Finally getting round to the Irish Times poll in today’s paper. The headlines read that this is the lowest showing in any poll for the paper for Fianna Fail. That’s not exactly news. In fact there’s remarkable convergence in two polls (ie this one and Red C’s) that often contain significant points of departure. Still, there’s a few points worth mentioning…First is that for all the talk about a shake up in Irish electoral politics, this is still a Civil War Party game. Fianna Fail’s 15 point tumble may take them down to 27% (26 Red C), but that’s still thirteen points higher than Labour. As Dan notes, the good news for the opposition is that a sizeable chunk of FF’s core vote is now floating:
The ice shelf of floating voters has calved from the frozen continent of FF and is now in open water. Currently it is located solidly in the territorial waters of FG and the Independents. Whether it stays there is an open question
The bad news is that all political leaders are universally unpopular: ie disapproval far outweighs approval. The most popular, Eamon Gilmore is only up 3 points to 38%. Cowen has plummeted by 21% while John Gormley and Gerry Adams are down 12%. This still makes Adams joint second most popular leader on 33% satisfaction, but just three points above his historic low in February 2005: just after the robbery of the Northern Bank.
Simon at Irish Election picks up on an interesting point in the power scrabble on the left: that Labour is strong amongst ABs and SF is stronger in the DE category. They are “also strongest among the 18 to 24-year-olds with 14 per cent”. He argues that those DE voters could be a future target for a Labour push.
Damian Loscher sees it slightly differently. He reckons that “Sinn Féin is holding steady with 8 per cent support and is well positioned to attract more young working-class voters if, or when, the recession really begins to bite.” Hmmm… except that they appear becalmed within their own base camp at the moment with little evidence they’ve gain from these early dramatic swings in the cycle.
With the guts of four years to run this poll warning is pretty unambiguous, but hardly decisive so far as any future election is concerned. As the Times editorial notes:
What is beyond doubt is that the electorate is deeply unsettled and is looking for clear direction and strong leadership. These findings are serious because the poll was conducted many weeks after the immediate heat of the Budget.
If that’s the case, Fine Gael’s ‘procyclical’ attack ads may be effective in attacking the government, but not necessarily great for turning round Enda Kenny’s own relatively poor showing (-2%) as leader.
Which is where the real deficit lies. A tangible threat from Fianna Fail’s point of view; and an opportunity for the opposition. Whether the latter is prepared or ready to provide an alternative vision; and whether they will ever get heard in the media if they do develop one, is another question entirely…
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