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.
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