Red C: Sinn Fein lose steam in the wake of the Referendum…

One thing you don’t hear said too often about the political situation in the Republic and that is just how overall, how remarkably stable it seems to have become. Well, at least for the Independents, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail. There is some volatility in Sinn Fein’s support and a lot of speculation about how hard the Labour vote actually is.

The latest poll is from Red C in the Sunday Business Post:

Fine Gael 32% (30)
Labour 15% (15)
Fianna Fáil 18% (18)
Sinn Féin 16% (19)
Independents/Green/Other 19% (18)

Richard Colwell writing in yesterday’s SBP (£) had some interesting observations on the deeper data. Not least that the fall in SF’s support appears to come from a broad range of parties, not least “men under the age of 44 and those living in more urban areas.”

That’s the critical property owning but severely pressured C2s who seem to be ‘in caravan’ at the moment having deserted Fianna Fail for Labour and currently dallying with SF for some.

He also notes a poor corrolation between SF’s losses and the consolidation of Labour. Rather Colwell suggests that “as Sinn Féin has lost votes, it is Fine Gael and independent candidates that have gained”.

So, a good day, for a change for the government. And particularly for Fine Gael. Some in Fianna Fail circles took heart at the poor approval ratings of the current government almost from the beginning as as a sign it was weak.

What’s weak is the price of government full stop. Government unpoplarity does not translate automatically to the benefit of other parties. Enda may be so poor on the stump of the referendum he has to be minded, but people are generally reassured that it is really Michael Noonan who’s looking after their financial welfare.

Consolidation of Fianna Fail’s position (as the second largest party in the state to borrow a fatuous phrase), will be no compensation to them in the sense that no one who made the momentous decision to dump their generations long loyality to that party looks like changing anytime soon.

They may now have a notion of what it is like to wait a very long time. That will be a test for a party for whom the concept of ‘deferred gratification’ was until recently an alien concept, not least in terms of party loyalty.

Labour, well, 15% is not bad considering the most recent other polls in Irish Times had them down at 10%. The split in its base regarding the Referendum on the Fiscal Compact treaty does not seem to have had any negative effect on the party’s Red C poll rating.

Which brings us back to the party which does understand deferred gratification, Sinn Fein. Not great. As Pat Leahy notes in the SBP (£), it’s a five point fall in six weeks if you consider the Red C poll on 12th May. Leahy puts much of the fall down to the party’s drop in media coverage in the wake of the campaign:

A survey by the media monitoring agency Newsaccess Media found that Sinn Féin ranked second behind Fine Gael in terms of its media profile during the campaign. But the party is down five points from its high of 21 per cent six weeks ago –- on the large-ish side of what you might expect.

What Leahy doesn’t mention, but which is well worth considering is that: one, the No campaign lost the referendum; and two, as noted here at the time, it ended for them in particular in a degree of ignominy in the High Court.

The return to business as usual brought out a range of independents like Matty McGrath and Ming Flanagan who had had to remain in the background throughout the campaign, sprung back out and onto the screens again. As well as a return to the mundane round of policy debate in which Sinn Fein find it hard to shine.

It would be wrong to suggest we can read any great political effects in one opinion poll for the longer term, except to note that Sinn Fein is very good at being what it really is at heart, which is an oppositionalist as opposed to an opposition party.

The former can readily sweat a few more percentages out of public sentiment on a big divisive national campaign, but it seems those few middle class defectors from FG and others are prepared as yet to take such risks in a General Election campaign aimed at vesting responsibility for running the country in the party.

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  • Taoiseach

    What’s the protocol for the order in which you publish poll results? I notice RTE consistently place Sinn Fein behind other parties with smaller vote preferences. Would it not make sense to list parties in order of size in the poll? FG, FF, SF, Lab and others?

  • Mick Fealty

    Mine’s a cut and paste from the SBP which uses govt first then parties in sequence in order of their percentages and independents last.

  • Taoiseach

    Interesting, because it does have a psychological impact.

  • Mick Fealty

    Any thoughts on the analysis itself?

    One addendum I’d add to the original is that the surge in SF sentiment is more a surge in anti EU sentiment, which is certainly one party strategists will be working on to unpack…

  • Taoiseach

    Interesting reading southern and northern political stories side by side. In the north its easy to see where the votes are going (and not coming back) with UU votes going to DUP and Alliance, SDLP to SF. UU are probably finished. But in the south, is Fianna Fail the Ulster Unionists? I doubt it. While FG vote picked up enormously so many votes went to independents, SF and Labour – FF voters who couldn’t bring themselves to vote for FG. A few years of Kenny will remind them what happens when you vote for Labour – a red rag and a blue shirt. The next election will likely keep FG and Labour in power with reduced majority. And then FF will really have to decide what strategy to take to get back into government. Clearly is has no chance of ever getting back alone. So does it accept permanent opposition role or do the deal with SF. At some point the voter has to know what it’s getting when it votes.

  • I don’t know how many times it has been said but you cannot garner much from a single poll especially with the large error range and smallish numbers to begin with.

  • Lionel Hutz

    Sinn Fein’s handling of the “no” campaign was remarkably poor, by its standards. I would suggest there will be more chances for the party to build up a head of steam. This is a time when you would expect Sinn Fein to do well and if they don’t capitalize on it, it’s difficult to see how they ever will.

    But I would suggest thatched parties immediate fortunes depend on those around them. If Fine Gael and Labour manage to turn the fortunes of the state, then Sinn Fein’s “big piqcture” opposition will be hurt – more hurtthan Fianna Fail. If Fianna Fail mange to find a balance between opposition and not being seen as opportunist, then Sinn Fein will further suffer. But both of those are unlikely and so the cards are stacked in favor of Sinn Fein gains

  • Nordie Northsider

    The wasteful SG action in the High Court did a lot of harm and although there is no personal gain for anyone in the use of expenses to further the party, it touches a raw nerve here.

    Re. Taoiseach’s question on the running order of parties in polls, it seems to me that RTÉ have a policy of putting the Government parties first. It can throw up some odd results, like before the last election, when the Greens were accounted for above Labour, Fine Gael and SF despite having about 2% of the vote.

  • redhugh78

    margin of error?
    Pretty important piece of information when considering polls.

  • Lionel Hutz

    Margin of error is important but as this is the second slip (down from 21%), you can start to tentatively read into it

  • Taoiseach

    I do think they should look at the order question, as it creates an appearance of substance for smaller parties in government. Order is important on ballot papers as well, as we know from ECHR cases that candidates higher up the order paper get a free electoral bump – Adams before Attwood!

  • Mick Fealty


    Joe’s trying to be helpful, but is confusing matters somewhat. The Red C poll has an error margin of +/- 3%…

    SF’s drop is the only significant change and all the more significant if you compare it with the poll five weeks ago, we see a hard drop of 5%.

    It is considered to be the gold standard, because it also controls for likelihood to vote, so 15% is as hard a figure we are going to see on this matter short of an actual election.

  • Mick Fealty


    Order matters on the questionnaire. Not in the reporting. In the reporting it makes sense to group the govt parties together so we a get a sense of sentiment accrues to government at anyone time.

  • Mick,

    Something that has always eluded me is whether the +/- 3% applies to individual results or is to be applied as a whole. In other words, could SF’s percentage be 13 to 19 or 16 +/- 3%.

    BTW, can you approve my alter ego.

  • Mick Fealty

    No. It only rises when you examine a subset of voters which brings the sample size down considerably.

    Working out from a subset of the overall sample where voters have come from and/or are going to is relegated to the status of anecdote…

    There are some distortions that do arise which are worth keeping an eye out for.

    For instance, the IT poll had SF on 19% core vote a few weeks ago which is the figure before the don’t knows are extracted.

    It was then awarded a flat rate proportion of the DKs which brought their final polling rate up to 24%. To be fair to the party they played that one down themselves.

    But to come back to your point the margin of error is consistent across all parties. Its just that if you register just 2%, you may actually get 5% in real election, or you may get nothing.

  • Taoiseach

    I think order matters in the reporting as well. It copper fastens the notion of certain parties as being in government and therefore more important than others. It also places more of a focus on the executive rather than the legislature. During the last election RTE and Irish Times continued reporting Green party figures ahead of SF even though they were no longer in government.

  • Mister_Joe


    …more important than others..

    Yes, it is a fact that all parties are not equal.