 61% 3% 9% 0% 0% 8%
Meath East 22% 40% 15% 13% 0% 0% 10%
Meath West 20% 43% 9% 24% 0% 0% 5%
Roscommon-Galway 16% 40% 7% 8% 0% 0% 28%
Sligo-Leitrim 24% 33% 5% 23% 0% 0% 14%
Tipperary 17% 29% 11% 8% 0% 10% 25%
Waterford 16% 37% 13% 14% 0% 0% 20%
Wexford 22% 35% 15% 8% 0% 0% 21%
Wicklow 12% 39% 12% 14% 0% 0% 23%

Based on these constituency estimates and using a d’Hondt method to determine which party wins the seats in a constituency, the party seat levels are estimated as follows:

FF FG LB SF GP ULA OTH
Carlow-Kilkenny 2 2 1
Cavan-Monaghan 1 1 2
Clare 1 2 1
Cork East 1 2 1
Cork North Central 1 1 1 1
Cork North West 1 2
Cork South Central 2 2
Cork South West 1 2
Donegal 1 1 2 1
Dublin Central 1 1 1
Dublin Mid West 2 1 1
Dublin Fingal 1 2 1 1
Dublin Bay North 1 2 1 1
Dublin North West 1 1 1
Dublin Rathdown 2 1
Dublin South Central 1 1 1 1
Dublin Bay South 2 1 1
Dublin South West 1 2 1 1
Dublin West 1 1 1 1
Dun Laoghaire 3 1
Galway East 1 2
Galway West 1 2 2
Kerry County 1 2 1 1
Kildare North 1 2 1
Kildare South 1 1 1
Laois 1 1 1
Offaly 1 1 1
Limerick City 1 2 1
Limerick 1 2
Longford-Westmeath 1 2 1
Louth 1 1 1 2
Mayo 1 3
Meath East 1 2
Meath West 2 1
Roscommon-Galway 2 1
Sligo-Leitrim 1 2 1
Tipperary 1 2 2
Waterford 1 2 1
Wexford 1 2 1 1
Wicklow 3 1 1
STATE 32 72 18 18 0 3 15

Amending the model to account for seats that may be won or lost on the basis of a large/small number of candidates contesting the election (e.g. Others being allocated two seats in Dublin Rathdown, but largely on the basis of a larger personal vote for one candidate, Shane Ross), vote transfers and vote management (e.g. discrepancies between votes won by party front runners and their running mates which would see potential seat wins fall out of a party’s hands), the seat allocations across the constituencies would look more like this:

FF FG LB SF GP ULA OTH
Carlow-Kilkenny 2 2 1
Cavan-Monaghan 1 2 1
Clare 1 2 1
Cork East 1 1 1 1
Cork North Central 1 1 1 1
Cork North West 1 2
Cork South Central 2 2
Cork South West 1 2
Donegal 1 1 2 1
Dublin Central 1 1 1
Dublin Mid West 2 1 1
Dublin Fingal 1 2 1 1
Dublin Bay North 1 2 1 1
Dublin North West 1 1 1
Dublin Rathdown 2 1
Dublin South Central 1 1 1 1
Dublin Bay South 2 1 1
Dublin South West 1 2 1 1
Dublin West 1 1 1 1
Dun Laoghaire 1 2 1
Galway East 1 2
Galway West 1 2 2
Kerry County 1 2 1 1
Kildare North 1 2 1
Kildare South 1 1 1
Laois 1 1 1
Offaly 1 1 1
Limerick City 1 2 1
Limerick 1 2
Longford-Westmeath 1 2 1
Louth 1 2 1 1
Mayo 1 3
Meath East 1 2
Meath West 2 1
Roscommon-Galway 2 1
Sligo-Leitrim 1 2 1
Tipperary 1 2 1 1
Waterford 1 2 1
Wexford 1 2 1 1
Wicklow 3 1 1
STATE 33 72 19 17 0 3 14
               
% Seats 19.9 43.4 11.4 10.2 0.0 1.8 8.4

******

The constituency support estimates based on the Sunday Times-Behaviour & Attitudes poll figures, when using the new constituency units (to be used for the next general election ), are as follows:

FF FG LB SF GP ULA OTH
Carlow-Kilkenny 35% 32% 10% 13% 6% 2% 3%
Cavan-Monaghan 23% 30% 3% 34% 1% 0% 9%
Clare 27% 34% 9% 5% 4% 0% 22%
Cork East 23% 33% 21% 16% 3% 0% 4%
Cork North Central 20% 23% 16% 20% 3% 10% 9%
Cork North West 32% 41% 9% 10% 3% 0% 4%
Cork South Central 35% 28% 11% 11% 5% 0% 10%
Cork South West 30% 41% 9% 10% 4% 0% 6%
Donegal 23% 19% 4% 35% 2% 0% 18%
Dublin Central 18% 16% 17% 18% 4% 0% 26%
Dublin Mid West 15% 27% 20% 17% 8% 9% 5%
Dublin Fingal 18% 25% 15% 4% 17% 17% 3%
Dublin Bay North 16% 29% 19% 13% 4% 4% 16%
Dublin North West 16% 15% 28% 32% 2% 3% 5%
Dublin Rathdown 11% 29% 10% 4% 15% 2% 29%
Dublin South Central 12% 19% 23% 21% 4% 17% 4%
Dublin Bay South 13% 28% 15% 5% 13% 2% 23%
Dublin South West 14% 26% 20% 18% 6% 5% 11%
Dublin West 22% 23% 19% 9% 3% 24% 1%
Dun Laoghaire 19% 30% 18% 3% 9% 12% 9%
Galway East 23% 37% 9% 7% 2% 0% 23%
Galway West 24% 28% 7% 8% 4% 0% 30%
Kerry County 15% 28% 10% 15% 2% 0% 31%
Kildare North 19% 29% 19% 8% 4% 0% 20%
Kildare South 29% 30% 18% 9% 0% 0% 15%
Laois 35% 30% 8% 19% 0% 0% 8%
Offaly 29% 22% 3% 8% 0% 0% 38%
Limerick City 29% 37% 13% 11% 0% 0% 11%
Limerick 26% 46% 10% 5% 0% 0% 13%
Longford-Westmeath 26% 34% 18% 11% 0% 0% 11%
Louth 19% 26% 12% 29% 0% 0% 14%
Mayo 22% 55% 3% 10% 0% 0% 10%
Meath East 26% 36% 14% 13% 0% 0% 12%
Meath West 23% 38% 8% 24% 0% 0% 6%
Roscommon-Galway 18% 34% 6% 8% 0% 0% 34%
Sligo-Leitrim 27% 28% 5% 23% 0% 0% 18%
Tipperary 18% 23% 10% 7% 0% 12% 30%
Waterford 18% 32% 12% 14% 0% 0% 24%
Wexford 24% 29% 13% 8% 0% 0% 26%
Wicklow 14% 34% 11% 14% 0% 0% 28%

Based on these constituency estimates and using a d’Hondt method to determine which party wins the seats in a constituency, the party seat levels are estimated as follows:

FF FG LB SF GP ULA OTH
Carlow-Kilkenny 2 2 1
Cavan-Monaghan 1 1 2
Clare 1 2 1
Cork East 1 1 1 1
Cork North Central 1 1 1 1
Cork North West 1 2
Cork South Central 2 2
Cork South West 1 2
Donegal 1 1 2 1
Dublin Central 1 1 1
Dublin Mid West 2 1 1
Dublin Fingal 1 1 1 1 1
Dublin Bay North 1 2 1 1
Dublin North West 1 1 1
Dublin Rathdown 1 1 1
Dublin South Central 1 1 1 1
Dublin Bay South 2 1 1
Dublin South West 1 2 1 1
Dublin West 1 1 1 1
Dun Laoghaire 1 2 1
Galway East 2 1
Galway West 1 2 2
Kerry County 1 1 1 2
Kildare North 1 1 1 1
Kildare South 1 1 1
Laois 1 1 1
Offaly 1 1 1
Limerick City 1 2 1
Limerick 1 2
Longford-Westmeath 1 2 1
Louth 1 1 2 1
Mayo 1 3
Meath East 1 2
Meath West 1 1 1
Roscommon-Galway 1 1 1
Sligo-Leitrim 1 1 1 1
Tipperary 1 1 1 2
Waterford 1 2 1
Wexford 1 2 1 1
Wicklow 1 2 1 1
STATE 37 59 16 19 2 4 21

Amending the model to account for seats that may be won or lost on the basis of a large/small number of candidates contesting the election (e.g. Others being allocated two seats in Dublin Rathdown, but largely on the basis of a larger personal vote for one candidate, Shane Ross), vote transfers and vote management (e.g. discrepancies between votes won by party front runners and their running mates which would see potential seat wins fall out of a party’s hands), the seat allocations across the constituencies would look more like this:

FF FG LB SF GP ULA OTH
Carlow-Kilkenny 2 2 1
Cavan-Monaghan 1 1 2
Clare 1 2 1
Cork East 1 1 1 1
Cork North Central 1 1 1 1
Cork North West 1 2
Cork South Central 2 2
Cork South West 1 2
Donegal 1 1 2 1
Dublin Central 1 1 1
Dublin Mid West 2 1 1
Dublin Fingal 1 1 1 1 1
Dublin Bay North 1 2 1 1
Dublin North West 1 1 1
Dublin Rathdown 1 1 1
Dublin South Central 1 1 1 1
Dublin Bay South 2 1 1
Dublin South West 1 2 1 1
Dublin West 1 1 1 1
Dun Laoghaire 1 2 1
Galway East 1 2
Galway West 1 2 2
Kerry County 1 2 1 1
Kildare North 1 1 1 1
Kildare South 1 1 1
Laois 1 1 1
Offaly 1 1 1
Limerick City 1 2 1
Limerick 1 2
Longford-Westmeath 1 2 1
Louth 1 1 1 2
Mayo 1 3
Meath East 1 2
Meath West 1 1 1
Roscommon-Galway 1 1 1
Sligo-Leitrim 1 2 1
Tipperary 1 2 1 1
Waterford 1 2 1
Wexford 1 2 1 1
Wicklow 1 2 1 1
STATE 38 62 17 19 2 4 16
               
% Seats 22.9 37.3 10.2 11.4 1.2 2.4 9.6

In  order to carry out this analysis I have attempted to re-create this constituency level analysis while using party support figures for the last general election based on the areas covered by these new constituency units and not the old constituency areas. Where tally figures are readily available (as is the case for most of the constituencies in the west of Ireland, as well as a number of other rural constituencies, thanks to the tradition of publishing the election tallies in local newspapers in the weeks follow a general or local election), a fairly accurate estimate can be gleaned of what the General Election 2011 party support levels for new constituency units would have been. In other cases, where tally figures are not available, a best-guess estimate of party support levels has to be employed, or else figures for the current constituency unit are employed. For instance the base figure for Dublin Bay North is simply taken as the total for the old Dublin North Central and Dublin North East constituencies as the lack of tally data for these constituencies means that one cannot estimate the impact of areas such as Portmarnock being moved into neighbouring Dublin Fingal. Similarly, a lack of tally information means that the base figure for Dublin Central has to be taken as that for the old 4-seat constituency unit although the loss of the Drumcondra area to Dublin North West and the Ashtown area to Dublin West would suggest that the figures for Fine Gael and Fianna Fail may be significantly over-estimated. This is not as scientific as one would wish it to be, arising from the lack of tally data for a number of the constituencies especially in the Dublin and South Midlands regions, and some constituency estimates will not be as reliable as is the case for the others but this analysis does give a sense of what the new Irish electoral geography following on the 2012 Constituency Commission report, might look like. Hopefully, if and when I can access tally information for other constituencies, the underlying data set will become somewhat more reliable in further such analyses.

The seat estimates suggest a significant improvement in Fianna Fail and Sinn Fein seat levels relative to those won by these parties and groupings in the 2011 contest, effectively pointing to significant gains on the part of the Dail opposition since 2011. It is worth noting that, as opposed to the parties, the Independents and Others grouping is a very broad church and includes a range of parties, groups and individuals with very different ideological perspectives, including the United Left Alliance and (in some cases also) the Green Party, as well as left-leaning independents and Fianna Fail-gene pool independents. Looking at where this grouping is predicted to win seats, it can be seen that left-leaning parties and independents would take at least 8 of the 16 seats being assigned to this grouping in this model relating to the Irish Times poll for instance.

Despite that, the relative stabilisation in support levels for the government parties around the mid 40s level in recent polls (although the Sunday Times poll figures are less favourable) bodes well for the potential return of the government parties to power should these support levels be replicated at an actual general election, albeit with a very much reduced, and indeed very narrow, majority.

Should the seat estimates based on The Irish Times-Ipsos MRBI poll figures pan out after the next general election, the government parties would continue to hold a majority (albeit a very slight one, largely due to a significant reduction in Labour seat numbers) in Dail Eireann with seat numbers for a Fine Gael-Labour coalition estimated at 80 seats in the new 158-Dail seat, giving a potential coalition involving these parties a majority of just 2 seats in the Dail. Seat numbers for an alternative Sinn Fein-Fianna Fail coalition alliance are estimated at 62 seats for the new 158-Dail seat model. Given the fact that a Fine Gael-Sinn Fein coalition would be highly improbable, the only other likely two-party coalition option would involve Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, with these parties’ combined seat levels based on these figures estimated at 100 seats, giving a potential coalition involving these parties a very large majority of 42 seats in the 158-seat Dail. Given the narrow and unviable majority that a Fine Gael-Labour alliance might enjoy, the Fine Gael-Fianna Fail alliance might well emerge as the only viable option should election results pan out as suggested by these poll figures at the next general election contest.

Should the seat estimates based on The Sunday Business Post-Red C poll figures pan out after the next general election however, the government parties would continue to hold a comfortable majority (even allowing for a significant reduction in Labour seat numbers) in Dail Eireann with seat numbers for a Fine Gael-Labour coalition estimated at 91 seats in the new 158-Dail seat, giving a potential coalition involving these parties a relatively comfortable majority of 24 seats in the Dail. Seat numbers for an alternative Sinn Fein-Fianna Fail coalition alliance are estimated at 50 seats for the new 158-Dail seat model. Of course, a Fine Gael-Fianna Fail alliance would also be a viable option should the election results pan out as suggested by the Red C poll figures at the next general election contest.

Should the seat estimates based on The Sunday Times-Behaviour & Attitudes poll figures pan out after the next general election, the government parties would not hold a majority in Dail Eireann with seat numbers for a Fine Gael-Labour coalition estimated at 79 seats in the new 158-Dail seat, meaning that the two parties would need to appoint a Ceann Comhairle from another party or grouping to enjoy a majority of just one seat in the Dail. Seat numbers for an alternative Sinn Fein-Fianna Fail coalition alliance are estimated at 57 seats for the new 158-Dail seat model. Given the fact that a Fine Gael-Sinn Fein coalition would be highly improbable, the only other likely two-party coalition option would involve Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, with these parties’ combined seat levels based on these figures estimated at 100 seats, giving a potential coalition involving these parties a very large majority of 42 seats in the 158-seat Dail. Given the narrow and unviable majority that a Fine Gael-Labour alliance might enjoy, the Fine Gael-Fianna Fail alliance might well emerge as the only viable two-party coalition option should election results pan out as suggested by these poll figures at the next general election contest. However, the fact that the Green Party would be predicted to win two seats in Dublin Fingal and Dublin Rathdown in this model (and would also be in contention for a third in Dublin Bay South) raises the prospects of the rainbow coalition government that was much mooted in the lead up to the 2007 General Election coming into effect!

The changing seat numbers for the parties in the different analyses points to one reason why the Irish electoral system is not entirely one hundred percent proportional – thus underpinning the rationale behind this series of constituency level analyses of polling figures – as the manner in which constituency boundaries are drawn, or redrawn, can act to gives certain parties a significant advantage in terms of translating their vote tallies into seat wins. This knowledge, of course, formed the basis for the gerrymanders that marked the partisan boundary redrawal system which existed up to the 1977 General Election, with the party/parties in government being in a position to be able to redraw election boundaries in a manner that would allow them to pick up extra seats. In simplistic terms, in the 1960s and 1970s this amounted to the main government options seeking to create constituency units with odd-numbers of seats in the regions of the state where their support levels were highest (where a 50% share of the vote would be sufficient to allow them win 2 seats in a 3-seat constituency or 3 seats in a 5-seat constituency) and constituency units with even numbers of seats (i.e. 4-seat constituencies) where their support levels were weaker as a 40% share of the vote would be sufficient to allow them win 2 seats out of 4. Since the introduction of independent boundary commissions following the 1977 General Election, partisan influences no longer can skew the boundary drawing process in favour of a government party, or government parties, but as the example here shows a significant redrawal such as that envisaged in the 2012 Constituency Commission report will probably tend to disproportionately advantage, or disadvantage, certain parties or political groupings. Similarly, as the range of constituency level analyses prior to the 2011 General Election displayed, a party’s ability to take advantage of such disproportionality in the system, whether arising from constituency boundaries or a tendency for the Irish system to favour the larger parties, is dependant on that party maintaining its support at, or above, a certain level, as a fall in support for that party, even if relatively minimal, can lead to disproportionate level of potential seat losses if party support levels fall below a certain “tipping point”.

This concept of a “tipping point” is especially notable in the case of Fianna Fail. When the party’s support level fell below 20% in the latter part of 2010, this meant that the party – especially given its traditional catch all nature of support – was now in a position where it was struggling to win seats in a number of three-seat and four-seat constituencies, as well as five-seat constituencies in the Dublin region, where Fianna Fail support was notably weaker in 2011. The boundary changes associated with the 2012 Constituency Commission report acted to ensure the party would actually gain seats, irrespective of gains in support levels, as suggested by previous posts. With party support now over 20%, and with a very fractured political environment in which significant vote levels are being won by a number of different parties and political groupings, as opposed to the more straight-forward political landscape of the early 1980s, Fianna Fail is now in a position where it can expect to win seats in most of the larger (four and five seat) constituencies and will be competitive in most three-seat constituencies, especially in rural Ireland. This is translating into a disproportionate gain, relative to support trends, in seat levels for Fianna Fail. The level of seat gains suggested for Fianna Fail in this analysis also underpins the extent of “near misses” that the party endured in a number of constituencies at the last general election, meaning only a slight increase in support in a  number of constituencies would translate such “near misses” into seat gains, especially with the assistance of the recent boundary changes in a number of cases. Unlike Fianna Fail, Sinn Fein prospects of transforming vote gains into seat gains is stymied by the party’s weakness in certain constituencies, in which the party is likely to remain uncompetitive even if it should gain a few extra percentage points in terms of support levels. The more regional nature of the Sinn Fein support base is ideal for translating smaller levels of support into seat levels, but it means the party may struggle to make the significant levels of seat gains on the basis of further increases in support that Fianna Fail could hope to make. Ultimately the political landscape of the next Dail will be determined by what levels of support these parties are standing on when the next election takes place (which could be as late as Spring 2016) but it will also be shaped by the different parties’ geographies of support, and the extent to which these support geographies might entitle these to a “bias” in terms of seat levels relative to support levels, or see the parties winning fewer seats that their support levels would suggest.

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9 thoughts on “Recent polls point towards Fianna Fail recovery (October/Early November 2012)

  1. The dearth of genuine political alternatives is highlighted by the fact that voters are already even remotely contemplating the rehabilitation of FF. With 33% of core voters reportedly undecided, any new political party with a clear economic and social vision could realistically achieve power.

  2. “Others” support artificially high last time out due to presence of James Breen as a candidate. He has since categorically ruled out another run for the Dáil.

  3. Poll Confirms that Labour is the Big Loser
    The poll figures published to-day,18/10/2012, in Irish Times is being compared by the polling company to the figures from a similar poll taken in April during the Fiscal Compact Referendum campaign
    As usual the poll is subject to a probable error of + or – 3% based on a sample of approximately 1000 persons polled.
    Conclusions drawn from breakdowns by province or social class are much more unreliable. For example a typical sample of 300 is subject to a probable error of almost +or-6%.
    In addition to the party scores the poll shows:
    Don’t know/undecided 33% up 5 points.
    Satisfied with Government 21% down 6 points (this level of dissatisfaction is exceeded only by that of Fianna Fail before the last General election)
    These figures are as significant as the party scores.
    To understand the overall change in public opinion, it is necessary to compare the poll figures with the outcome of the last General Election
    GENERAL Election Figures FG 36.1%, Lab 19.4%, FF 17.4% ,SF 9.9% ,Green 1.8%, Others 15.4%
    To-days Poll compared to General Election Figures : FG 31% down 5, FF 21% up 3.6,Labour 12% down 7.4, Sinn Fein 20% up 10.1, Green 2.0 up 0.2, Others 14% down 1.4
    Most changes since the General Election are now greater than the probable error of 3%. This enables firmer conclusions to be drawn.
    Drop in Labour Support
    Even in the relatively prosperous late nineties the Labour Party suffered a large setback after being in coalition with Fianna Fail and Fine Gael.
    This poll confirms the indication in the April poll that the setback will be even greater on this occasion.
    Taking the probable error of 3% into account the figure for the Labour Party of 12% to-day and 10% last May are essentially the same. But there is a large real drop of 7.4% since the General Election. Such an outcome in a General election would lead to a loss of large numbers of Labour seats. The Labour Party share of the vote in the 2009 Local Elections was 14.2%. There are two austerity budgets before the next local elections. A further decline in the Labour vote following such budgets would endanger the seats of many Labour Councillors. It must be remembered that even a small decline in popular support can give rise to a large loss of seats particularly for parties below 20% of the vote. The strong showing of Sinn Féin and Others is a particular threat to Labour.
    As pointed out above breakdowns of the poll by province (EU Constituency) or social class are subject to large probable errors. Nevertheless they are of some interest.
    According to Damiam Loscher of IPSOS/MRBI: “Interestingly, Labour now draws more support from the professional classes (17 per cent amongst ABs) than any other socio-economic group. It seems working-class voters have drifted in large numbers to Sinn Féin, outside Dublin in particular” ( Damien Loscher of IPSOS/MRBI, Irish Times Oct 18,2012) and according to Stephen Collins in the same edition “The party(Labour) is still getting a very respectable 19 per cent in Dublin, which is easily its strongest region. The rest of Leinster comes next on 12 per cent, but the party’s vote in Munster is just 9 per cent while it is only 3 per cent in Connacht Ulster.” (Stephen Collins, Irish Times Oct 18,2012)
    The 19% for Labour, however “respectable”, in Dublin is still well down on the General Election result.
    If these regional indications turned out to be true, Labour would face a severe loss of seats in the next local and European elections particularly but not only in Munster. The Munster figure is approximately half the percentage of the vote secured by the Labour Party candidate in the European Election of 2009 which took place on the same day as the local elections.
    The very high level of dissatisfaction with government is likely to result in severely reduced transfers to Labour from independents and smaller parties, particularly but not only, in late counts.
    Fianna Fáil Recovery?
    Fianna Fáil recovery is greatly exaggerated by conservative commentators. The Fianna Fáil poll rating is now just 3.6% above its General Election performance (the probable error is 3%!!). For a party now in opposition this is a very modest improvement. Conservative commentators have a vested interest in promoting a conservative alternative to the government. However, it is true as pointed out by Adrian Kavanagh, that a small increase in voting percentage would give Fianna Fáil a significant increase in seats won. But there is no indication from the poll that it will recover its past strength.
    Sinn Féin –Strong Showing
    Despite the reduction of 4% since the May poll, Sinn Féin has doubled its vote since the General Election. Sinn Féin was the most prominent party in opposing the Fiscal Compact in May. The small reduction is not unexpected in this context. A party which nears or exceeds 20% in a general election gets a major extra seat bonus. 20% is equivalent to the quota in a four seat constituency.
    Stephen Collins points out: “The slide has been biggest in Dublin where it has dropped eight points(since April P.H.) and is now behind Labour and tied with Fianna Fáil(on 15% P.H.).The bedrock of the party’s support is still the poorest DE social category where it is on 31 per cent but Fianna Fáil is now making inroads among this group.”(Irish Times Oct 18,2012).
    As Sinn Féin support is strongest in the poorest areas of the capital, it is probable that the 15% figure would be significantly increased by an actual election campaign which could garner extra votes from the “don’t know” or undecided category.
    OTHERS
    Particular caution is necessary in comparing the showing of “others” in an opinion poll as opposed to a General Election. There are many local and single issue candidates on the ballot paper in a General Election. The vast majority of these have no possibility of election but they inflate the figure for others in the overall national outcome. This is not a factor in opinion polls. The figure of 14% in to-days poll for “others” is in fact very high historically though down 1 since last April.
    Fine Gael
    Though the drop of 5% since the General Election is significant, the Fine Gael vote is holding up in general.
    Again according to Stephen Collins to-day “Among the best-off AB voters and the middle-class C1 voters, Fine Gael is easily the biggest party.”
    It is probable that all the conservative forces in society are congregating around the main conservative party—big farmers, big business, wealthy self-employed professionals, large asset holders etc.
    In general the poll shows continued tendency to political polarisation—Sinn Féin and the left at one pole and Fine Gael and the political right at the other. This is usual in deep political and economic crises.
    However, the wealthy have a clear leadership in Fine Gael though formations further to the right may yet emerge. But the poor and those on middle incomes have no effective and firm leadership. Sinn Féin has recently failed to veto Tory social welfare cuts at Stormont “because we are not interested in creating a crisis in the Executive”. Would Sinn Féin veto social welfare cuts if they were part of a coalition in Dublin?
    Paddy Healy

  4. I find myself in agreement with Paul Culloty, I have a gut feeling that a party with clear objectives and vision can do very well in the next an election using modern technology to shake up the deplorable Rip Van Winkle, state of Irish politics. The middle classes too are so disillusioned with tweedle dee and tweedle dum. It stands to reason that this is a major factor for the apparent dead cat bounce that FF have got. Of course this is like a team playing a warm up game two to three years before they are due to compete. Still, they must be laughing to themselves, with Martin even opposing the property tax which they signed for. How logically cynical from a FF perspective is that? You cannot teach an old dog new tricks?

  5. I think I understand Paul Culloty’s and Robert Browne’s wish and desire to see the emergence of a new party with a clear economic and social vision, but I fear we’re stuck with the basic configuration we’ve got. So we’re left with (a) FG taking a bit of a hammering, Labour taking a big hammering, but both mustering enough seats to secure a bare majority in a smaller Dail (seems to be Adrian Kavanagh’s take on the recent opinion poll), or (b) both FG and Labour taking an even bigger hammering that leaves them short of a majority. We’re then in to (b)(i) – FG and Labour form a minority government or (b)(ii) – FG ditches Labour and makes a play for FF support either inside or outside of government or (b)(iii) – FF spurns FG (FG is assumed to be the biggest party in all cases and has first cut at forming a government) and comes to some arrangement with SF and the motley independent/hard-left crew.

    It doesn’t really matter who gets their feet under the cabinet table, Official Ireland will still be sitting pretty – though it may undergo some limited mutation depending on the political complexion of those seated at the cabinet table. The vast majority of citizens will experience the same crap governance and treatment irrespective of who’s around the cabinet table – i.e., unless they get very cross with the shills in Official Ireland

  6. What utter tosh. We don’t know how many seats there will be or who’ll be standing where.

    But as we now see, no matter who is in government it doesn’t matter. So why not Sinn Fein, as for all their talk, as soon as they get in they’ll be the same.

    Yet again I’m left asking why FF is listed first? A proper pollster would alter the layout in line with the facts, which are that FG is the largest party at national, local and EU level so doesn’t the decision of the people to put it in that place deserve some respect?

    The poll also doesn’t answer the actual question that remains in flux which is how long before Fianna Fáil is the junior partner in a government with Fine Gael and which would be more important that it was in government with FG or that it was in government again?

  7. A New Opinion Poll Today :
    “the adjusted figures show: FG 30 per cent, FF 22 per cent, Labour 12 per cent, SF 14 per cent, GP 3 per cent and Independents and others 19 per cent.

    The change from the last poll in September is FF + 6%, FG -1%, LP -2%, SF -4%, GP +1% and Independents/Others NC.

    Hard to know what to make of it. What would the factors be that would bounce FFs vote upwards like that?

    You can download a PDF of the report from

    http://www.banda.ie/assets/files/pdf/Sunday%20Times%20November%20full%20report.pdf

    Source :

    http://cedarlounge.wordpress.com/2012/11/18/latest-sunday-times-poll/

    I await with interest Adrian’s usual well-balanced analysis.

    A quick impression is that FG and Labour would not command a Dáil Majority if these were real Genearal Election results.

  8. Pingback: Fianna Fail slowly clamber back into the southern game… « Slugger O'Toole

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