Fine Gael and Labour show increased popularity in opinion polls in the last months, the Irish Polling Indicator shows. Fine Gael is now on 26% with Labour at 8%, which represents a 3 percentage point increase for both parties compared to early June. Independents, meanwhile, have seen their support drop from 27% early June to 23% now. Sinn Féin support is now estimated at 22% and Fianna Faíl at 19%; neither party shows a significant change in support over the summer.
The long-term trend in support shows a decline of about 11 percentage points for both government parties. The development in Fine Gael and Labour’s standing among the electorate is quite similar: both parties show a steady decline since the election, apart from an initial boost for Fine Gael. The gains both parties made over the summer is in fact the first significant increase in their support since August 2011.
Polls disagree on the extent of Labour’s recovery. One B&A poll put Labour on 14% early August of this year, about a month after Joan Burton’s election as party leader. Other polls estimated Labour at 8 to 9 per cent at the start of this month. Given the historical patterns in the volatility of Labour support it is unlikely that the part went up to 14% and then down again to 8%. Therefore, the Polling Indicator has Labour’s peak at 9% in August, declining slightly to 8% now.
While Fine Gael is estimated to be the largest party in the Irish Polling Indicator, there is a small chance that Independents are in fact more popular among the total population at this point. The difference between the two groups is estimated to be just under 3% (uncertainty margin: +/- 3%). Still, this presents a strong improvement for Fine Gael, which trailed Independents by more than 4% in early June.
Sinn Féin is also still very close to top spot in the polls. The rapid period of growth from January (18%) to May (23%) has come to an end, but party has maintained its high level of polling over the summer. The slight decline to 22% now falls well within the uncertainty margin.
The Irish Polling Indicator aggregates opinion polls from four major polling firms in Ireland (Behaviour & Attitudes, Ipsos MRBI, Millward Brown and Red C Research). This reduces uncertainty associated with opinion polling and therefore helps to identify the trends in public opinion. The uncertainty margin associated with the IPI results is approximately plus or minus 2% for the major parties, which is about one-third less than the margin of error of individual Irish opinion polls. More about the method behind the Irish Polling Indicator as well as additional figures & graphs are available from ipi.tomlouwerse.nl.
One thought on “Government parties gain, independents fall in Irish Polling Indicator”
What is interesting here (when combined with Adrian Kavanagh’s analysis below) are the implied values for the index of proportionaiity by party or grouping – the likely percentage of total seats by party divided by the percentage of first preference votes. These are FF – 1.125, FG – 1,266, Lab. – 0.237, SF – 1.018 and Others – 0,826. FF is still struggling to achieve the values of this index it used to achieve in the past, but FG is probably close to the maximum achievable. SF still has some way to go to increase the value of its index towards what might be achievable. Labour appears to be emerging from a nadir for its value and, given, the disparate nature of groupings and individuals under ‘Other’, the implied index value is quite high – and it is unlikely to increase by very much.
It’s also possible to go a step further, even if the data are more sparse, and consider the elasticity of the index of proportionality – the percentage change of the percentage share of total seats divided by the percentage change in the percentage share of first preference votes. Labour’s current position illustrates the relevance of this metric. When a party’s share of first preferences is well below what it has proved capable of achieving previously, the elasticity can be quite high. That is, small increases in the share of first preference votes can result in large increases in the share of seats. Conversely, the value of FG’s elasticity of the index of proportionality is very low. This suggests that, if it were to get its share of first preference votes up in to the low teens, Labour could hold up to half the seats it won in 2011. FG would also expect to benefit from Labour transfers out of a larger Labour first preference share. Therefore, with the economic recovery, very patchily, picking up speed, there is a real prospect of a minority FG/Lab government (supported by a handful of gene-pool independents).
However, all bets are off because the combined support for SF and Others has remained remarkably steady over the last two years at around 45%. The recent pick-up in support for the governing parties simply reverses a surge in SF + Others support to over 50% earlier this year. From a longer term governance perspective forcing the two larger mainstream parties (FF & FG) in to coalition would be a good outcome – and Labour would have to shift for itself. The question is: would enough voters desire and accept this outcome?