Poll suggests southern election too close to call

Interesting poll figures from the Irish Examiner today. It’s entirely focused on the Republic. Although satisfaction rates for the Government have slipped to 37%, it remains above the low of 34% last June. Were the election called tomorrow, the polls suggest a narrow victory for the FF and PD government. The Greens are holding – notionally moving from 4% to 6%. And Sinn Fein retain the position they’ve had for over a year (and here) at about 10%. Gerry Adams, the most popular leader in Ireland with a 51% approval rating not long back, has dropped even further from 42% to 31%.

No sign of the government meltdown predicted in the summer. However, Sinn Fein is looking for a bounce from the IRA’s decommissioning and, perhaps, all manner of gains as voters’ traditional resistence to giving them lower order transfers breaks down in the political climate change that could follow a convincing act of decommissioning.

  • Fraggle

    I was inclined to support the greens until I visited their website and saw the stupid cliched rubbish that passed for their health policy. Brainless hippy nonsense.

  • Henry94


    That reminds me of this quote from Casablanca.

    Captain Renault: I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here.

  • Mick

    Fraggle, some detail would help!

  • Ringo

    I checked their site and couldn’t find the health policy.

    Any mention of a program to introduce needle recycling for smackheads?

  • Fraggle

    “Protection of Alternative Healthcare
    We support the continuing availability of traditional, herbal and homoeopathatic remedies. We would seek to review the functions and recommendations of the Irish Medicines Board in relation to these remedies. “

    This in particular wound me up. Anyone who knows anything about these things will know that homeopathy and herbalism are almost exact opposites. They’ll be introducing crystal therapy in their second term.

  • Mick

    The British NHS has been doing this kind of thing for quite some time. It’s very much at the discretion of local trusts/initiatives. But it’s happening just the same.

  • martin

    Call me a conspiracy theorist if you like but hears my theory.

    Most of the southern media have now turned against Bertie Ahern and FF/PD.

    They have altered this poll to show that not much damage has been done to FF/PD in an attempt to get Enda Kenny/pat Rabbit to start fighting their corner and come up with alternative policies .

    Enda Kenny seems to be basing his campaign on one policy—he is not Bertie Ahern and his party is not FF–while this may win him many votes it is not sufficient to get into government instead of those who are there now.

  • Robert Keogh

    And Sinn Fein retain the position they’ve had for over a year (and here) at about 10%

    By retains you mean rises and by 10% you mean 12%.

    In the last 12 months of pillorying from McDowell and his Onionist chums SF support has risen 2% and the PDs have fallen by 2%. Sterling work McDowell, please keep it up.

  • martin


    Bertie and ex-girlfriend refuse to say if they were given cut price jewellery to promote Chinese store.

    BERTIE AHERN and CELIA LARKIN were last night at the center of a potentially damaging mystery over cut-price Chinese pearls.

    During an official state visit to Beijing the taoiseach and his former lover posed for a photograph in an up market store that is known to sell pearls and other jewellery to VIPS at heavilly discounted prices.

    These shopping expeditions are normally arranged by foreign diplomats.Visiting dignitaries pose for publicity photos–used around the store and in advertising brochures—and in return receive handsome discounts. Cherie Blair wife of the British PM,is at the center of a growing storm—inevitably called Pearlgate–after a number of Chinese Jewellers claimed that they had given her discounts of up to 90% on expensive pearls she picked up on official visits.

    But last night neither the Taoiseach nor MS Larkin would explain the circumstances in which they were photographed with the owner of the ‘Fanghua pearls and jewellery shop’nor would Larkin reveal where she acquired several expensive-looking pearl necklaces that she has worn regularly in recent years or how much she paid for them.

    All Celia Larkin–recently appointed by Mr Ahern to a prestigious position on the National Consumer Agency–would say was=”LIKE ANY ANYBODY, I HAVE JEWELLERY”

    Last night the Taoiseach and his ex-mistress were accused by an independent TD of allowing themselves to be used in a cheap and sleazy way.
    Issues like this seriously damage and take away from the image of politics=said Dublin north central deputy Finnian mc Grath.

    ” It shows a complete lack of respect for public office and only feeds into the negativity and cynicism towards politicians from the general public.

    Officials at the Department of the Taoiseach were were unable to make any comment on whether Mr Ahern or MS Larkin had declared the purchase of a neckace or neckaces to customs officials on their return to Ireland.

    According to the Revenue Commissioners, any imported item worth in excess of 175 euro must be declared to customs and excise upon arrival,where it becomes subject to VAT at the standard rate of 21%.

    With prices for single strand freshwater pearl necklaces at ‘Fanghua Pearls and jewellery’ starting at 6,000 yuan=607 euro,
    the purchase of such an item would be liable for VAT of 121.40 euro upon returning to Ireland

  • dealga

    The NHS have made this guff available because they’ve made a political decision to placate their “consumers” to stop them clogging up the system, rather than allow qualified medical scientists state the bald truth to patients.

    Homeopathy is anti-science. It is a belief system that requires a complete suspension of the laws of chemistry and physics. It is amateur psychology (a bit of ego massage that GPs don’t have time for followed by a placebo-effect magic potion) used to relieve the symptoms of stress without ever addressing the underlying causes of the stress. The NHS might as well pay for people to go to Lourdes.

    The inventor of homeopathy came up with his law of infinitesmals before the nature of atoms and molecules was understood. The dilution factors in the so-called remedies is so great that it is beyond Avagadro’s number (i.e. there is not a single molecule of the original substance left). The homeopaths explain this slight problem away by insisting that water has “memory”.

    The Green Party are anti-scientists.

  • Mick


    Surely SF is pegged at 10%? Unless I’m going stir crazy. The real gain is between the election and now, which is rise from 7% to 10%. But that was achieved by early 2004 at least when they rose to 12%. But given such polls have an error margin of +/-3%, they certainly could not be said to have actually slipped.


    This is a serious poll. Most party’s read it as independent and as reliable as any mass poll can be.

  • Keith M

    I have a little program that I use to project actual seats based on polls, and it has been fairly reliable in as far as it can be given that in STV PR elections, transfers tend to be the determining factor in the final one or two seats in every constituency. However given that transfer patterns are likely to be roughly the same as they were in 2002, it may not be as difficult to project as in previous years. Here’s what my progam gives based on the numbers in the poll;

    Fianna Fáil : 75 (-6 from 2002)
    Fine Gael : 32 (+1)
    Labour : 23 (+2)
    Progressive Democrats : 10 (+2)
    Greens : 10 (+4)
    Sinn Féin : 8 (+3)
    Others : 8 (-6)

    This give a four seat majority to the government, and should see them back in office.

    This is a remarkably good good result for FF and (especially) the PDs and given that outgoing governments tend to pick up support closer the polling day, it could improve. This gets for the government when you consider that the bounce expected for the SSIAs has yet to kick in.

    Individually by party:
    FF : The party tends to set 77 as the benchmark for getting into govenment and while this is two seats short, it is a massive boost on last’s year’s Euro and local election dip.

    FG : This is a disasterous poll for FG as the party loses the gains made last year and returns to the level of 2002. Kenny + co. are badly in neeed of a “big idea” rather than just saying “we’re not Fianna Fail”.

    Labour : A solid result for Labour, as many felt that they were being squeezed by FG on one side and SF on the other. The overall resault for the altenative government is howaever a major let down.

    PDs : The party that were once written-off seem to have established themselves permanently on th political landscape despite taking two of the three trickiest ministries.

    Greens : After last year’s disappointment this is a good showing.

    SF : Despite what the original blog says 10% actually shows a drop from recent polls (which were running at 11%-13%) and on last year’s Euro election result. 7 seats would show little progress, despite all the hype.

    Others : The ineffectivness of most of the independents in the current Dail is likely to see up to half of them lose their seats.

  • Keith M

    Correction : 8 seats would show little progress, despite all the hype.

  • Mick

    Keith, which poll said 13%? I’d also be interested in hearing why you think transfer patterns will remain the same down the card? They are notoriously difficult to predict. Surely if Sinn Fein can engineer some kind of climatic thaw they should do better than 3 more seats?

  • Keith M

    Mick, one of the polls in the build up to last year’s Euro election had SF on 13%. Generally they’ve run around 12% in the last year. Certainly 10% is lower than most polls.

    The reason why I think transfer patterns will remain pretty similar is that we are likely to have a re-run of 2002. On one side the FF/PD option and the FG/Lab (and perhaps Greens) on the other. The problem for SF is that any increase in support is more likely to make their current seats make stable rather than give them a huge seat bonus. There’s only one constituency where SF could possibly pick up a second seat and targets like Meath and Sligo now look beyond them. It’s the same problem that dogged the Workers Party and Democratic Left.

    Let me say that all this is based on this poll being correct. I’d need to see more polls and closer to election day, before being more certain.

  • Ciaran Quinn

    Fianna Fáil : 75 (-6 from 2002)

    Fine Gael : 32 (+1)

    Labour : 23 (+2)

    Progressive Democrats : 10 (+2)
    Greens : 10 (+4)

    Sinn Féin : 8 (+3)

    Others : 8 (-6)


    you have converted a 2% difference in votes into a 20 seat majority (FF/PD v FG/Lab/Green).

    Another poll a couple of weeks ago put FF at 32% – how can FF support have risen 6% in 2 weeks? FF at 35% would be within the margin of error of both polls.


  • Robert Keogh


    Surely SF is pegged at 10%? Unless I’m going stir crazy. The real gain is between the election and now, which is rise from 7% to 10%. But that was achieved by early 2004 at least when they rose to 12%. But given such polls have an error margin of +/-3%, they certainly could not be said to have actually slipped.

    You are entirely correct. I missed the 2004.06 date on the 12% article. So the NIB robbery, McCartney murder, December’s negotiations and the IRA statement seemed to have cancelled each other out.

    10% was the glass ceiling SF in the north before the cessation and it looks like 10% is also the ceiling in the Republic. I hope they run this pole again when complete decom. is announced.

  • Keith M

    Ciaran “You have converted a 2% difference in votes into a 20 seat majority (FF/PD v FG/Lab/Green).”

    Indeed, but it’s not as crazy as it may sound. There was an 8% difference between these groups in 2002 but this became a massive 31 seat difference.

    The reason why is that it is much easier to control two party coalition transfers than threee party ones. The leakage is much smaller.

    There were two different companies doing the polling so that may explain the difference, but as anyone will tell you FF normally do a lot better in real elections than in polls (especially at General Elections), so I would trust the 38% far more than the 32%. At 38%, FF are still down 3.5% of 2002.

  • Mick Fealty


    “I hope they run this poll again when complete decom. is announced.”

    That was a large part the premise for the piece above. The party certainly expects a bounce. And I’d say they’ll get something. Indeed it’s not a matter of whether, but how high? The drop in Adams’ popularity is probably not reversible – but then again it may already have served its purpose.

    Above all the party needs fresh faces and eloquent southern accents on the floor of the Dail (and Seanad?). By its work and sheer organisation it has made that plausible. But it’s questionable whether the southern electorate will buy Adams in quite the way they might have done before the Northern Bank raid. Although a run for the presidency in some time hence, as predicted by Anthony McIntyre, could work.

    Through all the ups and downs, there has not been any shakiness in heartland. But the Westminister election suggest that outside their bankers – South Donegal being the most obvious – they’ll be into unknown territory. That’s unlikely to be any different in the Republic, where it’s thought they are working hard to build their on the ground strength.

    I can’t see how the next elections will do them any damage since even by Keith’s estimation they seem set to move beyond their core six man team. But as someone else has noted, for longer term objectives, they will need to break out of the radical and disaffected constituencies and into the middle classes if they are to be power brokers in the Republic.

    My guess is that that is two election cycles away.

  • Brian Boru

    I have heard that the Lansdowne market research (the people behind this poll) ask people these questions face to face, and there have been allegations that when asked face to face, the FF vote is overstated. Also, opinion-polls in the South have a long record of underestimating FG support. The only polls that came really close to the outcome of the 2002 General Election was the ICM poll – within 2%. The PD’s only got 8 seats because of FG transfers as it looked like FF would get an overall majority and the PD’s said a vote for them was the only way to stop single-party government. The Southern electoral system makes it extremely difficult to get a single-party government but FF could in theory ditch the PD’s and government with the support of ex-FF Independents Fox, Healy Rae, Blaney and maybe Connolly.

    I hope FF-PD gets back in – mainly because I see the Opposition – especially SF – as far too liberal on immigration. Polls show 80% unhappy with the levels of immigration but its debatable whether they would vote on this issue above all others. Polls suggest they wouldn’t, but on the economy SF’s policies seem to hark back to the 80’s state-socialism that once kept the Southern economy a basket case. Especially wanting to raise corporation-tax. I won’t vote for SF in the South but I might if I was a Northern Catholic because ppl up there just vote on the Constitutional question.

  • Robert Keogh


    I think your analysis is pretty accurate. By the next election the decom and end to the armed campaign will have sunk in. In the election after that there will have been 16 years of cessation, all those new voters with no political memory of IRA bombs or murders. SFs opponents will desperately need IRA criminality to fend their electoral growth off.

    There is vast disillusion with the established parties of FF, FG and Labour. Has been since the early 90s – SF are effectively tapping into that and are successfully discarding the millstones that hold them back.

    I think the greatest spur to SFs electoral growth in the south will be if loyalism continues murdering catholics. Voters will want to shore up the peaceful side of republicanism – to give support for dialog over armed resistance. The key indicator of SFs future electoral success lie in the next elections transfers. When transfers to SF increase you know the 10% ceiling has been lifted.

  • Ciaran Quinn

    “You have converted a 2% difference in votes into a 20 seat majority (FF/PD v FG/Lab/Green).”

    Indeed, but it’s not as crazy as it may sound. There was an 8% difference between these groups in 2002 but this became a massive 31 seat difference.

    Given the example of the 2004 Euro/local elections and that there will be an FG/Lab transfer pact, it is not realistic to suggest that FG will have a negative seat bonus.

    The next election is quite likely to produce a result similar to that of Germany:-

    – 2 competing coalitions, neither of which has a majority

    – a quite large “untouchable” party (Left/PDS in Germany, SF here) that no-one will accept in coalition

    – attempts by the rival coalitions to attract members of the other coalition to form a government

    The difference is that the Grand Coalition(FF/FG) is virtually unthinkable here.