Let’s get one thing straight, polls do not increase or decrease the size of a political party. They are nere snapshots of opinion, not predictors of the future. So whilst Sinn Fein was never the second largest party in the state, neither is Fianna Fail currently the largest.
Of course both, if trends continue, are set to make gains in the next big elections, which are the Locals and Europeans. But all we can say at the moment is that the current situation is volatile, and the government parties are suffering.
Fine Gael are big losers, as they were in the last Behaviours and Attitudes poll. Only this time, it seems Fianna Fail rather than Sinn Fein picking up the slack. The only truthful outtake is that Sinn Fein is holding steady and Fianna is moving slowly up, and Fine Gael drifting slowly down.
If this was a bike race, I’d be tempted to describe SF, INDs and Fianna Fail as a large Pelaton, with poor old Labour on the boneshaker at the back, and the Taoiseach up ahead on the whizzy carbon fibre road bike up ahead. And the less said the better about performance enhancing drugs.
But the front runner looks to be weakening (possibly because of they’re not managing the politics of government business well). As An Sionnach Fionn notes:
…without the deft populist touch of FF, many former FF voters are now returning to the fold.
Micheal Martin has played a canny game thus far, building a competent young front bench. And he won’t be getting distracted by polls like this one. For one thing, the largest group are the undecided, which:
…at more than one-third of the electorate is very high and indicates that big swings in support are likely to continue in response to events.
Labour, if they didn’t know it already, are in a fight for their political life. The instinct of their leader seems to be to want to go after Fianna Fail (who are beginning to chop back into the very C1 and C2 voters who deserted them for Labour last time).
But Gilmore will have to decide on a depth defence now, particularly since they may forgo the seat bonus that traditionally comes with being transfer friendly. More worrying for them is the fact that their core vote (ie, the real rating in the population) is now just half that of Sinn Fein (12 to 6).
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty