Independents take top spot in Irish Polling Indicator

Post by Tom Louwerse (Trinity College, Dublin)


Independents and smaller parties have seen their electoral support increased over the last two months. They now top the Irish Polling Indicator, which combines all national election polls in to one estimate of party support. Independents now score between 25.7% and 31%, followed by Sinn Féin at 21.5-25.7% and Fine Gael at 20.1%-24.2%. The largest government party has been on a downward slope in the polls since mid-February, while Sinn Féin have seen an increase in public support since the beginning of this year. These trends seem to continue after the May local and European elections.

No gains for Fianna Fáil

Labour remains the big looser, currently standing at 3 to 6.1%. This is an approximately 15 percentage point loss compared to the general election in 2011. While Fine Gael also lost 15 percentage points, for Labour it means that the party is now clearly in single digits.

Fianna Fáil seems to be struggling from the government parties’ losses. Currently at 17.4% to 21.2% it is polling barely better than the 2011 election result. The party has been in a downward spiral in terms of voting intentions for about a year. Whereas the local election result was generally welcomed by Fianna Fáil members, national voting intentions seem to be lagging behind.

FG-SF Difference


The Irish Polling Indicator combines the polls of the four Irish pollsters, Behaviour & Attitudes, Ipsos MRBI, Millward Brown, and Red C. Party support is reported in terms of a bandwidth, emphasizing the uncertainty or error margin that is associated with public opinion research. This uncertainty margin needs to be taken into account in interpreting polls.

One example of how margins matter can be seen in the graph below. It displays the difference in support for Fine Gael and Sinn Féin over time. At the 2011 election, Fine Gael was much larger than Sinn Féin (about 25 percentage points), but this difference has declined over time. A large part of the decline was in the first year; in the last six months the gap between the two parties has narrowed further. Currently, Sinn Féin seems actually a bit ahead of Fine Gael, but because the error margin includes zero, we cannot draw any definite conclusions. The parties are so close in the polls that we cannot say, based on the available data, which one is currently bigger.

Explore the trends

The Irish Polling Indicator website allows everyone to explore the trends in the polls. Are parties winning or losing? Is Labour still bigger than the Green Party? Do some pollsters estimate certain parties structurally higher than other pollsters? The tools on the website allow users to explore these questions.

2 thoughts on “Independents take top spot in Irish Polling Indicator

  1. I note confirmation of the elevation of the Labour Score in Red C polls. When the raw data is giving Labour around 50 or less votes out of 1000 respondents, the addition by Red C of a comparable figure based on the 194 votes per thousand achieved by Labour in the last general election is extremely distorting. The PROPORTIONAL elevation of Fine Gael is far less because FG is receiving a far bigger vote in the raw data of polls.

  2. Many thanks for this post. The analysis reported is very interesting. The latest combined score for SF and Independents (ranging between 47.2 and 56.7%) is interesting,,but what is probably more interesting is that their combined score averaged around 40% for 2012 and 2013 until this recent increase. This apparent sustained rejection of the mainstream parties is more pronounced than it is in any other EU member-state (even when compared to the dramatic surge in support for the FN in France and UKIP in Britain). It is difficult to judge whether or not this ‘bedrock’ of rejection will be maintained and evidenced when it actually comes to voting in the next general election, but there can be no doubt that it exists.

    This evidence of an increasing and sustained rejection of the mainstream parties is perfectly understandable. The mainstream parties in the established democracies confect ideological and political differences to give voters the appearance of choice. But the process and content of governance remains largely unchanged. The personnel at the cabinet table (and their special advisers) may change – and the allocation of patronage among the ever-present array of special interests may change, but business-as-usual for the established elites will prevail. A perfect example is the way this government continues to implement the policies initiated by the last government.

    What is surprising is that Irish voters are registering this rejection so strongly – and much more than most voters in other EU member-states. Their choice of alternatives is not particularly interesting because they can choose only among the alternatives offered to them.

    The instinct of the mainstream parties is to circle their wagons to protect their privileges and prerogatives (and those of the special interests which whave suborned them) – in the same way as these blocs are supporting the appointment of Jean-Claude Juncker as president of the European Commission. But these reactive tactics will seal their fate eventually.

    Three cheers for Irish voters for appearing to be leading the charge against the arrogant, self-serving, well-heeled elites.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s