In the first Irish Polling Indicator for the 32nd Dáil, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil are leading the polls with estimates around 26% each. The Irish Polling Indicator pools all Irish opinion polls to arrive at an overall estimate of where the parties stand. Fine Gael support has not changed since the February elections. The party is currently estimated at between 24.5% and 28.5%. Fianna Fáil had seen a bit of an increase in support in early July, but is currently back around General Election levels: 22.5% to 28%. The difference between the two top parties is so small that we cannot conclude which one is currently enjoying more popular support in vote intention polls.
Sinn Féin is doing relatively well in opinion polls. The party is now at 18.5% (plus or minus 2%), which is higher than the 13.8% they obtained in the February elections. The problem with estimating Sinn Féin support, however, is that most of the time they do better in polls than in actual elections. In the very last Polling Indicator before the elections in February, the party was estimated to stand at 16.5%, but it achieved only 13.8% of the vote four days later on Election Day. An analysis by Red C suggests that late swing could explain most of this gap, but polls might also overestimate Sinn Féin support for other reasons (sampling, likely voter weighting). Whatever the reason, the current standing of 18.5% is higher than the last Sinn Féin estimates in the February pre-election polls, so their increase in support seems at least partly real.
As it stands, Independent candidates (including the Independent Alliance) have been losing some ground since February. They are currently estimated at 13.5% (between 11.5% and 16%), which is about 4% lower than their February result. We should note that one pollster, Millward Brown, had them significantly lower than all other polling companies at 8%. Still, most pollsters have independents at 14%-16% in their most recent polls, which is somewhat of a decrease compared to the election result.
Labour shows no signs of recovery after their election defeat in February. Support for the former government party is actually quite stable at 6.5% (plus or minus 1.5%), which is almost exactly what they obtained in February. We see something similar for the smaller political groupings with AAA-PBP at 4.5%, the Green Party at 2.5% and the Social Democrats at 2%. Only for the Social Democrats this is statistically significantly lower than in February (but only marginally). For all of the smaller parties a margin of error of around plus or minus 1% applies.
Renua Ireland, which failed to win any seats in February, seems not to be doing very well in the polls. Because not all pollsters report separate figures for Renua, it is included in the ‘Others’ grouping, but that is polling only half a percentage point in total. Even if all of that support were for Renua, this does not bode well for the party. Indeed in most polls Renua is on 0 or less than one percent. The Worker’s Party also finds some support in some opinion polls, but likewise is not separately reported in all polls.
All in all, the picture that arises is one of relative stability. Despite the erratic process of government formation, at least for Irish standards, voters do not seem to be moving towards or away from the Fine Gael minority government, at least not in significant numbers. Perhaps the decrease in support for independents might be linked to independent support for the government, but this is not clear, as there are also many independent candidates that are not involved in the minority government. The Independent Alliance, which is separately reported in some polls, does not seem to gain or lose support.
2 thoughts on “Irish Polling Indicator: Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael battle it out for top spot”
It’s interesting to observe how voters seem to have moved on from the two-and-a-half party (or the one-and-a-bit (FF + PDs or Greens) v the one-and-a-half (FG + Lab)) system that, in various manifestations over the last 90 years, gave voters the option of changing the governing personnel – if not the option of effecting major changes in the policies pursued. Either deliberately or unwittingingly, it appears that a significant number of voters have landed on a means of curtailing the excessive executive dominance that was typically enjoyed (and often abused) by a party or coalition that had secured and was able to maintain a majority in the Dáil. And, in such a small polity (the population of the Republic is similar to that of the East Midlands region in Britain), they also seem, by supporting so many independents, to have landed on a means to strike a balance between how national and local policies and concerns are addressed.
In addition, these voters have confirmed that, apart from some subtle posturing based on social class, pedigree and cultural issues, there is no essential political difference between FF and FG. They each represent a share of the same “small c” conservative majority and those voters appear to be content, at the moment, to allow FG to take the lead as a minority government. It may be that the Independent Alliance members participating in government are learning what is required of them. The real test of this new dispensation will come after the next election when FF may have more seats than FG.
Half a dozen independents support the government from outside, but are closer to FF than FG, ready to replace the Independent Alliance in a future Martin government – Fitzmaurice, McGrath, Healy-Rae, perhaps Donnelly, and a few others.